Potential answer A: "What about them?"
Potential answer B: "What about him or her?"
They, them, and their as singular pronouns aren't grammatically incorrect.
What I find confusing about the issue that prompted this (using 'him' or 'her' specifically, and celebrating the choice of the latter over the former) is that it will inevitably come full circle, and be no less weird for it. Technology is too female-dominated, best invert the pronouns again to make it seem fairer.
"They" as a gender neutral singular pronoun is, to me, perfectly natural. I use it dozens of times a day as such without noticing.
Spivak pronouns, on the other hand, are blatantly marked, and were I to come across them in writing or speech, I'd find them very distracting.
I guessed - correctly - it would be the same Spivak who wrote the excellent Calculus textbook.
I agree that from a perspective of getting more people to use them the drawbacks are greater but from the perspective of understanding the drawbacks are essentially non-existent.
Another benefit that these novel pronouns can't pick up is that _they_ is the normal gender-neutral pronoun in use by native speakers, and has been so for centuries. The Spivak pronouns are not. If you have to explicitly teach pronouns to adult native speakers, or if using a pronoun requires deliberate thought, then there is something wrong.
I can think of two drawbacks of the normal gender-neutral pronoun, but I can't see how they are solved by Spivak pronouns, in fact, one of them is much worse.
1) Some people think that singular _they_ sounds awkard. However, considering the Spivak pronouns are a novel coinage in a closed class of words, it's almost certain that more people would find them more awkward than the normal gender-neutral pronouns.
2) There is a possibility for ambiguity with the plural pronoun. However, I can't think of a situation in which it wouldn't also be ambiguous with an distinct singular gender neutral pronoun.
That's why virtually all linguists take a descriptive approach to language and describe anything grammatical (as opposed to the phrase "grammatically correct" which would endorse the existence of a "right" and "wrong") if it sounds natural to native speakers. Unlike some linguists who love to see language change, I'm fine with people prescribing a standard and sticking to it for most written works, as long as they realize that it's just a standard and not some divine definition of "right" and "wrong." So feel free to use the singular "they" rather than artificial alternatives!
Note: Some far left scholars of gender studies demand the adoption of artificial gender-neutral pronouns (as opposed to using the singular "they") for a very different purpose--to make transgendered and intersexed people no longer "oppressed" by the English language. That is, if you already know the person you're talking about, all natural dialects of English involve saying "he" or "she" did blablabla. However, if someone identifies their gender (haha doesn't that sound so much more natural than "his or her gender"?) as something other than male or female, current English runs into a problem. Such scholars often propose "zhe" and "zher" for subject and object/possessive. But here we are just discussing situations when you are referring to an individual (i.e. a programmer or "someone" in the case above where I used the natural sounding "their") whose gender is unknown. This usage of the singular "they" happens to cover transgendered people as well.
Robert L. Read lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and two children.
It's not short by the standard of contemporary consumable Internet content, which is to be expected, as most of that content is not designed to enlighten. It's designed to catch your attention long enough to tell you about a brand, whether corporate (advertising) or personal (blogging).
And at any rate, serious writing implicitly asks for an investment of time in contemplation above and beyond line scan time, so its 'reading time' is only loosely coupled to the apparent length of the material. Making that investment increases the payoff, it doesn't dilute it. "You get out of it what you put into it."
If content consumption time is directly linearly related to content length, that's a pretty good flag that you're probably not getting much real value out of it. I've found low value content to be a difficult honeypot to resist even on HN, which is comparatively a pretty high-quality aggregator.
This is one of the best HN submissions I've ever seen. Given its due respect, it could change lives.
Furthermore, I think that the writing is clear and succinct. I wish I had this when I started programming.
It takes a lot of work, study, reading, patience, and diverse skill-sets to become a successful programmer.