Somebody tell Russell Smith (admission: I’m a fan) that character encoding and spores growing on an 8-track are two different things.

I recently completed a book, printed it and gave the manuscript to my agent. To give it to a publisher, she wanted it in a digital version, so I gave her a Word file. When she opened it on her computer, it was full of garbage characters. There had been some problem in the document conversions among several programs.

I thought it was a Word file, not the Rosetta Stone.

I couldn’t fix it.

Because writers (especially fashionable ones) pride themselves on their technical incompetence. While Smith knows enough to rewrite a Wikipedia entry enough to avoid actual plagiarism, he has no conception of character encoding. Nor does he know enough to resave his original file in another format (RTF or Word-style “HTML” would be sufficient), or just print to a PDF. (He probably doesn’t know that every Macintosh application can print to PDF. It’s understandable – the “PDF” button sits there on every Print dialogue, easily missed.)

True to form if not stereotype, very sensitive, very artistique people are flummoxed when the slightest thing goes wrong with their computers, which, they have told themselves, are just too, too complicated to understand. Having enough knowledge to solve their own problems is beneath them. (Think of the undersocialized commoners who tinker with computers. Why, I run a fashion site! I’m hardly like them, now, am I?)

What’s curious is the fact that Smith didn’t bother searching Wikipedia for help.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2008.08.10 17:17. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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