Postel’s Law also applies to human communication

by @edent | # # # # | 2 comments

Early Internet pioneer, Jon Postel, beautifully captured the “Robustness Principle” for networked communications. “Be strict in what you send, and generous in what you receive.”

That is, any computer sending data to another, should stick closely to the specification for that communication channel. Any computer receiving data, should expect that the sender isn’t following the principle, and interpret the data as best as possible.

This is what makes the modern net work. We expect errors in communication and only ask for clarification when strictly needed.

It also applies to humans too!

I recently received a comment from a reader. They seemed apoplectic with rage. Apparently, I’d used the word “normal” when I should have used “usual”. I’d mixed up “who” and “whom”. And, no doubt, committed more heinous grammatical atrocities. 😢

I also received a similar rant from another dear reader. They were upset that I said “everybody loves…” and “the majority of people accept…” Apparently I had to prove justification for every logical statement – otherwise they just assumed the rest of my argument was bullshit. 🙄

Here’s the thing, human don’t naturally write in Backus-Naur form. We use messy and imprecise language. It takes 300 pages to prove 1+1=2. So humans usually skip that preamble.

This blog is not a philosophical paper. I write quickly and humanely. I try to structure my arguments logically, and provide references where I can. I don’t always succeed. In other words, I try to embody the first half of Postel’s Law.

In return, readers are politely expected to embrace the second half. If I slip and misuse a homophone – please use the robustness principle to figure out what I actually meant. If you can’t, feel free to ask for a clarification.

Similarly, if you spot that my writing isn’t compliant with Pure Predicate Logic – feel free to go fuck yourself return this blog to the shop for a full refund.

2 thoughts on “Postel’s Law also applies to human communication

  1. I find making lots of pedantic mistaking when blogging to be a good way to deter the pedants. If they come across my blog I expect there’s wringing of hands, shaking of heads, muttering under their breathe and rocking back and forth in their chair.


  2. I can’t help feeling a tad sorry for people like this. It must be terribly hard work constantly being so angry about such minor things, or needing the validation of proving someone wrong.

    The slightly depressing part is that it reminds me rather too much of myself when I was younger :/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *