I help students learn how to study all types of rocks.
January 18, 2013 11:54 AM   Subscribe

The semantic web one is pretty great:

If computers know how to find and use your stuff, then they can help other people find and use your stuff. This is important because we have too much stuff! We can’t find anything. We need help from the computers.
posted by graphnerd at 11:59 AM on January 18, 2013 [7 favorites]

Use the Up-Goer Five Text Editor to make your own contributions.
Aw man, I was all excited then I realized it wasn't an automated translator thingy.
posted by juv3nal at 11:59 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is a pivot of some kind.
posted by boo_radley at 12:00 PM on January 18, 2013

If you're looking for the best of these, check the signature first. I've found a pretty good correlation between people who list their specialty and interesting descriptions.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:04 PM on January 18, 2013

My job: I make sure things that go up do not go down, except when people want them to go down.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:13 PM on January 18, 2013 [9 favorites]

...which people?
posted by adamdschneider at 12:16 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just wrote mine!

'I study changing the order of things around, like changing (one, two, three, four) into (four, two, one, three) . In some ways it is easy, but there are many very hard questions that no one can answer. One easy question is "how many ways are there to change the order of four things? Or five things? Or more?" I drink lots of coffee and use a computer and have lots of interesting conversations. When you try to answer hard questions you get to fly around the world.'
posted by kaibutsu at 12:17 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Blue is a computer place (what's a computer place? | full story of computer places) that anyone can add stuff or a comment to. A usual computer place is one person writing their thoughts on the great things they find on joined computers. This computer place is here to break down the walls between people, to build a computer place bigger than just one person, and to get Blue people to talk to one another.
posted by Kabanos at 12:19 PM on January 18, 2013 [12 favorites]

"I help people plan on how to take care of their families if they get sick or when they die. When people get sick or die, it can be hard for the other people in the family who are still living, like little children, to take care of themselves as well as before. I set up pretend boxes to own and hold people's things to save them from having to be given away when they get sick or die, so that their families can still have those things to help take care of them."

kind of tough when 'law' isn't a permitted word.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:20 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I study how water animals each other

I am evidently too stupid to understand even this.
posted by desjardins at 12:21 PM on January 18, 2013

kaibutsu: People who study numbers and space turn coffee into answers exactly.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:22 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

madcaptenor: I even thought the 'coffee into theorems' quip was a good idea to include, except that of course 'theorems' was right out. Good one.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:24 PM on January 18, 2013

AskMeFi: I turn coffee into answers.
posted by localroger at 12:27 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

My Job - Bad people want to take your money with computers. I stop them by making it hard to do. Sometimes this breaks the computers your computer talks to, and I need to fix everything.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:30 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

For philosophy -

I study big questions about the world and being a person -- questions about how to be good, what there is, and how we can know things. I read the best things people wrote about these questions in the past. I also talk to students about how to write about these questions themselves, which is a good way to train their minds for all kinds of study.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:32 PM on January 18, 2013 [14 favorites]

After I figured out how to convey 'compiler' as 'thing that changes what you say so your computer can do it'.. I wanted no more to do with this.
posted by yonega at 12:35 PM on January 18, 2013

The tiny-heavy things would make a good band name.
I ran my own job through it - it was surprisingly easy to explain.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:36 PM on January 18, 2013

I draw pictures of animals and trees and rocks and human insides (hearts, stomachs, cells, and so on) for school books, so that students can understand how these things work. I also make sure that other people who are working with me to draw the pictures make the the art look exciting, and that nothing is wrong in their pictures. Sometimes I have to throw out a picture and start it again, because the the person who is writing the book does not like it. Sometimes I do not like the person who is writing the book, but I can't throw them out. Such is life.
posted by Kabanos at 12:38 PM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

My job: you try to use a computer and I call you stupid.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:42 PM on January 18, 2013 [21 favorites]

Wow - I hope the description I just wrote for my own job, which is basically how I describe it to my relatives, doesn't sound as condescending as it feels right now.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:43 PM on January 18, 2013

My favorite is this one, by a linguist who's interested in space.
posted by lukemeister at 12:43 PM on January 18, 2013

"I learn and write what the business needs to get done and tell that to the computer people and they tell me if they can do it."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:43 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I help people move power from the place where it is made, over water, to the place where it is needed
posted by dabug at 12:43 PM on January 18, 2013

I also talk to students about rocks in a college, and wave my arms around a lot.

