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Japan's Rail Workers Pointing at Things (2017) (atlasobscura.com)
272 points by ColinWright on Jan 20, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 107 comments

When I worked on a large historical sailing ship that required a dozen crew to perform tasks like raising sails, tacking, or reefing, we followed a call-and-response verbal command system for many of the same reasons.

When the helmsman would yell out "Ready about!", we would check the surroundings and respond "Ready!", then we would listen for "Helms Alee!" and prepare to switch sides and trim the sails. This process made sure that all of the crew were synchronized as to the current step in the process.[0]

[0] http://lrsailingcenter.com/posts/tacking/

When I used to do manual labour, I used to do this when told to do tasks. e.g. if someone said "Go and sweep the leaves and put them in the bin", I'd clarify and say "So I'm sweeping those leaves and putting them in the bin?".

It worked well in making sure everyone was on the same page about what I was actually supposed to be doing. I eventually stopped doing it though because people got annoyed and thought I was stupid or just not listening to them, which was ironic because that's exactly the opposite of what was happening.

It's a shame really, because it did minimise errors. There's nothing more annoying for everyone then when someone spends hours doing the wrong task because of poor communication.

What I do when I want a final confirmation that I understood right is say what I'll do instead of asking. In your example, it would be, "Ok, then I'll sweep those leaves and put them in the bin."

But, who knows, it might not have made a difference. In my case, my boss already knows that I like to be extra certain that we're both on the same page.

That's an important distinction. If you sound like you're questioning every instruction or you don't understand the tasks then your boss is going to get frustrated with you.

If you have a poor memory like me, repeating things back is important to help you remember them too. Since I work in office type environment, I try to repeat things back by writing them down where both the requester and I can see them - such as in a job ticket or email. This also helps if a third party joins the task later or if the task gets put on hold.

Whereas at the automotive shop I used to work at, everyone else picked that habit up from me. I'd picked it up from experience in aviation line service during high school. My coworkers acted annoyed for the first week, but they quickly realized I didn't expect a response and it made communication in a noisy shop clearer.

Especially after the day that a coworker got confused about which truck was which, and drilled a 3.5" hole in the bed of a brand new truck (thinking it was getting a gooseneck hitch). After that, everyone else started repeating verbal instructions as well.

OUCH, what happened, did your shop end up going through insurance to get the bed replaced?

I am only curious because this almost happened to me... and I was so glad when I found out they didn't put in the holes yet.

We ended up giving the customer a free gooseneck hitch. Thankfully he had intended to install one eventually, but it wasn't a pleasant day.

I do this also at my office -- it massively helps avoid misunderstandings, errors due to miscommunication, and other screw-ups. Like Hamlet said -- 'we must speak by the card, or else equivocation will undo us!'

I totally agree that the method you are using is a good habit. I noticed that cashiers often call out the denominations of money I hand them for a purchase, which too helps. I used to deliver newspapers late at night and once lost count (while counting in my head) of how many heavy bundles that I had loaded from one truck to another, which required me to start over - and on a cold night too. Thereafter, I picked up the habit of counting aloud, especially if somebody else came by and distracted me.

Cashiers in Japan always count out loud both what they receive and what they give back. Cashiers in my home country never do. And sometimes I forget what I handed over.. it would have been useful then to have the verbal confirmation. Not to mention the time in Mexico when a gas station employee tricked me.. oh well, maybe not, in the latter case.

Call backs! A really good practice. As having also worked on a historical ship the bit that always gets me is when working on helm when needing to communicate our heading we say "one five three" rather than "one hundred fifty three" and then that is repeated back.

Makes it much more difficult to make mistakes this way.

Same in aviation, the ICAO phonetic alphabet is meant to reduce uncertainty over historically poor radio communications. Plus readback to air traffic control and so on is relatively standardized to allow for a few chances to realize you got the wrong thing down.

On the ships I've worked on, call-and-response gets used for important messages even between two people:

"Steer zero nine zero" "Zero nine zero aye"

"Steer zero nine zero", "Zero nine zero aye" is the right way of doing a callback compared to "Ready about!", "Ready!" Repeating the information back, instead of just saying "yes" ensures that the correct message has been received.

My experience with this was relaying a message between the driver and guard, to reverse a train on a main railway line. The guard answered "yes" and there was hell to pay as the train reversed across a section boundary. The "yes" response ensured the guard received a message, but not that he received the correct message.

