Why “grib”?

If you have co-authored with me, perhaps you have noticed that occasionally I leave the word “grib” inside a Microsoft Word document.  That is simply a marker for where I left off work and wish to resume.  You will notice that if you enter “grib” into a document search, you are unlikely to pick up any other word that has “grib” in the middle of it, and so you will arrive right to this bookmark.

And if you find yourself adding too many “gribs,” because you have left off work at too many places, only never to return, you can deploy “gribb” to express a higher level of urgency.  Your search for “gribb” will not pick up any of your “grib” markers, of course, though your search for “grib” will refer you to “gribb” too.

I do recognize that the productivity gain here is small.  And much of that gain simply may come from the feeling that “I have a system” rather than from the properties of the system itself.

Happy Fourth of July! (grib)


An old programmer strategy is to use XXX in code comments for this, for the same reason, ie

/* XXX - this code is a quick hack for the demo, need to revisit later */

I'm not familiar with the programmers' placeholder, but I instinctively chose "xxx". Or "***" if I want to add notes to myself, after the *'s.

When learning a little bit of Chinese prior to visiting China, I realized that their system of organizing dates is far superior to that of the USA or Europe: they do year-month-day, ie. yyyy-mm-dd, all numerals. So dates that are sorted are automatically both in chronological and alphabetical order.

And then I realized that programmers use that same date format when they create names for files.

And when I write a bit of code that I know I don't want to save, I'll call it trash.xyz. Unlike the other examples that doesn't seem to be a standard programmer's practice, but a CIO where I used to work would similarly give his files of throw-away code that name.

yyyy-mm-dd is the ISO date format, and yes, it's far superior. Everyone should use it all the time.

I call my "throwaway" code files scratch.xyz. But I never actually throw it away, since I inevitably want to find some piece of it later.

And I use TBD as a placeholder (in word documents or code).

If it's really urgent, I put TBD in the code itself, not a comment. That way it will fail to compile and bring me to that spot if I forget to finish it.

Fun post.

Yeah, I use xxx... too, not sure if I picked it up from source code, or just 'invented' it - it's pretty obvious (but so is qqqq or 123124). TC's grib may work for him but glib, crib, grip, rib, suggest to me it is more likely than say qq to be mistaken by others as a typo of a meaningful word.

LOL, I meant to type 123123...

XXX is a really bad idea for a placeholder. A content editor at WebTV learned that one the hard way when preparing the child-safe home-page for Christmas one year. He didn't have the final URL for the planned "Reindeer Games" site, so he used XXX to mark the spot. It made it out to Production, and the WebTV set-top box cheerfully turned that into www.xxx.com.

(It turns out QA had caught it and filed a bug, but the fix didn't get integrated in time for the release...)

My usual placeholder is either "@@@" or simply "TODO"; I'd expect something like "grib" to occasionally get turned into a real word by spell-checkers.


It has always been my habit to use "you are here." It hadn't occurred to me to use anything else....

How did you discover “grib”?

TK serves a similar purpose https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_come_(publishing) but more for adding in specific figures or facts

I also will write in all caps things like "EXPLAIN THE WIDGET POLISHER MROE"

I use tk for "more material to come" or "more work to do" and /// for a stopping point but if xxx is going to redirect me to a porn site, I think I'll try it.

As a sidenote "grib" means both "Vulture" and "Catch" in Danish. And "Grib gribben Gribb" translates to "Catch the vulture named Gribb". Happy fourth of july.

You are mixing code with data, which is a recipe for disaster. Use MS Word's comment function to annotate your text.

You are demanding adherence to an abstract, universal rule without regard to the actual consequences of a specific use case, which is a recipe for disaster (especially in programming).

grib is fine. MS Word comments can be fine, too, but they are less portable and more awkward to work with than grib.

Software developers are always commenting out code, which is very much the same thing. It causes much pain, but they insist, and resist "Comment functions" in their IDEs and languages.

"Notify me of new posts by email" ✔

I've always used [] for this purpose, [[]] being the higher-urgency version. Something that's less likely to make a reader think "wtf?" if I accidentally leave it in.

I once coauthored with someone who would put FIXME in LaTeX documents for issues that needed attention. I still use it. More literal than grib.

Weather data files are in a format called GRIB. Since I occasionally use these files in my work GRIB would be a very bad nonsense word for me. I use ???.

??? would be a very bad nonsense word for me, since I work with people who are very incredulous.

I use JJJ. When people ask me why I use that, I say, "If I used KKK I'd get in trouble!"

Grib is not a non-sense word.

Let's Make America Grib Again!

Have a Grib 4th of July!

Does word processing make better writers? It certainly makes editing easier, but does it make better writers? It makes more plagiarists, intentional and unintentional. I authored several long law review articles before word processing, and I am amazed at how well edited they are. Of course, I had help (from the editors at the review), but their edits were minor while the text itself did not change much. When I clerked at a court, the opinions and memos were all typed on old-fashioned typewriters, which meant retyping with every revision. It was the same when I went to work for a law firm and drafted contracts, estate planning documents, letters, and memos. The big technological advancement was the mag card machine, which was used to create punch cards to "save" the document for future use or editing. When the PC became widely available, the big issue at law firms was whether to keep a centralized word processing department (where the punch card machines were located and that's all they did), or put a PC on every secretary's desk. That was a technological development that cost some jobs (although those who lost a job probably appreciated it). It would take years before I bothered to turn on the PC sitting on my desk; I continued the practice of having my assistant print a hard copy that I would edit with a red pen so she could correct the document. Eventually I became my own word processor. The great advantage was that I organized the "files" and "sub-files" in the way that made me much more efficient. All of which gave me the freedom to work in one place and "live" in the place I preferred. It's not as profound as what Janis Joplin said ("freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"), but word processing is another word for freedom.