Other than the rocks, pretty much my job description.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:46 PM on January 18, 2013

After I figured out how to convey 'compiler' as 'thing that changes what you say so your computer can do it'.. I wanted no more to do with this.

"The thing that takes your orders and turns them into numbers so your computer will do what you want."

This is actually an incredibly good exercise for tech writers or copywriters or really anyone who needs to translate nerd into english on a regular basis.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:49 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

My freelance job: i fight with people about colors and words. In the end I do not get paid.
posted by boo_radley at 12:49 PM on January 18, 2013 [11 favorites]

My job: People who work in big businesses need to show their business on computers that are far away with pretty pictures and nice writing.
They don't understand how computers work, and they don't know how to draw pretty pictures or write nice writing, so I help them show their work to other people.
posted by signal at 12:51 PM on January 18, 2013

If you like this, you'll love the Simple English Wikipedia.
posted by Jairus at 12:52 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

"The thing that takes your orders and turns them into numbers so your computer will do what you want."

That's really good, I didn't even think to try orders.
posted by yonega at 12:54 PM on January 18, 2013

I get people to want to buy things so someone else can sell them those things.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:58 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Almost everyone has to decide how to best use the stuff they own. This can be hard, because sometimes people want to give something to someone else so the second person will give them something in return. Since there are so many people, it can be hard to do this all at once or to find someone who is willing to take what you have and give you what you want.

One way they try to make it easier to decide is by making up something called money, which may just be a piece of paper you can use to buy stuff. In a lot of places, people think one person or a few people should decide how much money there is. These money people sometimes do not know everything but have to decide anyway, and sometimes they are wrong. And sometimes things go wrong without anyone knowing why (although sometimes people do know why - not everyone listens to them for different reasons. Some of those reasons are bad reasons). When things go wrong, money makes everyone sad. I don't want money to make people sad, so I study how the people who decide about money act when they do not know everything and why they are wrong sometimes, and what they can do when things go wrong, and I think about how to put my ideas in a computer so the computer show my thoughts with numbers. Then I show those numbers to other people, so they will understand what it is I am thinking about and tell me if they don't agree.

I am still learning how to study this by going to school, and sometimes school makes me sad because it is hard. But I will figure it out eventually and maybe help the money people not be so wrong as often.

(I'm a grad student! I'm interesting in central banking. It is really hard to explain economics without using the word "sell" or "decision.")
posted by dismas at 1:02 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is fun!

I use a computer to work with lots of facts. I work with people to figure out what answers they want from the facts. We work together to figure out the questions. I tell the computer how to change, move, and store the facts it knows to answer the questions the have people asked. Sometimes the answers are drawn like a picture. Sometimes there is not an answer to find. Sometimes the answer is too hard to understand. Sometimes the answer is right but the question was wrong. Sometimes no one knows what the facts are saying.
posted by killThisKid at 1:02 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's my job description passing the 1000 word criteria: "Flying things sometimes are late. We want to know why, and make this better. Computers and humans both can help."
posted by JimDe at 1:06 PM on January 18, 2013

Said in Ralph Wiggums voice:

"I type on a keyboard!"

(please tell me keyboard is on the list, and type) OK FINE!

"I enter something into the computer that gives a number that JESUS FUCK IS THIS HARD".
posted by symbioid at 1:08 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another take on philosophy:

I show people that very often, things that seem easy to understand, like being free or making things happen or learning from what you see, are really very hard to understand when you have to think about them carefully.

Then I help people to think carefully, and together, we try to learn something about the things that once seemed so easy but now seem so hard.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 1:08 PM on January 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

After looking at the words, I feel like the contractions should be taken away as well as the TRUE at the end.
posted by boo_radley at 1:11 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wonder how often translating in this way makes the object easier to understand and how often it makes it harder to understand. ("Translating" and "object" would not be allowed.)
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 1:11 PM on January 18, 2013

For Jonathan Livengood: "And we make up a lot of words"
posted by symbioid at 1:14 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just submitted one for "Statistics". For extra challenge, the first letter of every sentence spells my job, which is not an allowed word.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:14 PM on January 18, 2013


I help people figure out how to break their ideas into groups in the best way for what they want to do.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:20 PM on January 18, 2013

Fun. Here's mine:

If a lot of people promised to give you money over the next few years, but you need money right now, then you can ask me for some money, and when the other people give you the money that they promised you, you will have to use it to pay me back. But I will only do this if I believe that enough of the people who promised to give you the money will keep their promise. Also you have to give me a little more money than I gave you.
posted by milestogo at 1:20 PM on January 18, 2013

Alternatively my job is: "I get people to want to use computer things so someone else can get them to pay for those things."

