Warning: This write up is rated PG-13 based on the Motion Picture Association of America because it has dirty words and it seems like a laughably silly and subjective rating system that’s as laughable as the need to warn of such things. Hope you too find my use of this rating system as LOL worthy as I do. So if PG-13 is safe for you, read on and enjoy the thoughts!

Note: Also note, that this has political overtones, but I do relate the article to the tech industry further onward in the article, just FYI.

Alright, the word has come up a number of times in the last few months. More so than under normal circumstances and the cause is squarely rooted in our leadership in the White House. Notice my nuance right now, in that I’m now circumventing direct blame in these statements. The leadership we have in the White House, when it comes specifically to speaking, writing, and communication are grossly incompetent.

Diving In With Example 1

I am honestly impressed and amazed at the level of incompetence compared to the recent Bush administration. I thought, and hoped, that the Bush administration would be the low point of communication from the White House while I lived. I thought many times to myself, “I hope that this is the greatest incompetence we ever see in the White House”. But I have been sorely let down, embarrassed to even be associated with, or had my morale ravaged by the absurdities, endless direct lies, and general absurdities that have come out of this White House.

Let’s take these statements apart for a bit and look at the nuance I’ve used. Take the first statement I’ve written, “I am honestly impressed and amazed at the level of incompetent compared to the recent Bush administration.” I start off with some truthful, yet somewhat tongue in cheek statements about my being impressed and amazed. I truly am, but these are positive words used with negative intent. But deriving that intent isn’t really evident until getting further into the statement. The statement also pulls meaning: nuance and intent, from the fact the recent Bush administration is one of the, if not the worst administration in modern times. Being the Bush clan have at their feet, the common idea among the public that this administration led to the greatest economic collapse in modern American history.

In the next sentence I step deeper into the reality of what this current White House administration has done, which is slander and destroy any sense of reason, logic, calmness, competency, or even appearance of those things. However I allude to these things through nuanced twists of language by pointing at the Bush Administration again while correlating it in a positive way, when it is historically viewed negatively, against the current administration. My nuance in all of this paragraph is very direct, and it might be confusing at points, but could and should be easily correlated to being embarrassed, insulted, and morally unhappy about having and being associated with this grossly incompetent administration.

The Confusing Nature of Nuance

Alright, this example gets into where many are often so confused about the WTF of nuance.

I walked into the argument in a blunt way. I stayed with, what I thought would be a logical entry into this debate. I stated to Aaliyah and the other individuals indirectly, “One really shouldn’t state such a bluntly racist thing and have the idea they’d not be associated with that racist statement.”

For sake of discussion, I’ll use the names Aaliyah, Franky, and John.

Aaliyah responds with, “Why are you calling me racist, that’s bullshit!” To which I respond I did not. Aaliyah reiterates, you just did, why are you denying it? To which John says, “he did it because you are being racist!” and Franky blurts out, “this is all insane”. Which in the end, adds to the disarray and confusion of this scenario.

Let’s take a step back for a moment. Did the person defined as “I” actually state that Aaliyah is racist? Absolutely not. That’s why the statement was made to a generally person, identified as one and then referred again in the sentence as a non-gendered non-specific they’d. As is common in America, and I suspect other places, the notion this was a general statement was lost because Aaliyah personally related with and took personally this statement. Aaliyah felt the statement was intended for them, so they took it personally when it was not intended specifically for them, but the statement in which they had made.

In addition to the fact that it wasn’t directed directly to Aaliyah the statement also didn’t actually imply someone was racist, just that someone could be considered racist if they make the statement that was being made. This is extremely important nuance. It’s lost all the time in media, the news, and while we’re all screaming endlessly at each other about Republicans and Democrats and whatever other stupid shit each other say.

I’ll even step out on a limb and say, to understand our idiot president in chief, you have to understand the nuance of how he speaks. He does not speak well, matter of fact he seems intellectually and mentally incapable of forming complete thoughts. But the ideas and notions in what he writes (or tweets) and speaks infer his ideas and thoughts. Even as malformed, broken, and wrong those thoughts and ideas might be, they are evident and even easily understood in his speaking and writing style. This nuance of his is how one should make a point to understand the guy, not in the misspoken statements, which seem to read and be heard so well by those with less than stellar speaking and writing abilities. But lest we judge all those people without using our abilities to understand nuance, we’re doomed to repeat this cycle of gross incompetence getting into leadership positions time and time again.

