Clarifications and Explanations

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This page can be used to submit questions about what something means in one of the articles being translated. The answers will remain here for other translators to see.

If you have more questions, post them here, and make them bold so that it's easy to see that they haven't been answered. If you know the answer, post it. If you can't find an answer, send an email to Joel asking for clarification.


The Joel Test: 12 Steps to Better Code

What does average-bugs-per-inflection-point mean?

  • It's a mistake. Joel meant "function point".

What is Starbucks?

  • The McDonalds of Coffee.

What does standard Dilbert veal-fattening farm mean?

  • Dilbert is a comic strip about an engineer who works at a terrible job ( A veal-fattening pen is where you put a baby calf so that they can't walk around, making them get fat, so they taste good. Cubicles look and taste a lot like veal-fattening pens. A veal-fattening farm is a whole room full of cubicles.

User Interface Design for Programmers Chapter 1

What does Zen and the Art of UI Design mean?

  • It's a reference to the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a philosophical novel that uses motorcycle repairs as a metaphor.

What does Bonk mean in the sentence ...I bumped into a wall. Bonk.?

  • It's the sound you make when you bump into a wall.

High Notes

What does it mean lateness in phrase "No points are deducted for bad style or lateness"? It certainly does not mean handing after due time because later in the text it is mentioned that Prof. Eisenstat himself stated that "penalties for being late are significant"(sic)

  • My guess is that any penalties for being late are assessed separately from the data that Eisenstat collected. That is, he'd grade it whenever he got it, enter that data into his spreadsheet, and then take off the necessary points for lateness before it's returned to the student.

The "which" in the phrase "trying to beat down all signs of creativity which might scare one old lady in Minnesota" refers to the signs of creativity or the actions involved in beating down those signs?

  • It's referring to the signs of creativity themselves. The reference refers to the theory that someone in America will always take offense at anything you do, and will complain loudly enough to get you to stop doing it.

What do you mean 'that' in "It's hard to pin that on the King David fetish"?

  • The stock price collapse


How should I translate slashdot-karma-whoring sectarianism? I could see only main meaning (aha, and couldn't understand any nuances. Skirienko 07:31, 5 Feb 2006 (EST)

  • The reference is to people who post anti-Windows or anti-Microsoft posts on Slashdot simply to get higher "karma." Karma, on slashdot, is supposed to be a measure of how much people like the things that you said. Karma-whoring means selling yourself out to get karma. So the person I'm speaking of here is the kind of person who is mindlessly anti-Microsoft because they think it's what all the cool kids do. --Spolsky 12:09, 8 Feb 2006 (EST)

Painless Functional Specifications - Part 4: Tips

What means Joel when he uses name "Kermit" as name for Miss Piggy's boyfriend? How should I translate this? Sergej Grishaev

  • There was a TV show called The Muppet Show a long time ago featuring funny puppets. Miss Piggy was a puppet of a pig, and she was in love with Kermit, a green frog puppet, who always tried to run away from her. Kermit is also a character on "Sesame Street." --Spolsky 12:06, 8 Feb 2006 (EST)

Common question: images

Joel's articles contain usualy many images. Is here (in this translation project) some standard rules how to use them? Should I use direct link to origianl image or upload it in wiki and use "local" link? In second case should I convert images to png or I can use original format?

  • If the image needs to be translated (that is, if it contains text), you can upload the new version here to the wiki (there's an Upload File link on the left.) Otherwise it's OK just to link to the original on

Great Design: What is Design? (First Draft)

What are "little six-pack plastic ringy-dingies"?

  • When you buy six cans of soda in the USA, they come with a piece of plastic holding them together. The plastic consists of 6 rings. There used to be an urban legend that if these things got into the wild birds would strangle on them. It wasn't really true but people felt good about themselves, cutting the rings into little pieces before throwing them away.'

--Spolsky 19:10, 22 Feb 2006 (EST)

Great Design - Table of Contents

In "Shipping is a Feature," feature means characteristic or centerpiece?

  • Shipping is a feature just like adding a spell checker to a word-processor is a feature. That means that it has to compete with other features. All else being equal, a customer will be happier with a product that is shipping (i.e. a product that a customer can buy) rather than a product that is not available, just like a customer would be happier with a product that has a spell-checker rather than a product that doesn't. It's important to remember that if you keep adding features and never ship, you're not doing anyone any good... shipping is a feature is supposed to remind you that shipping is just as important a feature as any other, if not the most important feature. --Spolsky 17:00, 2 Mar 2006 (EST)

Advice for Computer Science College Students

I have some problems with one paragraph:

1) Look for the 400-level courses with Practicum in the name.
What means "400-level courses"?

  • In US universities, this usually indicates a very advanced course intented for senior students or graduate students. (100-level course are introductions) --Spolsky 16:54, 2 Mar 2006 (EST)

2) This is an attempt to hide a useful (shudder) course from the Liberal Artsy Fartsy Administration by dolling it up with a Latin name.
What means "(shudder)" and "Liberal Artsy Fartsy Administration"? What is the sense of whole sentence?