Even more alternatively my part time job is: "I make bad jokes through the computer."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:23 PM on January 18, 2013

The place where I work makes a thing on computers that helps other people make games that people play on computers. There is a part that people have on their own computers and can see and work with. There is another part that we have on our computers and other people do not see.

I make the part that other people see. I also help our people make things right so other people do not have problems.
posted by Foosnark at 1:23 PM on January 18, 2013

But I will only do this if I believe that enough of the people who promised to give you the money will keep their promise. Also you have to give me a little more money than I gave you.
You forgot: "If you don't give me the money, I break your knees."
posted by signal at 1:23 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

People come to me and ask for a nice place for them to keep them and their stuff inside where it is dry and not too hot and not too cold. Some of them want to show their stuff to other people so they will buy it.

I make pictures of the place I think they want and they tell me if I am right. Then I give the pictures to some other people who build the place. I watch them to make sure they do it right.

Sometimes I get to go to fun places and other times I stay home which is fun too.
posted by skyscraper at 1:24 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I go to a place where people tell me things that I am supposed to remember. After four years or so I can leave with the idea that the things I was supposed to remember will help me in the not present.
posted by holmesian at 1:27 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Arms, and the man I talk about in music, who, forced by the way things turn out,
And mad Juno's hate that would not stop,
having been thrown out and not allowed to come back, left the Trojan land near the big water.
Long struggles, both by big water and land, he bore,
And also in the big fight that people were not sure how it would turn out, before he got
The Latian place, and built the town that people were sure was going to be built;
He started doing god stuff again for his thrown out gods,
And made sure that all his land and stuff would go to his kids,
From where the race of Alban fathers come,
And the long times that would make you say wow for the important and power having Rome.
posted by zamboni at 1:28 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Am I the only one who finds these descriptions maddeningly obfuscated? Using more words to describe something doesn't make the description any easier to understand.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:28 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think part of the object is to force you to explain your job without any field-specific jargon, which can be a useful exercise.
posted by dismas at 1:31 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also it's fun to write within constraints.
posted by dismas at 1:33 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Within constraints.

That was actually not much fun.
posted by skyscraper at 1:37 PM on January 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just as long as you don't put my promise to pay, and other promises to pay, into one bag which you then give to others who promise to pay you. That's how we got into this money problem.
posted by Kabanos at 1:41 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think part of the object is to force you to explain your job without any field-specific jargon, which can be a useful exercise.

But jargon can be looked up in a dictionary, to come up with a relatively deterministic meaning for a term. But these "simplified terms" can mean anything.

For example, take JimDe's comment above: "Flying things sometimes are late. We want to know why, and make this better..."

What is a "flying thing"? Is it an bird? is it a plane? is it superman? I could just as easily assume that he studies the habits of migratory insects as they are affected by climate change, or he does something in aircraft control.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:43 PM on January 18, 2013

For school board: "Children need to go to school. I tell schools what to do: Where the busses run, when the bells ring, and what books to read. I help schools spend money on important things. Every week I go to a room where a group of people gets together to talk and people yell at me a lot, because school is important."

(You can't use "meeting.")

I was actually just talking with a group of parents and teachers the other day about trying to make suspension notices more comprehensible for low-literacy parents without making them inaccurate, and referenced Simple English Wikipedia. Now I'm sort-of playing with that language in the text editor!

This is also interesting if you have a hard-to-explain desk job and small children; when I was little I thought my dad's job consisted entirely of carrying a briefcase full of papers around for YEARS, because that was really the only part of it that I understood! My three-year-old is very interested in what mom and dad do right now, but we do work that's a little hard to explain to a three-year-old!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:45 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

To learn about early kinds of humans, I study small animals who are sort of like humans but with more hair. Groups of these small animals fight a lot - especially the women - and when they lose, they probably don't get to eat as good food. First, I want to know if groups that lose fights eat worse food than the groups that do not lose, and live in places where it is harder to get good food. Then I want to know if this makes life for the women in losing groups harder and keeps them from having as many babies as women in other groups.

I hope this tells us something about how fighting began in humans, and about why the small animal women spend time in groups. I also want to save these small animals, so knowing exactly what they eat and how their home makes their life easy or hard will help people keep them from disappearing.

