Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

This article is too long for you

I made the mistake today of reading some social media comments (twitter, reddit, arstechnica, slashdot) on a topic I know a bit about and have read a lot of the background on. As you might guess it was an IQ-barren tirade of abuse, uninformed hot-takes and absolutely baseless bullshit. This isn’t new, but I am beginning to worry that its basically the only means of communication people can cope with now. I think that our IQs have taken a battering, but far far worse, our attention spans have been destroyed, which is the first step towards making us even stupider.

I recall a long while ago, when unemployed, and having temporarily moved back home with my mother because I had nowhere to live… deciding that I should learn how to program in C, instead of the Sinclair BASIC I learned as a kid. I guess I was about 18-21? (I’m terrible with dates).

I was poor as fuck, so the only possible resource for me to learn this was a mail-order course which came on 3 floppy disks. I couldnt afford to buy loads of books, and youtube/internet didn’t exist. Eventually, after spending a lot of time agonizing over which of the 3 potential C books I could buy in a bookshop, I bought one of them, which I read cover to cover numerous times.

To people reading this who are not programmers, C is not considered an easy language to learn. Not by a long shot. I’ve heard C# described as ‘C++ but without pointers, because they are hell’. They are not wrong. Pointers are what make C, and C++ a bit of a pain. Once you really get your head around them, they are simple, and easy, and powerful, and you cannot imagine code without them. I still code in C++ all these years later, because I don’t vaguely worry about pointer bugs, I’m just way too comfortable with coding in this language. I find C++ about as usable to me as the English language. Arguably I can communicate in C++ better and faster…

The reason I take you on this tedious heroes journey about me learning C++ is this: Learning C and C++ on your own, with just one book and 3 floppy disks, and nobody to ask questions…is fucking hard. I remember struggling and getting very confused, and thinking it was all gibberish, but persevering, and persevering and struggling and trying again and again and again until finally I started to understand how it all works.

30 years later and it turns out doing that made me millions and millions of dollars, financial freedom, my own business and lots of stuff to be proud of. In many ways, struggling alone with a seriously complex and hard task, and no distractions was the making of me. (In many ways…not just career. For someone like me who is clearly on the autistic spectrum developing expertise in an absolutely clear definite and logical language that isn’t English is very very comforting).

Again.. why mention this?

I just don’t think many people can do stuff like this now, and that includes me, because society has absolutely fucking ruined us. Back then, when I read the same sentence for the fiftieth time in an academic textbook, and still don’t get it…I just had to keep going. But now? Fuck it…whats new on youtube? any funny cat videos? has someone said something shocking on twitter? are there any new stories on reddit or slashdot? Lets check all of them, then lets check them again, and then start again. Certainly no need to learn anything. Why bother? the internet is free, and provides an endless stream of absolutely vapid intellectually undemanding candyfloss bullshit that can keep my lizard brain scrolling and scrolling and scrolling until I fall asleep.

We have all given in. We have given in to the desire for immediate satisfaction and endorphins at the cost of our ability to ever pursue long term goals. We are now short-term to the absolute extreme. Short-termism in politics used to mean ‘focused only on this year or the next election’. Now it means this afternoons trending hashtags. Absolutely every element of society has been seduced by the idea that we can have it all NOW, RIGHT NOW, not tomorrow or next week, or ‘lolz’ next year. Thats just crazy talk.

There are numerous books out there on how to learn C++ in 21 days. Or even 7 days. I started about 30 years ago. I’ve written probably many millions of lines of code. There are still bits of C++ I barely use and am not that familiar with. 21 days? Think 21 years. But 21 days is likely too long for people now. Why learn C++ in 21 days when you can hack together some crappy bug-ridden mess by copy-pasting from stackoverflow!


Thats far too long-term thinking. Just use the handy-dandy new code pilot feature that automates the copy-pasting from the internet to ensure there is zero danger that you might actually learn anything!

Me moaning that kids-these days don’t know how to code is nothing new. This is like cliffskis greatest hits part II. Whats more the point of this article is to point out how the short termism and inability to learn has become absolutely intertwined into our society.

Do you want the TL;DR of that?

Think for a moment how absolutely fucking depressing it is that many if not most of you know that this stands for ‘Too long, Didn’t read’. Not only is it absolutely part of our culture to embrace the fact that we cannot be fucking bothered to read anything longer than two sentences, we cant even be arsed to read ‘Too long, didn’t read’ and need a motherfucking acronym for that. Let that sink in.

