January 16, 2008
I’m going to write longer blog posts. I noticed the ones that generated the most comments were often the longest. Interestingly, the post that’s gotten the most traffic is my short post on radio buttons in Rails. That posts popularity is undoubtedly because of its utility. You never know what’s going to be useful, so for now, I’ll just expound.
This was all inspired by reading a post by Steve Yegge, who writes some pretty neat things, including how he has found that post length correlated with success. Overall, I think what explains that phenomena is the amount of points of contact in established structures of the brain.
I remember a story about a salesman, that said he needed to make seven points of contact with a person before he could get past their filters of automatic rejection. I also read an article on seduction and the importance of making physical contact while conversing. The addition of touch to a conversation is just another point of contact you’ve added to make yourself more trustworthy to a person.
This gets me thinking about the importance/trust-structure of an essay. Must I cover a specific number of points before I warrant storage in a person’s head? Is there a maximum. Sometimes, especially when you are preaching to the converted, you don’t really need to say much to make a memorable point. And with people that you already have established relationships with, it also makes sense that you would have to say less. However, I just thought of some of the things I’ve said that have circled back to me through a friend, and these seem to be founded in the longer discussions I’ve had, and again where many potential points of anchorage were discussed.
So even conversation, perhaps any collection of related information can be thought of as a geometrically modelable system. Connect two points and you have a line. Three, a triangle. Four, a tetrahedron. So and so on.
Let me explain a little why I constantly model everything into geometric relationships. When I lived in San Luis Obispo, I had reached the height (or perhaps the depth) of depression. I was in a state of emotional paralysis. I wouldn’t leave my house, even to buy food. It was really really bad. But eventually my parent’s came and got me, and I started going to therapy, and there was all manner of getting better. One of the great things about getting better was my rediscovery of my ability to learn. One of the first texts I read while recuperating was “Synergetics”, a book about a geometry system that Buckminster Fuller created. Bucky is the guy who invented the modern geodesic dome. The book made a profound impact on me as it proposes many ways for the thinking about the fundamental relationship structures of nature, not to mention having some mind blowing diagrams. You can see a free copy of the book here.
Keeping in the vein of long exposition, Buckminster Fuller was a huge prognosticator. He really was an amazing guy to hear. He would go on an on, connecting space travel to structures and politics and history. When I was a child, I prided myself on having no heroes. Today, I’m not ashamed to say Bucky is one of my heroes, in the sense that I admire him, but not that I would ignore his deficiencies.
I’m also going to try speaking at length. I’m of the habit of going back and forth in a conversation, speaking and pausing, to prompt the other person to speak. I go to an event called Super Happy Devhouse which is a very cool hacker party, where people get together and write or discuss technology and startups. At this next Devhouse, I’m going to engage in conversations that I dominate, even if this risks rudeness. I suspect that it will alienate some, but I’ll start to gather a few “viewers,” who would be more than glad to buffer themselves from social anxieties by parking in front of a highly dynamic TV.
We’ll see how at-length goes.