Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why I Like Hanging Around Academics

I like nuance. I like detail. I need to swim around it for awhile before I'm able to narrow it down to the best stuff, in order to simplify. And sometimes I think things are too complicated to simplify, even then.

I was reminded this weekend of these things as I hung around with other grad students, who were quite happy to spend hours discussing things connected to the grad student life. I'm glad there are people whose jobs it is to get their minds around all the details of certain topics, and are able to spend hours picking through them.

However, this natural tendency in me is something to keep an eye on when I'm trying to produce writings for general consumption. Some things deserve to be short and elegantly streamlined.

Peter Morville included some apt quotes at his findability blog (these are from the book Made to Stick):
Becoming an expert in something means that we become more and more fascinated by nuance and complexity. That's when the Curse of Knowledge kicks in, and we start to forget what it's like not to know what we know. (p.46)

Proverbs are the Holy Grail of simplicity. Coming up with a short, compact phrase is easy. Anybody can do it. On the other hand, coming up with a profound compact phrase is incredibly difficult..."finding the core," and expressing it in the form of a compact idea, can be enduringly powerful. (p.62)

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