Dear Miss Disruption

An Advice Column from Silicon Valley

Sarah Jeong
6 min readAug 21, 2013

Dear Miss Disruption,

I’m a thirty-five year old married man. My mother-in-law thinks I’m not good enough for her daughter. She never has a kind word for me. She never insults me to my face but she’s always making off-hand “jokes” about how I’m not “manly” or how her daughter “married a woman.” I’ve never been the most masculine man, but I think what she’s getting at is that I’m a registered nurse. The money is good (not amazing, but good enough to support the two of us) and I’m proud of the work I do.

My wife tells me to just ignore her. I wish I could, but her little barbs and comments manage to get under my skin every time. I don’t know why—it’s not like I haven’t heard these kinds of insults before. But nevertheless, I see red whenever she visits. Should I confront her? Or should I listen to my wife?

Silently Offended by Nitpicking

Dear SON,

Your mother-in-law’s dissatisfaction with your chosen profession can be solved with a very simple pivot on your part: learn to code.

Why spend your days slaving over ungrateful sick people and taking orders from stuck-up doctors, when you could be relaxing in a several-thousand-dollar ergonomic chair, sipping on a complimentary Odwalla, and churning out some mad binary search trees?

When was the last time you took a 10 minute ping-pong break? I take 10 minute ping-pong breaks every 15 minutes.

Coding isn’t difficult, all you need to do is apply some work ethic and can-do spirit. Anyone can code. Everyone should code. The future of everything is technology, and someone has to code that technology. That someone could be you.

Think about it.

Also, if you knew how to code, your mother-in-law would never make some weird joke about how unmanly you are, ever again.

Women don’t code.

Dear Miss Disruption,

I’ve been seeing my boyfriend for three months now. Oh, Miss Disruption, I thought I was in love! He’s the most wonderful, cute, kind, lovely person I know. I was even thinking about introducing him to my parents.

But about a week ago, we started talking about how many people we’d been with. I’m reasonably attractive and I’m no prude—so my number’s pretty high. When my boyfriend asked, I did a quick estimate, then subtracted maybe 10 or so, and told him I’d been with about twenty men. I was relieved to see he wasn’t put off—but that feeling was short-lived, since he immediately told me that he’d been with around a hundred women!

Miss Disruption, I don’t know what to do. I don’t think of myself as an uptight, conservative person, but that really shocked me! I can’t look at him anymore without thinking about him like he’s some kind of a sex-crazed pervert. Or worse, one of those guys who watches that horrible pick up artist TV show with the guy who wears the top hat. I still like him and I’d like our relationship to continue the way it used to be. I just don’t know what to do.

Hopelessly Appalled at Lover’s Priors

Dear HALP,

The problem with talking about numbers of previous sexual partners is that the numbers touted are rarely accurate. For example, the output number is not only dependent on memory, which can be inaccurate, and on personal hang-ups (e.g., your purposeful low-balling of your own number), but also on other variables defined: what counts as a sexual encounter? What constitutes a single, separate sexual encounter? Who constitutes a single, separate sexual partner?

I for one am still trying to figure out a satisfactory answer to the Threesome With Identical Twins Problem, since I, as well as others, believe that the most satisfactory definition of “person” is “single living instance of Homo sapiens with distinct genome.”

The solution to your problems is simple: learn to code. I’d recommend Python; Javascript if you must. But by all means, avoid Ruby. Ruby has really jumped the shark.

Once you’ve learned to code, write a counting algorithm such that those contested global variables can be redefined in various ways. A concurrency framework will help make sure the output is as accurate as possible: we can’t have you accidentally missing a drunken hook-up or two!

But remember, this information is sensitive! But don’t be crude or cruel to your past partners. Make sure to use a hashing function to give your “priors” some measure of privacy.

When you’re done, post your project onto Github and share it with your boyfriend. Have him run your code on his own life. See what comes up! You might be surprised. His own unique dataset might help you to debug some issues that wouldn’t otherwise have come up.

Dear Miss Disruption,

A week ago I noticed an unusual homeless person on my way to work: young, white, male, and really into working out. I could tell immediately that he was unjustly homeless. I don’t know what it was about him that triggered my usually absent sense of empathy, but I started thinking… what if he learned how to code?

I am a software engineer working in what is basically a tech bubble, the skill is in high demand. Sure, you can give a man a fish, but what if I taught him how to fish? Or even phish.

I went over to him the next day with a puzzle: I could either give him $100 in cash today, or I could give him a cheap laptop, some books on Javascript, and my incredibly valuable time. He looked at me warily and then immediately began to vomit something dark, bloody, and chunky onto my Vibrams. I tried to hide my dismay by adjusting my Warby Parker glasses, and then started to explain to him all the things he could do with Javascript. His eyes rolled into the back of his head and he began to convulse all over.

I’m not sure why our conversation went so wrong. I was only trying to help him. I know this guy has it in him to learn how to code—I’ve even dubbed him the The Journeyman Hacker! Perhaps you could shed some light on my situation, Miss Disruption?


Patrick McConlogue

Dear Patrick,

I sympathize. You and I both know, learning to code is the best way to pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps. Hell, look at me. Other than my affluent Orange County family, my Stanford bachelor’s degree, and the $10 million that my uncle invested as seed capital for my innovative advice column start-up, I have nothing but my ability to code.

However… you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t get him to drink. Even if the water comes in the form of an endless supply of VitaminWater in the company fridge.

And if you don’t mind me using another old homily: yes, teaching a man to fish will feed him longer than just handing him a fish. But sometimes, the best way to help people is to simply give for the sake of giving, without expecting anything in return. After all, the young Journeyman Hacker might not be in a state to learn how to code. Sometimes, when I’m still waiting for my late ZeroCater lunch, I can barely type out a parser! And don’t get me started on having to deal with an OAuth bug first thing in the morning.

And anyways, don’t you think that giving without expectations and conditions can be a beautiful expression of shared humanity that subverts implicitly violent normative standards of respectability and transcends ancient relations of credit and debt? Or something, I don’t know. Sometimes I say weird things when I haven’t yet had my third cup of Blue Bottle coffee.

In short, Patrick, I think you should try another approach. Set up a Bitcoin wallet for him and invite your friends to leave him tips. If it’s in Bitcoin, it doesn’t count as begging.

That’s it for now, folks! I’ll be back next week to answer all your urgent questions with apt, rational, and totally-on-point advice.

Until then, yours truly,

Miss Disruption




Sarah Jeong

Sarah Jeong is a journalist and author, previously at the New York Times, the Verge, and Vice Motherboard.