TL;DR is the perfect slogan to sum up our modern attitude to information. The idea that something is obviously not reading if it goes into some depth is frankly shocking. How the fuck is anybody going to learn quantum mechanics? how is anybody going to learn anything of any depth? Where is this attitude going to end? Will all university courses have to be summarized as a single paragraph (preferably shorter)? Do you want my simple TL;DR summary of doing a degree in economics:

‘it depends’

The irony of all this, is that society is getting more and more complex. We can get away with a lot of the population having an extremely shallow education on everything, if we don’t expect them to make important decisions that require the evaluation of complex and sometimes partly contradictory data, and assuming that most of those people are just ploughing a field or stacking boxes, or flipping burgers all day. This is no longer the case though. Robots are already flipping burgers, driverless tractors are a thing, and robots will be routinely stacking boxes soon too. The jobs left are the complex ones requiring some training and intellect, and I worry that the current stock of humans is being deliberately trained to just discard complex information and reject any demand that they may need to do some deep learning.

Meanwhile politics wades deeper and deeper into super complex issues and problems, at a time where political speeches have been reduced to the soundbite. We cannot cope with any actual political speeches any more, we just want the soundbite. The speech is simply a delivery vehicle for the twitter-friendly soundbite.

Here is the Gettysburg address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Here is a modern speech, which is all we can cope with.

Make America Great Again

I’m not picking on that specific politician. here is another one

Tough On Crime, Tough on the Causes of Crime

Its just as simplistic, without any need to engage your brain. Don’t panic, no long words were used. The idea that politics has to be expressed in terms so basic that they will fit on a baseball cap or the side of a bus is just so utterly, utterly depressing. One of the many reasons for this, is that simplistic slogans often lead to very, very bad politics. You can blame everything on immigrants in a simple sentence, but a proper discussion of the benefits and issues around immigration would take many pages and can probably, like almost all politics be summed up as ‘it depends’. Nobody is going to stick that on a baseball cap any time soon.

But hang on, its not like this is purely a far right issue either. Is ‘make America great again’ too long for you? Tada:

Even worse. Hope for what? Hope for economic growth? hope for technological progress? Hope for a racially pure America? Hope that we nuke our enemies? Hope is TL:DR politics. Its political sloganing for people who just cant be bothered to read anything.

This should scare the fuck out of you

I’m old. In internet terms, I’m laughably old. I remember before compact disks. Before the internet. My grandfather had a black and white TV and tin bath and no running water in the house. As a child I played in the rubble of the local munitions factory that Hitler’s Luftwaffe bombed. As well as all this 4-yorkshireman bullshit, it also means I remember a different style of politics. Before twitter, before social media of any kind, even before the internet at all. Just 3 TV stations in the UK, and a number of news and ‘current affairs programs’. These programs had a fairly simple format: A politician would be invited on (just one usually) and would be grilled on their policies by an interviewer.

There was no TV audience who would heckle and boo or cheer. There was no opportunity for you to live-tweet your opinions for the presenter to read out. If the topic was the economy, then it would be the minister responsible. This is now ancient history. You would not get a 30 minute (or more) interview of a politician on an issue now! Thats just laughable. How the fuck are we supposed to monetize that shit on tiktok? get real! The only exception is the ‘televised debates’ just before an election.

Have you ever stopped to think ‘whats the point of the audience in a presidential debate?’ This does not have to be a thing. These debates do not have to be a cross between the gladiator pit and a circus. We have the technology still, to have experts in economics, or trade, or the law, or social policy scrutinize politician’s history and proposals and interview them at depth. This is still possible. We have the technology, and the option, but we no longer have the attention span. We have been so conditioned by tik-tok, and youtube ‘shorts’ and other shorter, shorter media, that we are now incapable of actually digesting political debate or policy positions.

I notice it outside of politics too, in fact everywhere. I follow the tech company ‘Tesla’ very carefully from an investor POV. I know a LOT about what the company is doing and what it makes, how it makes it, where it makes it, what that costs, what money they make, and what they are planning. I swear that 99% of articles even in the financial press about this company are either written by AI bots, or churned out by idiots who have no idea about any of that. A typical news story would be something like this:


And if you think there would be more detail in the actual ‘story’ then you must be new here. The actual information required to spam-out the story with a clikbait headline is as paper-thin as you get. As long as there is some way to arrange the words CRASH and TESLA in a headline, then the actual article content is considered irrelevant. After all, who gives a fuck, because nobody reads the article anyway. They just need you to click the link, be served some ads, and preferably rage-tweet or share it. There is zero need to provide any information so why bother?

