10 and 2 and GIFs

They teach people to hold their hands on the steering wheel on “10 and 2.” But what if that wasn’t technically the best positioning? What if the best location was actually more like “between 9 and 10 on the left and 2 and 3 on the right?” Which would be better, the one that’s technically more accurate, or the one that can be explained more clearly?

In 1999, I answered a question on a university test. It asked how to pronounce GIF. I was asked if it should rhyme with “jiff” or have a hard g. My response was “Technically it’s jiff but I pronounce it the other way, with a hard G.” Which frustrated my teacher, who wrote in red pen “Why would you say it wrong?”

But I was frustrated by her frustration. I don’t think saying it the way 90% of people pronounce it should be considered “wrong.” And I don’t think just because the creator says it the other way that we consider his approach unequivocally “right.” It’s … the way he pronounces it as the inventor, sure. But that’s different from saying it’s right or wrong.

Another example is computer security. Changing your passwords frequently is a good idea. But what if you work at a company that requires you to change your password every day? Would that be more “right” than a company that only asks you to update it every year? Yes and no. It’s more secure at first … but if your password changes that frequently, you’re more likely to write it on a sticky note or do other unsafe things with it. So by being more “right” you end up with a worse outcome. I love examples like this.

I think “right” and “wrong” needs to factor in human elements like sticky notes on monitors, or the reality that it’s easier to remember easy things than hard things. Wrong is so much more interesting than a binary expression. It’s the details and the nuances of “wrong” that make things interesting.