Tag Archives: book

This idea of yours Mr. Heisenberg – are you certain?

This morning I have been engaged in the activity of ‘writing’ my ‘book’ about information metaphysics. In reality, it feels like having an idea avalanche fall on me. I have heard authors of fiction describe this sensation in terms of character and narrative but I don’t have either of those to deal with yet, so I didn’t expect it of non-fiction.

I’ve gradually realised that my recent experience with Agile software development has damaged my brain to such an extent that I’ve subconsciously been trying to develop a method of ‘Agile Writing’. Consequently, I have decided to embrace scope-creep as a friend. My ‘book’ is actually a tree that’s turning into a network with colour tagging for the third dimension. I may soon need touch and smell – hopefully not at the same time. Please don’t ask me what it’s “about” again, for a while.

I have invented a brand new dilemma: Are ideas particles or waves? As a partial-physicist, I am alarmed that my current answer is “yes”. Particle-wave duality is the last thing I need right now. Have you seen how many dandelions there are, growing in the lawn? They must wait, unstrum, until I have The Answer or I decide to blame it all on Heisenberg (who was simply not a ‘can-do’ kind of guy.)

“Well is it, or isn’t it?”
“I can’t be sure”


My Mindmap Wants To Womble Free

I’m writing ‘a book’ (possibly four) at the moment. I’ve already made public my idea that the ‘social networks’ that we’ve knitted out of the Internet can be used as an “idea collider”, to generate creativity; in the same way that particle accelerators are used to increase the rate of improbable collisions and accelerate scientific data collection and discovery.

Last night I read a tweet from Dave Winer. He both wrote and uses the outline editing tool Fargo to collect his creative sparks. Dave linked to an article by Alex Hillman on ‘Lifehacker’, which suggested that we should all keep such a ‘spark file’ for our light-bulb moments. This excited the idea particles floating in my brain. You might say it dropped a ‘spark’ on the dry tinder I’d been collecting and I replied. Dave didn’t understand a word I said. This post is an attempt to clarify what I think, at least to me.

What I didn’t look at last night was the embedded video, ‘outlining’ Steven Johnson’s book. It ends, “Chance favours the connected mind”. Steve smashed into my thinking the notion that we are not colliding ideas but idea components. We may not be bouncing ideas off one another, hoping for more sparks but fusing together half-baked ideas to make a whole. Almost like ‘society’ still exists on the Internet. Yikes!

Fargo is a web-accessible, scriptable, outlining tool that uses Cloud storage. “An outliner is a text editor that organizes information in a hierarchy”; what we often call a tree but is more often represented as a root system, drawn from the side.

Trello is one of many software implementations of ‘Kanban boards’. The idea was adopted from the Japanese automotive industry to become very popular with Agile software developers and several other more specialised software implementations exist. Trello’s blog proposed “The great horizontal killer applications are actually just fancy data structures. Spreadsheets are not just tools for doing “what-if” analysis. They provide a specific data structure: a table.” Trello’s specialist data structure is ‘List of lists’.

My own brain problem is not memory fragmentation but memory capacity. The fire-bucket I’ve used to catch my sparks for the last few years has been Mindmapping. A mind-map is a tree (or root) drawn from above (or below.)

The first point I failed to express last night was that ‘outlining’, Kanban boards and mind-mapping are topologically equivalent activities.
Hierarchies, list of lists and mind-maps are sylistic variations of exactly the same idea. My Spark File tool of choice is a mind-mapper called Freemind. I particularly like it because (it’s Free, ) it is graphical and allows links between branches, at any level. It breaks the hierarchy. The results are often ugly – just like reality.

Albert Einstein said that a model should be as simple as possible but no simpler. Human society is not a hierarchy but a complex network built on personal relationships interspersed with imposed structure. One of our favourite models is a delusion. If you doubt this, look at a platypus. Yes, I believe there is a better model but I’m still Wombling for half-baked ideas.

Dave Winer’s tweet that started this <https://twitter.com/davewiner/status/448587642813546496
Alex Hillman on Lifehacker <http://lifehacker.com/5941997/defrag-your-brain-with-a-spark-file, including the video outline of Steven Johnson’s book ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’.
Trello blog entry on data structures http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2012/01/06.html

Outline Editors http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outliner
Fargo http://threads2.scripting.com/2013/april/introducingFargo
Kanban boards http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_board
Trello http://blog.trello.com/trello-ios-2-5/
Mindmapping http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map
Freemind http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

Like a rubber ball, I'll come bouncing back to you

“Yes, Woo, but what does all this mean? What is the point?”

Oh, you’re one of those people who thinks there has to be a reason for everything. That’s disappointing. OK, let’s say I’m doing it for the continuation of the species. No?

What if I said I was writing a book? I prefer <text-object>. I could tell you the truth, that I’m writing (approximately) 4 text-objects, in parallel, but that would sound like the ravings of a right loon. You seem like a ‘planning’ person. I don’t really do that in any conventional sense. Sorry. I’m here, hanging out on my internal beach for a while, surfing through life with hardly a wave behind me. Maybe that’s my purpose – I’m searching for that perfect wave. Or particle.

Also with the ‘trying out different voices’ thing. I can see how that might be confusing but just because a ‘book’ is about information metaphysics, does that mean it can’t be FUN, maybe even funny? Yes? OK, then this is my <serious face>.

You know when people say, “While we’re all here, can I just bounce an idea off you?” Well, that. When I started using ‘social software’, my life changed. The delay introduced by the Internet suits my brain better than In-Real-Life conversations. I communicate more effectively in an asynchronous textual environment. I can find and form my own tribes or match-make  inter-tribal relationships. Most of the great leaps forward in human endeavour have been made by strong individuals, sharing ideas and working together in movements, groups or societies but they were typically limited by geographic constraints. We are the first generation with the chance to shake off the tyranny of transportation.

I started to see coincidences everywhere. Various separate aspects of my life began to collide with one another. Just as the Large Hadron Collider was whacking particles together to see what happened (I may be over-simplifying,) so ‘social’ was acting as an ideas accelerator. I started to ‘cross the streams’ deliberately. The ‘Ghostbusters’ miscalculated the dangers. I’m doing chaos on purpose, just to see what happens. Let’s play. Let’s brain storm. You can steal my ideas, if I can steal yours. Deal?

Maybe new ideas arrived at collectively belong to us all and only the unique way in which each of us narrates the shared story is our own.