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Do What I Mean (DWIM)

Last updated: May 3, 2016

What Does Do What I Mean (DWIM) Mean?

The phrase “do what I mean” or DWIM in IT references systems in which a technology should do what user intends, rather than what the user says. One way to think about DWIM systems is that they are similar to a spell checker for a word processor. Complex commands allow that technology to go in and change likely errors by understanding the common syntax of a user error.


Techopedia Explains Do What I Mean (DWIM)

The phrase "do what I mean" is commonly attributed to a programmer named Warren Teitelman for his BBN LISP package created in the 1960s. The Teitelman example is instructive in that critics suggested that it only worked for the particular user who created it – in other words, by creating a program that was attuned to his own idiosyncrasies, Teitelman did not create a program that would be effective in correcting the mistakes of other users.

Going back to the example of spell checkers, AutoCorrect and similar functions represent some of the most common and familiar forms of DWIM technology. These technologies can be very effective in correcting some of the most common typographical errors that users may be prone to, but they can also introduce wildly incorrect results that baffle and embarrass users. Essentially, the idea of DWIM is one that struggles with the concept of how to create technologies that do more than just process technical computing responses.


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