You are correct. For many commands such as raising sails we would repeat the command across the deck. My recollection was that distinct responses were reserved for potentially dangerous maneuvers where the helm needed to make sure the crew was performing the correct step at the correct time.

It seems silly until you have to do it in a storm, with wing literally howling into your ears. Combinations of sounds, gestures and readbacks are used anywhere loud noises are to be expected. Pretty much everything in aviation and the military requires some such layering.

The same call-and-response style is the standard for modern sailboats even if they can be single-handed in operation, because if somebody's out of place during a tack the boom can sweep them right off the boat when it goes from one side to the other.

As most modern sailboats are much smaller than a "Tall Ship" it is also a lot of fun to switch from port to starboard while the ship is coming about ... hopefully before the boom starts to swing.

In racing dinghies when tacking you often don't actually change sides until the boom has come across. Then when you do cross you are returning the boat to upright from nearly capsized. That drags the sail through the air creating a local increase in effective wind-speed, helping to re-accelerate after the speed lost during the tack.

Also common in many high volume kitchens!

One local burger joint made it a habit to not only call out your order to the crew in the kitchen, but that the kitchen would sing out the order back, with playful names for each type of thing on the menu.

Seemed to keep spirits up and probably had the side-effect of reducing errors.

> While some workers point-and-call more enthusiastically than others

Yes, I have seen this. Rail workers are great at it, but in other places, it can get worse. I saw a guy pointing to both sides of the sidewalk - to assure that it was free of people - before letting a truck get into a parking lot. His colleague will barely move the hands. It looked slightly awkward.

> Japanese commentators have theorized that Western employees feel “silly” performing the requisite gestures and calls.

I guess that this is what humans are bad at. We overvalue our awareness, and we put a lot of much weight on any act with social implications.

While I was at Fuji, I saw what it seemed a guy training alongside the train driver. He laughed time to time at his own movements. They both had a great time. So, even for Japanese, seems that the situation is slightly awkward.

I wonder why we evolved to feel silly. You'd think the safety aspect of looking silly would outweigh the social aspect of doing things that cause mocking in others.

We evolved to overvalue the opinion of our peers. Back when we lived in tribes of 20-50, it was incredibly important to fit in and be accepted. It's maladaptive when the same mechanism is at work when doing something modern that is silly on an individual social level but incredibly important/beneficial on a rational one.

> I wonder why we evolved to feel silly.

I'm going to guess it's because you are doing something unexpected/unusual. Predictability of action is a great thing for social cohesion and safety. Actions that result in one feeling silly might be misinterpreted (are you being aggressive, did you get rabies, or otherwise lost your mind?)

The people that did a lot of silly looking things probably had a harder time finding partners for reproduction. So for something like safety with silliness to reproduce it would need a significant impact on our chance to survive.

Looking at it this way workplace safety barely mattered until very recently. Before the big killers were the lack of food and vaccinations. It's only since society became as safe as it is today, that these smaller safety goals even seem to matter.

I would be prepared to completely ignore (and definitely not laugh at) rail personnel performing a naked rain dance if it meant that the trains would arrive on time more often. Hell, I'd join in if that helped.

That sounds like a Shadowrun plot hook.

The book I'm reading currently 'modular habits' uses the Japanese train conductors usage of this finger pointing an example of how to reinforce habits - the accident reduction noted with this technique was quite significant.

On another note - how strange is it when you learn something new of which you haven't known about your whole life only to several days later see it appear on hn.. is there a name for this sort of thing?

From one of the sources ([2]) via Wikipedia:

> The considerably catchier sobriquet Baader-Meinhof phenomenon was invented in 1994 by a commenter on the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ online discussion board, who came up with it after hearing the name of the ultra-left-wing German terrorist group twice in 24 hours. The phrase became a meme on the newspaper’s boards, where it still pops up regularly, and has since spread to the wider Internet. It even has its own Facebook page. https://psmag.com/social-justice/theres-a-name-for-that-the-...

Seems like an unusual way for a name to start, via a random comment on some obscure online forum in 1994. Language is weird.

A subset of that I've noticed is whatever type of vehicle I'm driving seems way more common the road. Whether that's a motorcycle, a convertible, or a bland rented sedan.

