Coding Brain

August 28, 2012

Coding Brain is what happens when I’ve been immersed in code for too many days in a row. After three or four days, my brain is primed to think in terms of programming, and so I start to struggle with normal verbal communication.

It’s not that I can’t find the words, it’s that I start speaking in awkward patterns. A normal conversational pattern is linear– thoughts chain together, each loosely connected with the last. To a brain primed for writing code, this feels unnatural.

Instead, it feels more natural to follow the conversational equivalent of top-down or bottom-up design. I either talk in highly vague, bullet-pointed abstractions, or I shovel through low-level details, addressing every possible corner case of a thought before moving on to the next. To my conversational partner, the former feels like incomplete sentences, the latter like mind-numbing minutia.

Coding brain goes away on its own after a day spent with people (or after a few beers). But as the tech co-founder of a startup, I don’t have the luxury of a slow shift into normalcy. Sometimes, I need to crank through code for 8 hours, then jump directly into a meeting with a potential partner or with our board of directors, and I can’t be a zombie.

Today, I think I found a cure. Before a late afternoon phone call, I picked up a book and just read out loud for about 10 minutes. By the time the call rolled around, I had alleviated coding brain just enough to have a normal conversation. Definitely something to keep in mind for the future.

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