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IKEA's Bad Grammar, Capitalism & Learning to Code

https://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/S89129207/

Our beloved EKTORP [couch] seating has a timeless design and wonderfully thick, comfy cushions. The covers are easy to change, so buy an extra cover - or two, and change according to mood or season.

They should have used a second dash, not a comma, after "two". Like parentheses (and some uses of commas), dashes are used in pairs to apply to a group of words. If you just put one dash, what that means is you're dashing off the entire rest of the sentence (which isn't what they meant).

People are hired to write this stuff who don't know basic things about writing. People get through an interview process and get paid to make errors like this. This is a fairly desirable job (pretty easy and low skill, working for a good company, no manual labor, I bet it has good job security, and I bet the pay is way better than a lot of harder jobs like working at McDonalds). There is a shortage of competence in the world (on both ends – writers and management).

Software doesn't have enough competent people either. Some people say that problem would go away with higher pay. That's capitalism right? Pay enough and the market provides what you want?

No. Here are four issues:

Lack of Capitalism

The US is not really a very capitalist country. Here's one little hint about that which relates to tech:

https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2018/04/10/dozens-obama-alumni-now-senior-facebook-employees/

Facebook Has Dozens of Ex-Obama and Ex-Hillary Staffers in Senior Positions

Not Enough Supply

Some things don't exist in sufficient quantities. Not everything is available at any price. Like a cure for cancer. Or Apple had problems with screws in Texas:

https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/01/28/a-custom-screw-was-the-bottleneck-in-us-mac-pro-production

A custom screw was the bottleneck in US Mac Pro production

A custom screw easily sourced in China held up the Mac Pro build process in Texas, with the tale highlighting one of the problems Apple faces if it moves iPhone and Mac assembly back to America.

Mac Pro production volume is small compared to iPhone volume.

No doubt US suppliers would have bought new machines ASAP and made the screws for Apple at a million dollars a screw, but not at any reasonable or viable price.

Regionally or globally, goods and services generally exist in finite quantities that could only expand a finite amount at any price. You can't hire 10 billion people anytime soon, nor buy more than the Earth's supply of gold.

Delays

Even if something can be available reasonably soon (unlike a Star Trek style spaceship), there can still be major delays. Getting a lot more programmers could take a few years to train them. And maybe a few years before that to set up more training centers. And a few years before that to understand the shortage and start spending large amounts of money on fixing it. Or maybe a whole generation is needed to raise people with different attitudes.

Knowledge

To get more coders, adequate training resources have to be available and have a high enough success rate.

I think the educational resources for learning to code are fundamentally inadequate. It's not just lack of quantity, it's that they do not work to turn an arbitrary person into a good coder with a reasonable success rate.

People learn to code mainly because of their own pre-existing merit, not because of good teachers/books/videos. The current educational resources work OK for people who already have some of the right skills, but the success rate for the wrong kind of person is bad. So you can't just take more people (who aren't already tech-inclined) and then run them through existing tech education and expect it to work.


Elliot Temple on August 10, 2019

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