There exist certain activities that are so difficult that they become regarded as insane or inane.
And there exist certain people who look at those activities and simply say
These people tend to do a thing:
- because it’s difficult/challenging
- to make someone else look stupid
- because it sounds fun
- for bragging rights
- and/or to make the rest of us scratch our heads and say “what the hell”?
Things done for these reasons have hack value. Activities with hack value do not depend on being useful or important (in fact many are quite useless). They depend on being challenging. They depend on requiring some skill.
They depend on giving the doer the right afterward to stick his tongue out and say “neener neener neener”.
Picking a very difficult lock has hack value – it is difficult/challenging (see also: fun) to do, and doing it shows off the skill of the doer. Breaking the same lock with something really heavy has zero hack value.
Here is an example of hack value.
Do you know what the most common letter in the English language is? It’s ‘E’. In fact, ~12% of any random text (of sufficient length) should be the letter ‘E’.
In further fact, ‘E’ is so common that some people used to say that you couldn’t write anything of length and quality without the letter ‘E’.
Then there were the people who got pissed off at the first group of people. In this latter group were folks like Ernest Vincent Wright. He was so irritated by the people talking about how inescapable ‘e’ was that he decided to write
a lipogrammatic novel called Gadsby to prove them wrong.
A lipogram is quite simply when you write something and omit a single letter. That’s it. Simple. So Ernest omitted his ‘E’s.
Now, how long is Gadsby? 50,110 words. If we assume an average word length of five letters, we should expect over 30,000 ‘E’s. And yet there’s not a single one in this book.
How did he do it? He apparently tied down the ‘e’ key on his typewriter.
It’s even (apparently) a pretty decent book. I don’t know about you, but I would have a hard enough time introducing myself without using the letter ‘E’.
How about it? Think it’s easy? I invite you to write a lipogrammatic comment (omitting E) to show off your ‘mad English skillz’. 😀