(clearly, I need to spend a lot more time saying monkey to people.)
posted by ChuraChura at 1:47 PM on January 18, 2013

I get body water pieces from sick people for doctor work.

posted by pajamazon at 2:06 PM on January 18, 2013

I think it would be interesting to translate works of fiction with the editor. Anyone want to rewrite H.P. Lovecraft stories?
posted by hot_monster at 2:12 PM on January 18, 2013

I hate these. I can't even finish reading any of them because they're so uninformative and vague.

Apparently the words rules, guidelines, regulations, and policies are not among the most common 1,000 words in the English language, which explains a lot about my clueless college students.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:12 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Apparently the words rules, guidelines, regulations, and policies are not among the most common 1,000 words in the English language"

Yeah, I have had to work hard to come up with workarounds to describe lawyer-type things, because. The best I have come up with is "make sure people do things the right way" for all sorts of rule/law/policy types of things. I still can't find a way to say sue/fight/argue, though.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:19 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

My job:
Living things use small bits of stuff to live. There are parts that make those bits of stuff from other stuff. The words that living things use to make those parts often have things they share with each other, and I use a computer to study what those words share and help people figure out how to make new kinds of stuff.
posted by wanderingmind at 2:19 PM on January 18, 2013

Two of mine, describing the LHC (or, as it shall henceforth be known, the Large Small Thing Hitting Place) and dark matter:

See small thing. See thing move. Move thing, move. Moving thing hits moving thing. Hit things, hit. Hitting things makes smaller (but heavier) new things. Make things, make. One new thing makes all other things be heavy. Be heavy things, be. Other new things might make biggest things in sky stick together. Stick sky, stick.


Look at the sky.
We see things in sky at night, very far away.
We look at bright stars in big things.
We look at the moving stars in big things.

The big things are not big enough to hold onto moving stars. Moving stars should fly out of big things, making big things disappear. There would be no one around to see all the interesting things in the world, and that would be sad.

Big things must have lots of something we can't see, making stars stick together in the big things. We call this thing we can't see dark matter.

The big thing in the sky we live inside of must have dark matter, so we live next to some of it.

We can look for dark matter by going into deep places in the ground, and waiting for dark matter to hit pieces of the things we are made of. We have to go to deep places or else we can't see dark matter because of all the things in the air around us that would look a little like dark matter.

Or we can look in the sky with computer eyes and see if some dark matter can hit other dark matter and send out light. This light we couldn't see with our eyes, but we can using our computer eyes. Some of our computer eyes have to go up in the sky above the air, other computer eyes have to be in far away places so that they don't see the light from us instead.

We can try to make new pieces of dark matter in the Large Small Thing Hitting Place. We take the tiny things we are made of and hit them together. Maybe some times dark matter comes out. We can't see dark matter, so we have to look for things we can see going one way, and guess that dark matter went the other.

We don't know where dark matter came from. We can make good guesses though.

A long time ago, we know everything was very small and close together. Things were very hot, and very tiny heavy things were made all the time. If dark matter is very tiny heavy things, it would be made at this time, right after something we can call the Big Sound That Started Things. When the space between everything got bigger, everything also got colder, and the heavy tiny things of dark matter couldn't be made anymore. If the dark matter talked to the things we are made of in just the right way, this would make all the dark matter we know is making the big things in the sky stick together. We can call this sort of dark matter Dark Matter That Doesn't Hit Things Very Hard, because that's what it would need to do to work.

Dark Matter That Doesn't Hit Things Very Hard usually comes with a lot of friends. These friends aren't around in the sky today, but they could be easier to make and see in the Large Small Thing Hitting Place than dark matter.

On type of dark matter friends could be called Especially Mirror Stuff. It would have a new friend for each type of tiny thing that makes up you and me and everything we can see. One of these new friends would be the friend for light, and could be exactly what we need for dark matter. This Especially Mirror Stuff would also explain why the new thing that the Large Small Thing Hitting Place made is not as heavy as it could be. This new thing is very important, since it makes all other things heavy and makes the world we see possible. But we don't know if this idea is right yet, since we haven't seen any of the new Especially Mirror Stuff friends. But we keep looking.
posted by physicsmatt at 2:20 PM on January 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

There is a big thing under the land. It hits tiny things together. I help the computers remember and think about what happened inside it so people can understand the tiny things better.