I believe as a running gag, in some of the Grand Theft Auto games, whatever vehicle you are driving in will appear significantly more often. Not sure if this is still the case, but I always found it amusing, since yeah, I also noticed this effect in real life (even if it's just fallacious.)

I noticed that as well but for whatever reason I just assumed that it was so that

1) You wouldn’t be seeing so many other cool cars and thus be tempted to switch cars all the time as that would distract you from driving where you were going.

2) If you wrecked your vehicle it would be easier to get a new one of the exact same kind.

But I think your explanation makes a lot of sense. They embedded a lot of humor in those games.

It is also conceivable that they initially did it as a joke and then once they had implemented and play tested it they discovered the benefits mentioned above, and made the case stronger for keeping it that way. We may never know :)

I have read, though I'm struggling to find an original source, that it was due to memory constraints - it was easier to spawn a vehicle if it was already loaded than to keep paging between them.

That sounds like it is probably true. I have never heard any official confirmation that it was a gag, so I think this explanation must be the correct one.

I just heard about this!

I think the book you're talking about is Atomic Habits by James Clear. I just finished it this month and it's terrific. The story of Japanese Train Conductors stuck out to me as well. Clear also has a terrific blog, which is where many of the content for the book was pulled from.

James Clear: https://jamesclear.com/articles

Atomic Habits: https://smile.amazon.com/Atomic-Habits-Proven-Build-Break/dp...

> how strange is it when you learn something new of which you haven't known about your whole life only to several days later see it appear on hn.. is there a name for this sort of thing?


I just looked up the name of this phenomenon about 10 minutes ago for something entirely unrelated... How self-reinforcing!

The fundamental interconnectedness of all things

Are you sure that's the title of the book? I googled and search on amazon, but there's no such book.

Perhaps you mean Atomic Habits?

Indeed I meant atomic habits apologies - would highly recommend!



I do something similiar with my keys: "I'm putting my keys on the sideboard".

Before that I occasionally "lost" my keys because the location was never safed to my long term memory. At least that's reproducably the error why I sometimes just couldn't remember.

Wow, I feel very organized, I've always had a spot for my keys and wallet near the front doors of the different places I've lived.

But I also hooked a USB drive to my wallet, and one time I needed a file from it, so I plugged it into my PC with the rest of the wallet attached to it, placing the wallet on top of the tower, behind the monitor. 20 minutes later I was on the phone with the local supermarket because I couldn't find my wallet at its usual spot, and I knew I had it with me while paying at the supermarket.

Having been locked out at annoying, inconvenient times of day I started follow the same process a few years back. I feel like I'm going mad when I'm doing it though, stepping out of my flat stopping, staring at my keys and consciously placing them into my pocket. I'm so glad someone else does the same.

I always lock my front door from the outside when I leave the house. This requires using my keys (unlike locking it from the inside). This means I never leave my keys behind. It does require remembering to lock the front door but I don't have any problem remembering to do that.

My front door can only be locked with a key.. that effectively prevents me from forgetting my keys inside.

I have sinilar ritual when leavong my flat: I pat down all my pockets to check that everything I need is there: keys, paper tissues, phone, wallet... I even used to do it with a foot deliberately positioned in the doorframe to prevent myself from closing the door with the key inside.

I count to six: wallet, watch, keys, phone, work pass, pen.

I use a similar system when deploying builds to production. The deployment itself is a multi-step process where I have to pick out two artifacts, verify that their git commit hashes are correct, then pick out the correct jenkins jobs and run them in a specific order (providing artifact numbers as input). At every stage I point to my screen, read out the information and only click on things that I'm pointing at. This may be anecdotal but multiple times I have stopped myself from clicking on the wrong thing only after saying its name out loud.

Er isn't that what scripting is for?

Not everything can be scripted, automation doesn't always repay the work expended in creating and maintaining it[0][1], and sometimes it's just worth having a human in the loop to know what's going on.

So, no, it isn't.

[0] https://xkcd.com/1205/

[1] https://xkcd.com/1319/

While I love XKCD 1205 simplifies things too much. You have to account for human psychology.

Small times doesn't mean small impact on developer time.

1. Routine makes you much more likely to make errors because you're not fully focused. This error could feed into the next process step which is maybe longer, thus costing you disproportionate amounts of time if it fails.

