Identifying Scriptlets

The easiest way to describe a scriptlet is to say that it is something thatcan fill the blank in the following dialog:

a1: I need John to do X

b1: John doesn't know how to do X

a2: Then teach him how to do X

b2: That's easier said than done; learning to do X requires experience

To take a business example, one wouldn't have the above dialogue where X is "human resource management." In that case, a1 and b1 make little sense. But if X is "to fire somebody" the dialogue might make sense. Further, it also makes sense that one can't learn to fire somebody except by firing somebody. This is the best way to spot a scriptlet. If one can't learn to do it without actually doing it in practice, it isn't a scriptlet. What this suggests, of course, is that the best way to teach a scriptlet is in practice situations. If one wanted to teach firing someone, practice scenarios would be constructed in which such talents could be learned, and experiences could be gained before one tried it out for real.

Looked at this way, biology is not a scriptlet, but dissecting a frog properly is. Physics is not a scriptlet, but performing a calculation needed in a physics experiment is. Managing people is not a scriptlet, but making sure a job is done on time and within a budget is. Writing a report is a set of scriptlets. Computer programming is composed of many scriptlets (learning how to do a loop for example is a scriptlet, as is writing that loop in FORTRAN). Reading a financial report involves a multiplicity of scriptlets. Playing a musical instrument involves multiple scriptlets. In short, if one has to learn to do something, and it is relatively easy for an expert to tell whether or not one has done it properly, then we are talking about a scriptlet or a natural grouping of scriptlets.

Confusion arises when we talk about major job classifications as if they are skills, when in fact they comprise numerous scriptlets that are often quite difficult to define. For example, being the president of a large company could be talked about as if it were a skill. Upon closer examination, however, it is clear that such a job must be comprised of many different scriptlets. It is determining which ones exactly make up such a job that gets everyone confused. A company president ought to be able to talk to the press, make his board of directors see his point of view, get the most effort out of his immediate subordinates, and so on. Some of these actions may be scriptlets learned on the job, scriptlets learned at other times but applied in a new place, or brand new actions, taken for the first time, invented by the user, which will eventually become scriptlets if they continue to be of use.

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