(I work at a data storage centre for the LHC)
posted by Urtylug at 2:33 PM on January 18, 2013

I really like this. Here's mine: I help people who have no job to get a job. I help them write down all the things they are best at doing and all the other good things about themselves, like that they are nice and come to work on time and work hard. I help them to find people who need them to do work and to send them letters or to phone them. I show them how to talk to those people and say the right things.
posted by Iteki at 2:36 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

my job: I use a computer to turn my ideas into things that help other people use computers more easily. Big groups of people sometimes buy the things I make; they are groups of people that help with house finding and buying.
posted by Fraxas at 2:39 PM on January 18, 2013

People buy books from stores. I make pretty signs for a store with books. These signs tell people how much money to pay for the books, or what books are new, or how to find the books they want. Some signs tell people to pay less money for books. Sometimes the people that make the books give us more money to make signs for their books, so I make signs for them, too.
posted by redsparkler at 2:40 PM on January 18, 2013

I find words to explain what a book is about so people can decide if they want to read the book or not. I also give the books call numbers so people can find the book once they decide they want it.
posted by teleri025 at 2:45 PM on January 18, 2013

"When people go into a house of God, they like to listen to music because it helps them to feel relaxed and like they want to be nice to other people and nice to God. I use my voice to make music for people to listen to when they are in a house of God. I also raise my children and help them learn the right way to do things and what to eat and how to not die and how to wear pants. I am learning how to write stories to tell people what things they do at a place for playing games and working hard, so that those people will know that they can go to the working-hard-place to do those things."

I was doing ok until I got to the marketing internship at the YMCA.
posted by KathrynT at 2:59 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I put mine up earlier this afternoon:

"People ask how many of a kind of thing there are; the thing might be a kind of number, or something like a number. I, together with others, work out how many of those things there are by understanding the way some kinds of spaces look; these spaces are, in a way, the same as the things about which we ask, “how many,” but in another way they are different. This allows us to use different ideas when we think about them, and answer some questions about numbers which could not be answered before."
posted by escabeche at 3:23 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

These all sound like a Mitchell & Webb skit to me.

Also, if you have a spare hour, and an interest in computer languages, check out "Growing a Language", by Guy Steele, where he delivers a lecture in a similar spirit.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:29 PM on January 18, 2013

The one I liked is now on io9, with the author identified.
posted by lukemeister at 3:32 PM on January 18, 2013

"You are having a bad problem and you will not go to space today" may be my favorite xkcd line.
posted by danb at 3:33 PM on January 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

I remembered the Mitchell and Webb sketch — "You're just the sort of doctor that makes people go to sleep for operations."
posted by benito.strauss at 3:47 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

People who do not own houses give me money and I let them live in my houses. When things break in my houses, the people call me and I fix the broken things. If the people do not give me money, I make them leave my houses so that I can get new people who WILL give me money to live in my houses. It does not matter if the people do not give me money because they are mean or because they just don't have any money. I make all the people who do not give me money leave my houses.

Short form: I'm a landlord.
posted by which_chick at 4:19 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I study how new words get into this group of top words. It is kind of about the thing that it is about. There is even a new word for something being about the thing that it is about, and that is just the sort of word I am thinking about. However, this word is not part of this group of words yet — the group being the set of words I am using to write this.

In a place called "the Blue" this word is already in their group of top words. For people of the Blue, this word is also part of the other name for the group. Most people on the Blue do not know or agree about how to say the word out loud. Especially when the word is put with another word also not in the group of top words that I am using to write this. Those two words together can be made shorter, and then there is a new, shorter word for the Blue that is fun and even harder for people on the Blue to say out loud. This new, shorter word is also already in their group of top words. When and how did it get there?

I can not understand how people let me get away with studying this. But I think it makes more sense and sounds better in less words. I think I will put it on the paper I give to job people using these words. I hope the job people like it and give me a job.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:20 PM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

I work for a man who is old and has a lot of money, and he doesn't need all of it. He wants other people to be able to do interesting and good things so I help him give away his money to people who will do interesting and good things with it. This makes a lot of people happy and that is nice.

