Friday, November 27, 2009

Many Ideas or One Idea - or Both

I read Present one idea at a time and let others build upon it after finding it linked in Hacker News. My first response to the title, even before I clicked on the link, was that it was probably going to be a restatement of the amateur SF writer's error of trying to dole out ideas in their stories. Ideas are plentiful, trying to not put them in stories, apparently because they believe there should be only one or a few ideas per story is one reason most amateurs have a hard time writing good science fiction.

On reading the essay, I realized Sivers had an excellent point, but it was a point about feedback. Presenting one idea at a time makes it easier for readers to give good feedback, and they are therefore more likely to provide it.

I wonder if there is any way to combine the two views? To provide more background and context, with the necessarily larger numbers of ideas being presented, while still getting useful feedback from readers.

Added: I linked to this on LW and added this in the comments there:

One idea at a time is great for getting feedback. It is not so good for a reader trying to develop understanding. And the "sequences" don't really help much, trying to read/reread several to try to get context for understanding something is too choppy. I don't know what the best trade-off may be, but I can hope things will improve.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rules Destroys Intelligence

Size alone does not a bureaucracy make, though it always helps (or hurts, looking at it from a rational perspective). Rules exist in the first place to benefit the group and its production. A bureaucrat is someone who has forgotten that simple fact, and worships the rules as ends in themselves, rather than means to getting the job done. This is one reason large organizations are more bureaucratic than smaller ones, the distance of most workers from the actual job.

The ultimate in rule-bound work is automated work.

A Web example:

On September 30 I was reading a well-established post on a web site I generally like, that already had lots of comments. Since it has a [reply] button, I naturally replied to comments that warranted it. I didn't even realize how many I had posted until I had gone back to the homepage and found I had 9 of the top 10 comments. I knew from a discussion a year before that the site owners "would prefer" people not post more than 3 of the latest 10 comments - but that was before one of them left and before the reply button, so I didn't know if it would be a problem, and it really didn't even occur to me as I was replying to those comments.

Apparently it did. On October 11, I tried to comment on a new post, my first comment since the 30th, and got an error page with "You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down." Outstanding stupidity on the part of the web site. What an outstandingly stupid contradiction between the site's name and action.