Going Tech

Now in tech, this happens on a frequent basis too. In the workplace, when reading and writing about the industry, and in generally when referring to the plusses and minuses of said industry. It appears, and I’m confident there’s data to back this up, that techies even with the educations and purported intelligence we have aren’t any better at the comprehension of nuance in the things we read and write. I myself am guilty and need to continuously improve. Outside of this article I’m sure I misstate and imply incorrect nuance on a very frequent basis. I do, as we all do, have many excuses for this. Nuance isn’t always easy no matter how prepared we are to comprehend it appropriately.

The variances are also problematic in its very definition. Let’s actually look at a few of those definitions.

Definition of nuance from Merriam-Webster

  1. a subtle distinction or variation Nuances of flavor and fragrance cannot be described accurately … — Scott Seegers … these terms have certain nuances of meaning … — Ben F. Nelms
  2. a subtle quality : nicety … the nuances of an individual’s voice … — Michael Swaine
  3. sensibility to, awareness of, or ability to express delicate shadings (as of meaning, feeling, or value) … a performance of remarkable pliability and nuance. — Irvine Kolodin nuancedplay \ˈnü-ˌän(t)st, ˈnyü-; nü-ˈän(t)st, nyü-\ adjective

Definition of nuance from Dictionary.com

noun, plural nuances [noo-ahn-siz, nyoo-, noo-ahn-siz, nyoo-; French ny-ahns] (Show IPA)

  1. a subtle difference or distinction in expression, meaning, response, etc.
  2. a very slight difference or variation in color or tone.

1775-85; < French: shade, hue, equivalent to nu(er) to shade (literally, to cloud < Vulgar Latin nūbāre, derivative of nūba, for Latin nūbēs cloud) + -ance -ance

Definition of nuance from Cambridge Dictionary

nuance noun [ C ] US ​ /ˈnu·ɑns/ ​ a quality of something that is not easy to notice but may be important: Actors have to study the nuances of facial expression to show the whole range of emotions. nuanced adjective US ​ /ˈnu·ɑnst/ He gives a beautifully nuanced performance in a tricky role.

Alright, that’s a solid baseline from some of the most reliable dictionaries online. These definitions also define the disparities in the actual usage of the word itself.

When speaking in the tech world, nuance is hugely important in so many ways. Often, more so than in other industries because of the technical implications that need to be extremely specific. But let’s talk the actual tech for a moment.

In many areas of technology nuance takes on a new challenge from the point of view of the code. Take the example of captions being generated automatically using speech recognition. In this example a speaking human dictates material to a machine with code that will then process through various means the dictated words into captions. However, is it done literally, directly, or is some nuance of those things used? In this context, the nuance and derived meaning of what is spoken might change depending on variances that a machine doesn’t simply understand. We must use machine learning algorithms to process, analyze, and insure that the snippets of text that end up in captions are the correct, nuanced, and appropriate parts of the dictated text.

In a different context, but very technology related, let’s look at “Learning Observable By Building Observable” by Ben Lesh (@BenLesh). This is a great article, which seems straight forward. But right off we can see that there is a relaxed and friendly nuance to the title by the reuse of the word observable. The nuance being that one thing observes another thing and thus can recursively be used to teach the thing. Kind of a twisted nuance of a pun if one doesn’t really know english all that well.

As Ben continues onward into the first paragraph he begins to define and describe what is or isn’t observable based on recent conversations. In those conversations one thing that is apparent is that there has been loss of nuance in the descriptions and use of the word observable and what observable means specifically. It requires not just an analogy and additional information, as Ben’s piece goes on to talk about, but also requires the code examples and sample usage that his piece also outlines.

As Ben states with “Observable is just a function that takes an observer and returns a function”. Which can add misunderstanding still to the nuance of what an observable is, but continues onward to a basic implementation. In this Ben starts to get into the nitty gritty of what an observable is and how it behaves, which provides detailed nuance to remove confusion.

Nuanced Summary

Nuance is wildly and hugely important, maybe even “bigly” so! (Ok, now I feel dirty having used that quote, but I’m not removing it) Discovering, knowing, catching, and understanding the nuance of language in all ways is an ongoing and never ending path of learning. It’s something we all, if we want to have a grasp on the world around us, know and understand. With that I wish everybody the best in continuing to learn, learn, and learn some more. Enjoy the adventure, cheers!