2. If there are wait times in these short tasks (say 30 seconds to 30 minutes) these can have an inordinate effect on developer time wasted.

Say you have a "30 second task" you do a handful of times a day. You have to do something, then wait a bit, then do something else. If you're not a robot you will not like watching for the time it takes to complete. So you might switch to HN or whatever else you were doing. What happens after the task completes?

* You could have lost your state of flow (very likely) => that's another 15-20 minutes to get back into it.

* You might forget to context switch back. Boom 30 minutes have gone by. Oh it's lunch time now. I'll do that after. Then you come back, and forgot about it again. 2h have gone by in your 30 second task, and it's still not done.

3. The problem could be that you don't do the task often enough. Maybe it would help quality if the task was done every few seconds. If it's arduous or takes some time, you're much less likely to do it as often. The graph in 1205 assumes that the number of times the task is done is not related to the speed of execution or that it is a manual task. I don't think that's true. An extreme example of this would be my previous workplace. Build times were 5h, you needed to execute two steps to trigger a build. One step after the other completed (roughly 15 min).

People would waste a lot of time on finding errors that a compiler could find right away, because compiling took half a day and wasn't something you just wanted to trigger.

The process described is not only easily scriptable, but are things for which a human could very commonly make a mistake. You can add things in to include a human in the loop, maybe hitting return at each step, or hitting y, but deploying to production should never depend on a series of manual steps except when absolutely necessary

martinkus> ... I have to pick out two artifacts ... pick out the correct jenkins jobs and run them in a specific order ...

russdill> The process described is not only easily scriptable, ...

From the description given you can't know that.

russdill> ... deploying to production should never depend on a series of manual steps except when absolutely necessary.

So you, without knowing exactly what this person is doing, are declaring that it's not absolutely necessary? That's very bold of you.

They listed exactly what they are doing. The artifacts they are picking out should already be tagged with the release. The script to push those to production can use those tags to know what to push and what git commit hashes to check.

ETA: I'll add that when pushing production, the amount not just you can waste, but everyone down the line from users, developers, testers, etc, etc, can be huge. Calculating how much time you would save isn't useful.

I don't want to say you are wrong, because there are a lot of situations (most?) where deployment automation can greatly reduce errors.

However, there can also be a number of reasons why builds and deployments could not be automated safely:

- "Production" is not a single environment, but multiple customer environments with multiple deployment version targets based on need/contract. Customer environments might not even be accessible from same network as build/deploy machines.

- Code is for industrial/embedded/non-networked equipment.

- Policies dictated by own company or regulatory body require builds are manually checked and deployed by a human who can validate and sign off.

There really is no way of knowing. Automation can save hundreds and thousands of man-hours and reduce margin of error; but it is not applicable to every scenario. Sometimes manual work reinforced by good habits and processes are the tool for the job. As much as it pains be to say, as my job is automation.

Not to leave you guys hanging about my specific case, the process we do is as almost as automated as possible. All the heavy lifting is scripted and the deployment to all other environments is done via a single click, however for prod we do have an additional checks, as deploying the wrong build could have some bad consequences.

I agree, if you can make a mistake doing a deploy eventually it will happen. Likely at the worst possible moment because you are under pressure to put out a production issue. All our deploys are push button deployments, it takes a lot of stress out of my daily life to know that once I approve a deployment things take care of themselves.

Well, the corollary to human mistakes in repetitive processes is that the script has a critical bug that shows up just when it would be most important that the script worked flawlessly. Murphy's law always wins in the end ;).

"To err is human, but to really screw things up you need a computer"

NYC's conductors do a similar thing when they pull into stations[1].

The urban myth that I grew up with was that they were pointing at a hidden camera to show the dispatcher that they're awake, but the article I linked below suggests that it was taken directly from the Japanese railway.

[1]: https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/mta-conductors-point-st...

Indeed, from the submitted article:

> ... New York City’s MTA subway system, whose conductors have used a modified point-only system since 1996 after then Chief Transportation Officer Nathaniel Ford was fascinated by the point-and-call system during a business trip to Japan. In the MTA’s case, conductors point to a fixed black-and-white “zebra board” to confirm a stopped train is correctly located along the platform.

> According to MTA spokeswoman Amanda Kwan, conductors were quick to adapt to the new system, and within two years of implementation, incidents of incorrectly berthed subways fell 57 percent.