Imagine a world where that article would include, at the very least:

  • Information on the circumstances, weather, time of day, etc around the crash.
  • Details of who, if anybody, was injured, and how badly, and how that compares to a typical crash of this nature.
  • A comparison with other vehicle crashes, and some statistics that put the crash in the context of the number of cars on the road.
  • information from genuine experts on the topic regarding the likely cause of the crash, even if that information is not conclusive, with any caveats included alongside each expert’s opinion.
  • Actual hard information from highway safety bodies regarding the proven resistance of that specific vehicle to a crash of this nature and the relative safety, as shown by statistical evidence, of this car compared to other similar models.

Ha. Fuck no. Why do that? Most of our readers can no longer read. They just see images, scroll with one finger and click on the like icon, like the pavlovian dogs we have trained them to be.

Every single day, if you google search for TSLA, you will find an article suggested by the almighty google algorithm, that explains WHY TSLA CRASHED TODAY or maybe WHY TSLA SOARED TODAY. The articles are, in my opinion, entirely written by AI bots and contain no actual research whatsoever. Sometimes, if you are really lucky, you strike gold, and get both headlines from the same site at the same time.

I am in a state of despair regarding the ever shortening attention span of our society. The old websites I used to read, like slashdot, ars-technica and reddit increasingly link to articles that are 3 or maybe 4 paragraphs long at best. You cannot inform people about anything worthwhile in 3 or 4 paragraphs. Pick a topic you know a LOT about, where you are considered an expert, then try and mulch it down to a pithy 3 paragraph article. Its a travesty, an absolutely futile exercise. And yet we demand ever shorter and shorter articles, ever shorter media. TikTok is bad enough, but what replaces it? a one-second long video sharing site? Maybe a version of twitter with just a single word?

I do think one of the reasons we don’t notice how bad this has got is because of the way content is now consumed. Some genius decided that every article should have a big phat image on it, preferably sourced from getty, so its totally stock and has absolutely no new information in it whatsoever. Like this:

Whats truly impressive is that they keep the big phat GETTY IMAGES logo, so we are not vaguely pretending this is actually relevant. This image is presumably for people who read ‘Cost of living’ and cannot cope with a concept of such overwhelming complexity unless we pair it with a woman holding a baby and boiling some water because… we don’t understand the story otherwise?

Not satisfied with wasting a ton of space on such crap, websites also discovered the curse of infinite scrolling. Now it FEELS like you are being fed a ton of information, but its actually fuck-all. Just a headline, a few sentences and a payment to Getty Images. Everything is just paper-thin. We have no real information on anything, we are just fed a constant doom-scroll of endless analysis-free crap. Right now, only a small portion of it was written by AI. Within 10 years I suspect all of it will be.

Yes, I could have made this article shorter. I make no apology at all for asking you to suffer the hardship of reading this far. I am trying to convey a concern and get across a point. It takes time to build a case, it takes time to examine the various scenarios that help make that case. It takes time to try and convince someone on a topic. Hopefully this time was well spent.

TL;DR: Read the fucking article.

10 thoughts on This article is too long for you

  1. I think people haven’t really changed – the average person was never consuming a detailed multi-page analysis of politics or whatever, and they were never teaching themselves to program well from a book, either. What’s changed is two things:

    1) Increased information flow meaning that you get exposed to these people’s political opinions and code more, and that they get exposed to each others’ political opinions and code more.
    2) Increased social/investor demand for more, faster, constant growth.

    It’s not that the individual demand for in-depth analysis versus quick soundbites has changed. It’s that there’s so much pressure to get more eyeballs to get more advertising money to grow to get more eyeballs… that news sources get increasingly pushed towards stuff that gets more attention. (Which includes slapping a nice big thumbnail image on everything so it looks good when shared to social media, as well as the actual content text.) There are still plenty of sources that do in depth analysis one way or another, they’re just walking a thin line between going out of business and fishing for more eyeballs.

    Meanwhile, it’s not that there’s fewer good coders around, it’s that everyone and their dog with a product idea gets encouraged to take venture capital funding or whatever and grow and produce results quickly. And the information flow means that you can find people who can copy and paste enough off Stack Overflow for you just long enough to make your next growth target before the whole thing implodes under the weight of all its technical debt. There’s no actual incentive to hire good engineers unless you’re one of a handful of companies, and even then the incentives are screwy.

