When I worked at TrueAccord, we would want to know “what is our system going to do,” or “why did the system do this.” Often the person we asked was our cofounder Nadav1 who had written large parts of the codebase.

Invariably, he would answer in a way that called attention to the phrase “the system”. Sometimes using direct sarcasm: “oooh, the system.” But sometimes just emphasizing it a bit, with a playful smile, in the course of a helpful answer.

I don’t know if this was an intentional choice on his part, though I think it was. In retrospect, I really like the driving idea, which I believe was something like this:

The “system” you refer to is a very high-level abstraction. It is useful grammatically, but can often be an obstacle to rigorous thought or understanding. There are a variety of interacting automated subcomponents, plus human behavior in the mix. Precision of language and thought travel together, and your journey towards mastery will involve achieving greater precision.

And, on the flip side, names are affordances and a well-designed system will have good and useful ones.

  1. Actually we had two cofounders named Nadav Samet, but they weren’t related to each other.