Sometimes people want money to do things that are not interesting or good and I get to tell them that they can't have any money. That is the best part of my job.
posted by elizardbits at 4:26 PM on January 18, 2013 [10 favorites]

I tell stories with computers that pretend like they are real, so the people who watch can feel like they are inside of the story.
posted by Andrhia at 4:40 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

the Large Small Thing Hitting Place

aka any room i am in when i am drunk and other people are annoying me
posted by elizardbits at 4:48 PM on January 18, 2013

Because it's always best to dumb things down to the lowest common denominator. Like music, say. And politics. And life and stuff.
posted by Twang at 4:49 PM on January 18, 2013

Twang, something does not have to be good all of the time to be good some of the time.
posted by Andrhia at 4:53 PM on January 18, 2013

Using Basic English, or the most common 1000 words (they have a lot of overlap but are not the same), is not "dumbing things down." It's demonstrating that you can describe something without jargon or bullshit. Sometimes it seems a little hand-wavy at first, but look at that Large Hadron Collider explanation up there -- if physicsmatt can describe his job using this truncated vocabulary, surely anyone can.
posted by KathrynT at 4:58 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's much more fun when you do other people's jobs.
posted by fullerine at 5:18 PM on January 18, 2013

I help pay people who drive big boxes along big roads. Sometimes their pay comes out wrong. If that happens, I fix it. When the person who tells me and the people who drive what to do is out, I tell the people who drive what to do.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:45 PM on January 18, 2013

I am reading all these descriptions aloud in a ridiculous Grover voice.

This post is now diamonds.
posted by elizardbits at 6:33 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

The thing that makes Up-Goer Five funny is it's specificity, while an awful lot of these are such brief overviews that they aren't actually very interesting to read. With no real evidence, I blame the lack of anonymity. (That's certainly what stopped me from submitting the grotesquely intricate five paragraph research description that I wrote.) "I want to learn how the world works" is a great sentiment, and maybe a useful sound-bite, but it isn't funny. Figuring out how to describe very specific instruments and analytic methods, on the other hand, is useless, but funny.

That said, the word list is pretty interesting. It includes lots of stuff I'd never have expected, such as: jeans, however, locker, uncle, mention, practically, recognize, remind, relationship, shadow, shove, situation, softly, smirk, suppose, throat.

Yet not a single metal (nor the word "metal"), no elements, almost no words related to mechanical or electronic things, very few animals, very few plants or foods or other bits of agriculture.

Do English speakers really use "locker" more often than "wheat," "rice," or "chicken?" "Throat" more often than "steel" or "plastic?" "Smirk" more often than "ocean?"

I want to believe, but my smell-test early warning buzzer is flashing rapidly. Time to look into how this list was generated.
posted by eotvos at 6:44 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Haven't yet found a description of how the xkcd list was actually generated, though there's much discussion of it in the forum, including a link to a very different and much less weird looking list that also claims to be the 1000 most common words.

Using that list would still be challenging, but adding options like "element," "metal", "gas," "material," "matter," "experiment," "wire," and "flat" sure make talking about what I do a whole lot easier. It also makes it a whole lot less fun.

In summary, this nit-picky spoil-sport has once again managed to talk himself out of enjoying something harmless and funny, and is now trying to ruin it for you as well.
posted by eotvos at 7:09 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

My job is easy because they use the words "baby" and "food" (I work at a baby feedlot)
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:14 PM on January 18, 2013

At the risk of thread-squatting, this reasonably well-documented list is also very different. It lacks many scientifically useful words from the Rupert list, and it also lacks almost all of the wacky examples that caught my eye in the xkcd list; however, it includes a bunch of new very specific surprises. This seems to be a complicated subject.
posted by eotvos at 7:28 PM on January 18, 2013

From a number theorist:

Whole numbers are numbers like one and two, the kind of numbers you can use to say how many things there are. Suppose we think about all of the whole numbers. This set of numbers has many cool facts.

But whole numbers are not the only kind of numbers. If I move one foot ahead and one foot to the left, what is the number that is how many feet I am from where I started? This number is not a whole number! Add this new number to our first set... and then add to this, every whole number times this new number... and every number you can get by adding any two numbers in the set.

This new set also has many cool facts, but they are not the same facts as the facts of the first set. What has changed?
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:25 PM on January 18, 2013

I study groups of points and lines on a pretend piece of paper where every point has the same fixed number of lines passing through it and every line has the same fixed (but maybe different) number of points lying on it. I am very interested in pictures of groups of points and lines that look the same if you turn the piece of paper they are drawn on around or if you flip the paper over. These kinds of groups of points and lines are very pretty.
This is actually fairly close to my actual research description, but I was missing configuration, plane, and symmetry.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:53 PM on January 18, 2013

I sit and think about music. Then I write down the music that I thought of. Sometimes people play my music. I like it when that happens. Sometimes people give me money because they like my music. I like it when that happens too.