They point at a horizontally narrow sign board with diagonal black and white strips on it. In any station, you can find the exact middle of the platform by standing under this sign.


So if you want, you can meet someone on a specific train car if you stand somewhere in relation to the board.

I used to meet up with my wife who worked 2 stations north of me using this technique without either of us disembarking. It was pretty handy.

Does that mean the train cars and doors are not numbered? On Tokyo subways one can say "I'm at door A of car 12" to arrange meetings.

They aren't. Well, they are numbered but they're basically car serial numbers, not anything all that useful in terms of standing in the right place when waiting for the train.

In Tokyo (and elsewhere in Japan) there are signs indicating where your car (e.g. car 4) will be when the train has stopped, so you just wait there. And when the train stops, the door is right in front of you..

I would be interested to understand two related things about this situation:

1. Does the NYC subway as a result have significantly lower incidence of alignment problems than London's Underground? London has had one person operation of all trains across the system for decades, so, if the conductor pointing at stuff matters, logically not having a conductor at all ought to result in significantly more errors... I haven't heard of such errors at all, but presumably they do happen at least sometimes.

2. What do the rates look like in Copenhagen, which is GoA4 and thus there isn't anybody aboard the train with responsibility for the system, there's a control centre with some broad over-all authority, but individual trains drive themselves.

My instinct is that actually this is not a good solution, it's what you might do if all the good solutions are off the table and you have to pay these guys anyway. "Well, might as well try to slightly improve our lousy accuracy".

A good number of London Underground lines are automatic operation - however on manually operated London underground lines they have a board similar to the zebra board at each station - it's at the driver end of the platform and shows their alignment, there is no conductor on the underground, just a driver and occasional plain clothes ticket inspectors.

However not all underground platforms on each line are of uniform length - for example Baker Street's subsurface lines have platforms shorter than the trains that run on them.

Hand signals are common for many blue-collar team jobs. Cranes, aircraft ramp operations, marine work, military - where getting it wrong is deadly or at least expensive. It's only rare to white-collar types.

It's the opposite of "move fast and break things". Heavy-lift companies and marine salvage companies (there's overlap) are in the business of "move slowly and don't break things". Mammoet, Titan, and Smit all have videos on line of some of their jobs. They are way into overpreparing. They have more gear on site than you'd think was needed, they prepare for as much as a year for some operations, there are detailed, written plans and backup plans which have been rehearsed and talked through by the people involved, and then on the big day, everything goes so smoothly it's dull. Watch some of those videos and you'll see some explicit hand signals.

Long ago I spent a good bit of time in Rotterdam Harbor. What I distinctly remember is that when I first got there it was all a huge mystery to me, some kind of machine that moved by itself without any indication of what was going on and what would happen next. Then, over time I started to learn how to 'read' the dockside, and a good part of that was learning how to interpret the handsignals of the various crews to know when it was ok to pass and when it definitely wasn't.

When I was at Google, my team and other SRE teams around us adopted a similar approach to sensitive operations - deploys and data migrations and the like. We'd have one of us on the keyboard operating, and another looking over our shoulder. The operator would type a command and they verbally confirm the action they were going to take. Their partner would look it over and give verbal acknowledgement. We certainly still had mistakes, but I found that environment very helpful - and it was an almost necessary part of zero-blame postmortems, because every action was not one person, but equally shared between two.

I used to use check lists for this sort of critical tasks obvisly much smaller systems back then a 16 machine cluster was a big deal

Many basketball players, after shooting a free throw for a technical or flagrant foul (where they are alone at the free throw line and no one else is lined up on the key) will reach out and slap the hands of their imaginary teammates like they would after a normal free throw. I always wondered if it was superstition, unconscious habit, or a developed habit.

Makes me wonder if they practice that way. They probably don't break form and high-five a teammate when they're practicing...

Any chance it could just be light RSI?

It's effective for more than just safety. I suffer from mild anxiety over whether I have taken certain actions in a variety of every day scenarios. This behavior (pointing and verbally acknowledging) helps me cope with that sense of unease.

That makes sense to me. Logging and measurement are also used for this purpose--increasing productive control over a (human in this case) system.

I came up with a new phishing avoidance scheme based on this, point at the url bar before typing your password.

"I'm reading an article on HN about Japanese rail workers pointing at things." "Done."