  • The ideal of liberal arts is to teach undergraduate students a wide variety of "liberal" subjects: art, history, philosophy, etc., so that they can be well-rounded individuals. Elite liberal arts universities do not see themselves as being training institutions that teach particular skills... this is beneath their dignity. At the top ivy league schools the ideal is to learn a variety of subjects to become a better human being, not to learn a profession. Thus, the more useful a course, the less it meets the ideals of liberal arts. (shudder) implies that someone (the liberal arts administration, in this case) is shaking with disdain/disrespect at the thought of a useful course. The point of this sentence is that in many CS departments in the US there is often a course called "Practicum" which implies "practice, practical" which is very much against the ideals of liberal arts, and I'm making a joke that using the Latin word PRACTICUM makes this course a little bit more palatable. --Spolsky 16:54, 2 Mar 2006 (EST)

Sergej Grishaev

Translations outside the wiki

What is the copyright of translations? I understand Joel Spolsky holds it for original articles and any translation is kind of affected by it (whether translations were made with his permission/help or not). My question is because I have a translation project and want to post a full translation here (I made myself) meaning full translation will be posted somewhere else with a link back to original article and wiki translation. Is that possible or what conditions or guidelines should we follow to do so?--Matías 22:03, 27 Feb 2006 (EST)

  • If you write a new translation from scratch yourself, you can publish it elsewhere, if you want, as long as you include my full name and a link to where the original, English article appeared on Spolsky 12:19, 21 Feb 2007 (EST)

Usability Testing with Morae

In this title what means "Morae"? Is there any special sense of such name for usability testing software? Sergej Grishaev

"Morae" is the name of a particular testing product sold by Techsmith. The word doesn't have any clear reference to anything else (I thought it sounded vaguely classical Greek, but I was thinking of "Moirae"). "morae" is an obscure linguistics term but I don't think that is relevant. -thomas

Strategy Letter II: Chicken and Egg Problems

"You provide a backwards compatibility mode: if the merchant won't support the system, just get the merchant to mail their damn paper bills to University Avenue, in Palo Alto, where a bunch of actual human beings will open them and scan them in." What means this address? Is there something about PARC or Silicon Valley? Or is there cheap student's labour? Sergej Grishaev

  • According to the context, it should be the place where was located. --Aoki
  • A lot of startups get office space on this street, since it's very close to Stanford. There is not very much space there so when they get bigger they usually move out. -- 18:32, 29 Apr 2006 (EDT)

Book Reviews

I'm not sure why this Dan Quayle's quote is here: "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is." (Don't Make Me Think)

  • Just a joke, because the title "Don't Make Me Think" reminded me of that quote by Dan Quayle. Spolsky 12:20, 21 Feb 2007 (EST)

Camels and Rubber Duckies

Are there any special implications in these expressions (or just exclamatory phrases)?

  • Babymosesinabasket(Baby moses in a basket)
    • Baby Moses in a Basket was my attempt to invent something that sounds like a southern colloquial exclamation (Southern = Southern USA, where these colloquialisms are often old-testament biblical). Spolsky 12:23, 21 Feb 2007 (EST)

  • Holy Segments, Batman
    • "Holy XXX, Batman" was a common exclamation Robin always used to say in the old Batman comic strips. Spolsky 12:23, 21 Feb 2007 (EST)

My First BillG Review

"The only thing that made it look reasonable was that it looked great compared to Lotus macros, which were nothing more than a sequence of keystrokes entered as a long string into a worksheet cell." What was macros in Lotus? Was it (stored in cell) sequence of actions that I do which I can redo again by just calling macros?

  • Yes. The way you automated Lotus 123 was by entering a string of keys into a cell on the worksheet, and then you could "run" that cell and it would type those keys for you.

See Spolsky 12:26, 21 Feb 2007 (EST)

"Basic? Yech!" I'm not sure is this "Yech" positive or negative exclamation?

  • It's negative. "BASIC was a children's language that requires you to write spaghetti code and turns your brain into Camembert cheese." (Daily Builds Are Your Friend) --Aoki

Sergej Grishaev 16:56, 31 Jul 2006 (EDT)

Project Aardvark Functional Specification

Why was it called "Aardvark Ukrainian?"

  • The term Hungarian notation was very confusing. Originally, it meant something that was a good idea -- Apps Hungarian -- see . Unfortunately it was corrupted into something called Systems Hungarian which was a complete waste of time and made people think Hungarian was a bad thing. To avoid confusion, I sometimes call my own coding convention "Ukrainian," because I have an ancestor from the Ukraine (Spolsky = Shpolsky = from Shpola, a city in the Ukraine) Spolsky 12:28, 21 Feb 2007 (EST)

Founders at Work

senators on cake?

  • There's a rare, somewhat offensive expression "they were all over that like tridelts on cake." Tridelts are women of college age who have joined the Sorority "Tri Delta" (delta delta delta). They have a reputation, on some campuses, of being relatively fat. The expression "like tridelts on cake" is supposed to make you think of a bunch of fat college women attacking a cake. To avoid offense, I changed the phrase to refer to US Senators, since nobody minds jokes making fun of US Senators. Who are also fat. Spolsky 12:31, 21 Feb 2007 (EST)

Up The Tata Without a Tutu

What is tata, tutu? I totally can't understand.

It's a made up phrase, meant to remind you of the colorful expression "Up shit's creek without a paddle," which means, in a lot of trouble with no way to get out --Spolsky 20:38, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

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