This is pretty much all I have ever wanted to say about what I do.
posted by daisystomper at 9:50 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I make things that are pretty and fun to look at. Sometimes I draw or paint, and the things that I draw are often not meant to be very serious, only to show people what I am thinking at that time, or to make a picture of something I have read or heard.
Sometimes I make things like stuffed animals or other soft art which stands on its own. Sometimes I give things away as presents but other times I get money for the things I make, although people often think that since I enjoy what I do I should work for free.
I don't think much of this idea.

Whew. 'Artist' not allowed, neither is 'cloth', 'material', 'textile', 'fabric', 'needle', 'thread' or 'sculpture'.
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 10:33 PM on January 18, 2013

Hmm - felt surprisingly easy for a manufacturing engineer. I've often said my job could be done by a trained monkey. Looks like I'm onto something. Anyway, here's me:

I watch people work and then tell them how to do it better. If there is a problem, I look at that problem and stop it.

If something doesn't work, I look at it and make it work. If a part is bad, I give it back to the person who gave it to us.

As people work, we make numbers. I look at the numbers and make sure that the work is going well.

I write words to tell people how to do things and make sure that they have the most up to date words.

When people want to make something new, I help them work out how to make it.

I often go to rooms to talk to other people about their problems making stuff. I do that a lot.
posted by YAMWAK at 1:52 AM on January 19, 2013

Inside your body are lots of parts that do stuff for your body. A heart is one of them, and a stomach is another inside body part. Inside your middle, just in the small of your back, are two more inside body parts that clean your blood. All the bits of your blood that aren't clean get taken out and put into water, and then you have to go to the bathroom. But if the two cleaning body parts get sick, the blood never gets cleaned. If your blood isn't cleaned, you will feel very bad. You can use a big blood cleaner that lives outside your body, but it makes you tired and sometimes a bit sick. It is better to get a new cleaning body part from another person. Most people have two of them, but they only need one. Sometimes someone from your family or your friend can give you one of their two. Sometimes you can have a body part from a dead person (because they are dead, they don't need it any more).

But there is a problem. Your body does not like to have things inside it that are different, because this makes your body think it is sick. Usually things that come from outside into your inside body parts are things that want to make your body sick. But the new body part doesn't want to make your body sick; it wants to make you better. So it is important that your body doesn't fight the new body part the way it would fight something trying to make your body sick. To stop your body from fighting the new cleaning part, a doctor will give you stuff to put in your mouth. The stuff to put in your mouth will make you a bit sick, but not as sick as you would be without the new cleaning part. It is important that you do not put too much stuff in your mouth or too little, because either way you will get sick.

Some people are interested in whether you can see things in your blood that show your body is fighting the new body part. One thing they want to see is this: Every bit of your body has tiny writing in it which explains how to make a new body. This writing was used to make you, and your body uses it every day to make new blood and things. What your body does is write out a tiny bit of the writing, which is just what it needs. If you look in your blood there are lots of these little bits of the writing in it, as if you had lots of little notes on your desk that you had written out from a big book. So if you look at what kinds of tiny writing there are, you might see what kinds of writing your body is using and so what it wants to do. If there are little bits of writing about fighting, then there is a problem! Maybe you will need to put more stuff in your mouth before you get sick.

The people who want to find out how to do this work all together in a group. Some of the people are doctors, and some know all about the tiny writing that is inside each bit of your body. I am in the group because I know a bit about computers. It is important that the people who are doctors and the people who know about tiny writing can talk to each other with a computer. It is also important that outside people do not read stuff about sick people that the people do not want everyone to know. So I make things with computers that will let only the people who need to see something see it, and will let them see it in just the way they need it. I also make a place to keep all the things that have been written. It needs to be a safe place, and it also needs to be easy to find things again. The best part of my job is when a person thinks you can't do a thing because you would need to be god or something, and then I show them that you can do it with a computer.

This reminded me a lot of patient information leaflets.
posted by Acheman at 2:21 AM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wtf, just saw 'cell' is on the list (but not 'kidney', 'medicine' or 'nurse'?). That would have made explaining DNA/RNA a lot easier.
posted by Acheman at 2:23 AM on January 19, 2013

With only two adjustments, the description of my job that I've had in my profile for ages works well: I type very fast and speak other people's words.

(I'm a relay officer for people who are Deaf, hard of hearing and/or speech impaired).
posted by h00py at 2:59 AM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I watch people do their work on a computer. I smirk because they do not know that the computer can do that work without them. I tell the computer how to do the work by its self. Then the people can do the other work that the computer can not do yet.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:04 AM on January 19, 2013

I study the things that bring death to cells of ear stuff. The death bringing things are tiny, smaller than the cells of ear stuff, and go inside them to take over their lives to make more death bringing things. This might make them very good for people who have bad cells of ear stuff that hurt them.