    As for what we do about it, well, I dunno what’s actually practically achievable. The above forces – social media, growth-at-all-costs as a business strategy, etc – are pretty entrenched in society by a handful of people who do well out of it. On the plus side, climate change-induced social collapse (itself in large part a consequence of growth-at-all-costs over socially responsible growth) should solve both of those problems, so hooray?

    1. Fair point. I think what you say is true, but I also worry that that subsection of people who DID engage in deep learning, and were reading long complex books on C++ have actually degenerated into tik-tok addicted drones just like the majority. I say this fully aware that I am one of these people. I am guilty as the next person of scrolling endlessly through twitter, and skimming headlines instead of reading articles.
      Ultimately we still need there to be people doing deep work, and deep learning, and deep analysis. I just worry that we are turning their brains to mush like everyone else. It doesn’t help that google et al will prioritize clickbait over long form writing. Google only knows you clicked, it has no idea how long the target is, or if you read it :(

      1. Yeah, I’m not sure. How young do you have to be to be affected by this? I’m in my early 30s and my perception is that things got really bad over the last 10 years. I’m certainly guilty of the odd Reddit endless scroll, but I don’t think it’s impacted my ability to focus when I need to – I’m still good at my job, I still read long form analyses as well as Twitter, etc. And I work with kids in their early 20s who are just as capable as me of heavyweight technical work. But are they old enough to have got away with it? Or is it just that we recruit selectively and a percentage of people-who-might-have-been-able-to now can’t, enough to be problematic for society? Conversely, I think better understanding of neurodivergence has actually improved people’s ability to focus on big complicated stuff, at least from the sample size of my colleagues (I do low level technical stuff and surprisingly enough, half of my colleagues are ADHD, autistic or both – go figure…). Whether that makes a difference at a population level, who knows.

  2. Tangential, but as online materials are getting briefer books on learning C/C++ are getting longer.
    Just look at the latest edition of “The C++ Programming Language”, 1376 pages weighing nearly 2 kilos, vs “The C Programming Language” (the one I learned from in the 1990s) at 236 pages. You can throw in ‘An Introduction to 68000 Assembly Language’ at 112 pages and still have change for both Pride & Prejudice & Wuthering Heights.
    When The Lord of The Rings is a shorter read it’s no wonder people give up and watch a video instead. Conciseness has a place.

  3. I smiled when you wrote “grandfather had a black and white TV”. I was born in 1979 in Poland and had a BW TV until ~89 I think, as most of my family and friends.

  4. Where is the TL;DR? ?

    Seriously, a thought just occurred—
    Besides the economy of its just-in-time property, is Agile also partly a manifestation of the short attention span, whereby we cannot create a complicated design upfront in ways that professionals in other engineering branches do?

  5. Ran your TLDR article through and this is the result:


    I made the mistake today of reading some social media comments (twitter, reddit, arstechnica, slashdot) on a topic I know a bit about and have read a lot of the background on.
    How the fuck is anybody going to learn quantum mechanics?
    Do you want my simple TL;DR summary of doing a degree in economics: ‘it depends’ The irony of all this, is that society is getting more and more complex.
    Here is the Gettysburg address Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
    You can blame everything on immigrants in a simple sentence, but a proper discussion of the benefits and issues around immigration would take many pages and can probably, like almost all politics be summed up as ‘it depends’.

    End of Summary

    Does it hit the salient points you were trying for or miss the mark (scores out of 10)?

  6. I used to read books when I was a kid. I can’t read them now I’m old. I can’t read a page without falling asleep, the book smacking me in the face. Reading books, even novels, for 8 hrs, used to stress me out when I was a teenager, and would make my skin break out, so I don’t think much of books as a learning tool.

    What would be better is gamification of education. Why aren’t we making games that teach people a useful skill, instead of games that milk money from them, and waste hundreds of hours of their lives? I would like to play games for adults, where when I beat the game, I am better at higher math that. Most of the educational games I have seen are made for children.

    Have you seen Amit’s A* Pages? He uses Javascript animations to visually show how the AStar algorithm works. Many of the thank yous in his comments, are from people who could not understand the algorithm before, but now do.

    1. Ha, I totally remember amits pages, they were very helpful! There is a great animation somewhere about relative memory speeds which is equally revealing.

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