Word processing made things much easier. I kept dozens of word.docs with principles, standards, policies, earlier topical correspondence, etc. and would copy/paste/edit as needed.

When I worked, I would type outlines with all the facts, numbers, principles needed to address. Then, I would compose readable sentences and appropriately ordered paragraphs. I would then print it on good paper and pass it up the line where the idiot above me would demonstrate his genius by changing a word (synonym) and adding a semi-colon here and there. Twice in 30 years they found a factual/policy error. The office manager signed and mailed them.

Before that, we would type out drafts which weighed several pounds due to pints of "white-out." These would be worked over by office staff and given to the "typing pool" and again proof-read six times from Sunday.

Our monthly FedEx/UPS bill was enormous, as each draft of a document was circulated among the lawyers for further revision. With the development of the PC and email, FedEx/US bills plummeted, forcing FedEx/UPS out of business. No, wait, along came Amazon! So word processing is all gain and no loss, right? Not exactly. What's been lost is brevity. Legal documents get longer and longer because there's so little effort in adding more and more. In the old days of typewriters, there was a cost to adding length to a document; hence, lawyers had an incentive for brevity. I suspect that young lawyers today don't even read the "boilerplate" in past version of legal documents, while adding their own. I have yet to figure out how delivering goods to every purchaser's home is more efficient than delivering goods to a single location where every purchaser would pick it up. Aren't all those FedEx/UPS trucks consuming a lot of fuel, increasing congestion on our roads, and polluting the environment? Does adding more to a legal document increase efficiency?

Concise writing is far more difficult and time consuming than verbose. And so there's a clear equilibrium beyond which spending more effort on writing a marginally shorter version is no longer efficient. That is to say, it's not that "adding more increases efficiency", it's that brevity costs time and there's a finite amount of time.

Where that equilibrium is depends on the particular incentives of each work product. For some mundane business contract that will barely be read, there is particularly low incentive for brevity. By contrast, Tyler's editorials for Bloomberg are capped and every additional paragraph bleeds many more readers, so he's got good reason to spend time constructing his prose.

And finally, the UPS truck is assuredly a less polluting way to distribute the same goods than having individuals drive the last few miles themselves. The UPS truck combines hundreds of those trips into a single one, which is optimized to serve all the destinations in minimum distance. So not only does it drive fewer total miles, but it does so at much higher load factor (even for a big truck) than a guy in a sedan with a few items in the trunk.

The fiction of Amazon's efficiency: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/06/amazon-flex-workers/563444/ Indeed, Amazon is offering to finance anyone who wishes to become an Amazon independent contractor deliverer: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/28/technology/amazon-start-up-delivery-services.html

"Aren't all those trucks ...consuming ...increasing congestion...polluting..."? Really? I suggest you spend some time on Economics blog site. There you *should* learn about opportunity cost. A truck doesn't "increase congestion" if one truck eliminates the need for many cars, a truck doesn't increase pollution if it pollutes less than the cars it displaces, a truck doesn't use more fuel if it uses less than the cars it displaces. As far as document "efficiency", you'd have to define your terms. A legal document "should" be effective, its effectiveness rather than its efficiency "should" be the goal. (imho) The brevity of a legal document makes it more ambiguous, in general. (Of course, this is context dependent.)

+1 on the truck, and don't forget the time efficiencies too.

Do you also have trouble understanding how a bus is more efficient than a bunch of cars??

I think there is a reasonable argument that being forced to do something the hard way can increase quality, and this probably applies to writing. Not having quick editing capability increases the thought and care in what you do write, and that pays off.

Word processing clearly wins on a "quality per time/effort" basis--it's no contest. For most applications this makes it a no-brainer. However, other methods may possibly produce higher pure quality.

A number of novelists prefer old-fashioned methods, such as typewriters or even handwriting, to create their works. Maybe this is because they are older and prefer familiar methods, or maybe they are just idiosyncratic. Or perhaps it really does produce higher quality. For fiction writing, a low volume at very high quality is required for success.

Happy Independence Day!

Does anybody here Type "JMJ" at the top of their work?

Book recommendations: "The Doughboys: The Story of the AEF, 1917 - 1918" by Laurence Stallings, from your public library. Read the Preface twice. [Greet them ever with grateful hearts.] Also, "License to Lie" by Sydney Powell, Kindle: $7.99. Hardcover from $599.00. Solve for the equilibrium.

You're welcome.

I use LOH - left off here

As long as you don't write about agribusiness.

Real economists write in TeX, never Word.

I usually use "Tyler".

In the literary/copywriting arena, it is tradition to use "TK" for this.

TK is a pair of letters that doesn't appear in any common English words, so a simple [Find] is effective.

It can be thought of as a loose phonetic abbreviation for "To Come", meaning content that goes there hasn't been included yet.

I use it both for where I've left off, and for places I know something needs to be added, such as a quote, reference, or image.

On projects where I'm using an automated workflow, I include a search for "TK" as an error-throwing step.

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