I look at the ways the death bringing things take over the cells of ear stuff so that we can better know how it happens. Knowing this, we might be able to use the death bringing things better to control bad cells of ear stuff. Knowing these things is also very cool on its own and will help other know-type people to learn other cool stuff about the death bringing things, and will maybe help find good helping things.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:31 AM on January 19, 2013

I help save old books and papers so that people now and in the future can use them to learn about the past.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:58 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Readers of this thread will probably enjoy the first 13 minutes (and perhaps all of) this talk. I don't want to say more, because it contains a surprise.
posted by grumblebee at 8:41 AM on January 19, 2013

I help students with their studies by looking after the computer that holds the book names and where they can be found in rooms that are full of other books.

I also look after computers that let students take some of the books out of the rooms and back to their homes. But they have to bring them back by a set day or they have to pay a small bit of money every day until they do, and I make sure that they only pay the money when it is right.

(A very small part of my life as an academic systems librarian is related to library fines but it's probably the bit that impacts users the most - or at least, it's the part they cry 'unfair' about the most... )
posted by halcyonday at 8:54 AM on January 19, 2013

I think the reason I like reading these is because I read too much Richard Scarry as a kid.
posted by dismas at 10:02 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I study how eyes and brains work together to make things look the way they do. Why does red look like red, and not blue? Why does glass look like glass, and not wood? People can see red and glass without even thinking, and I want to know how.

Computers don't have eyes and brains, so it's hard for them to see things like red and glass. I work to get computers something like eyes and brains, so that computers can see things too, one day.

(graduate student in human visual perception, with strong interests in computer vision)
posted by tickingclock at 10:40 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I fix things that tell you how heavy other things are. Long ago people thought the things I fix were like gods because they tell you what you can't see. But sometimes the things I fix lie, which is why I have to fix them. These days the things I fix often have to talk to computers, and I have to make sure the computers can understand them. There are lots more of the things I fix than most people know. Almost everyone pays for things by how heavy they are, and even when they don't a lot of the time people figure out how many things they have by how heavy the lot of them are.
posted by localroger at 1:23 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Now you can do the same thing, except with Jane Austen's vocabulary.
I’ve created a list of all the words that are in the collected works of Jane Austen to use for my spellcheck dictionary. It will flag any word that she didn’t use and I can then look those up to see if it was in use in 1815. It also includes some of Miss Austen’s specific spellings like “shew” and “chuse.”

It won’t be perfect. For instance it won’t flag words whose meanings have changed, like “check” or “staid” but it will be an improvement.

For the curious, there are 14,793 words on the list.
posted by zamboni at 2:20 PM on January 19, 2013

For instance it won’t flag words whose meanings have changed

I think that is a "problem" with the XKCD list too. Lots of the words on it have more than one meaning, and the meaning that got the word on the short list isn't necessarily the one you use, such as my own "the lot of them" in the previous comment.
posted by localroger at 2:29 PM on January 19, 2013

Can you explain a hard idea using only the ten hundred most used words?

The first thing that struck me is that "ten" and "hundred" are more common words than "thousand", but that does not mean saying "ten hundred" is a clearer way of saying "a thousand".

Btw, it looks like a credible estimate for how many words a typical English speaker who hasn't been to university knows is at least 35,000.
posted by philipy at 3:10 PM on January 22, 2013

This is especially hard if you work in a very esoteric field, but I tried anyway:
On very big jobs like power places or space cars or flying cars , people have a hard time telling how much is done, or how much money it is going to take, before they are finished. They might spend too much money, or take too long, without knowing first, and that makes the people with money mad or sad. This is very bad because of how much money and time these big jobs take.

There is a way to tell, and people have to use it or be in bad trouble, but doing it right is very hard and takes lots of time and hard work. This makes the worker people have to work very very hard, because the big job is hard work already.

We make computers do some of the hard part better than the old way, and better than the old computers, but it is still hard. Computers need help from people. We work with the worker people and ask questions to help them tell the computer how to do the hard thing. People have to work with each other and computers to get the answers, and they have to do it every week or month to keep getting money for the big job.

Then the people who give the money and want the space car or power place or air car come and look at the answers, and say if the big job is doing good.

posted by uberchet at 4:25 PM on January 22, 2013

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