"I'm composing a snarky comment about Japanese rail workers pointing at things." "Done."

"I'm pressing 'add comment' to post a snarky comment about Japanese rail workers pointing at things." Wait, what? No. I know better than that. Abort.

It’s kind of strange to see a country as dilligent as it is, and obsessed with flawless execution as one finds its citizenry to be (Japan really does make some of the best stuff) that there’s some sort of emotional toll that leads to a high suicide rate and low birth rate.

Which is really a bummer, because on some level you tend to think, to buy into a stereotype, that the Japanese have their shit together, and you admire that, but the negative space of these qualities is that they never step out of line, and when they do, it’s the end of the world.

It's.. not really that. The step-out-of-line thing, I mean. But the pressure on young people is extremely hard, it's literally passing an exam to enter every step of your education (exam when finishing a step, a new one to enter) from kindergarden and up (and even earlier, for really obsessed/concerned parents). Extremely long hours (and a lot of that comes from culture, so yes that's also a part) for students and workers alike. The moment you feel unable to handle the pressure things will fall apart quickly.

One of the most interesting things I saw on the rails when I was in Japan this year was on the Shinkansen (Bullet train) from Kyoto to Tokyo (and back again).

Every time the train guard went through, when he got to the front of the door he'd turn around, do a 180 spin to face the passengers and give them a salute before 180 spinning back and going to the next carriage in front. I know it's a cultural thing but it's a nice touch.

Yes, it is nice, isn't it? I remember the first time I came to Japan. From the airplane I could see three of the baggage crew -- white gloves, and all three of them did a bow to the airplane before they started working.

This is interesting, I remember watching "Carrier" and noticing that the 'shooters' at the catapult controls followed the same process of pointing at their board (and even out the window at the plane) as they went through their launch checklist.

All aircraft handlers use hand signals, such as the crew who direct the plane on deck after landing, the crew that directs the jets onto the catapult, the catapult deck crew, and the pilots.

True, didn't even think of it, I don't like climbing with people that don't do this.

This also works for stuff like switching off the stove or locking the front door. If you find yourself second guessing whether you did it...just narrate the activity as you do it. Sticks much better

Why drop the "why" from the title? Without it I assumed this was about behavior they carried over from what is otherwise just another mandatory workplace policy.

I used the marklet to submit this directly, so it got lost somewhere in the automated process - it wasn't deliberately omitted.

I am not sure I understand how it works, but if I had to take a guess it is because normally your thoughts and attention are invisible to others, but if policy mandates you to use body language to indicate your attention, then the employee realizes any lapse in attention will be visible from afar, so the employee who doesn't want to be seen losing attention it becomes mandatory to constantly show that yes you are in fact still paying attention...

'Shooters' in a US aircraift carrier doing 'point and call', showing you can have fun and be safe at the same time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFqlwAWuMTg It's a choreographed checklist, which is great because others can notice if you miss anything.

I've learned that the best way to make sure I don't forget to put my phone charger in my purse when I go to work in the morning is to point at the outlet and say "Charger, set!".

I got the idea after the last time an article about this phenomenon was posted, and it's worked beautifully since.

If Japanese rail does x, x is probably worth looking into.

Best start wearing white gloves then!

Wouldn't be surprised if maintaining a crisp uniform is part of keeping up a sense of attention to detail, which again, would feed back into safety/efficiency.

I was at an arcade recently that had these "denshade" train driving simulators. The cabinet had an uniform to put on.

It sure helped get into the role.

I think it's neat. It visually and auditorily confirms to others that you are checking what needs to be checked, and reinforces the check in your own mind, letting you think about whether you are doing it properly.

Similarly, Japanese sysadmins must write down -- and get approval for -- every single shell command they intend to execute on prod before actually issuing the command, specifically to reduce the number of 'rm -rf /' oopses (and other breaking changes).

It may look unusual, but I wouldn't call such a thing silly. I've noticed that Japanese workers do just about everything so patently deliberately that there must always be a reason for it being that way.

I do this in every day life, it makes sure I don't forget things and gives me assurance that I did it. no more "did I turn off the oven?"

I see this all the time on the New York Subway too when conductors lean out and point. Must be the same thing?

Yes, and it's been mentioned both here in this thread[0] and in the article itself[1].

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18955029

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18955102

If I point at my code will I make fewer mistakes. :-)

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