Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Trip Tip

Tricks of the Trade, via Robotwisdom:

When going on a trip, bring along your oldest socks, underwear and sleepwear -- the clothes you should have gotten rid of months ago. Then, afetr you wear them, just throw them out. Now you won’t have to carry dirty clothes around, nor wash them when you get home.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Exemplars of Non-Fiction Communication

Non-fiction works are often poorly written, but there are some standout exceptions. These are the best non-fiction communicators I've come across -- people with a writing style that's pleasuable to read and gets the points across clearly. That is, good examples to learn things from.

Of course, I can only comment on those who I've read (which is substantially more than just these people, and does range beyond the subject-areas they represent :-)).

Paul Graham. Graham has got a pretty amazing style. What makes it stand out is his ability to draw out non-obvious conclusions from simple premises and to present them with real impact.

Richard Dawkins. Very good at clearly and simply communicating ideas and concepts, and a very clean, elegant writing style. From memory, I think The Blind Watchmaker is probably his best book from a communication perspective.

Steve Grand. Explains things well and a pleasure to read. Growing Up With Lucy, the second of his two books, is probably the best one to look at.

Clay Shirky. Also quite good.

Some other people who are pretty good: Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, Edward O Wilson.

The following concern some specific aspects of communication.

Jorn Barger. Pretty good at writing very short, one-line descriptions for his blog links.

Dennis Dutton. Quite good at writing one or two sentence descriptions for his blog links - in a way that entices the reader to check them out.

Jon Udell. Pretty good at presenting things that people might have a reservation about -- because it is new or different, for example -- in a way that'll make them less likely to feel that reservation. (I'm not sure this best captures things, I think I'd need to read some more of his stuff again...)

Scott McCloud. Very good at expressing ideas -- in comic book form. The idea that comic book form must somehow inherently involve superheroes doesn't make sense, and his book Understanding Comics he uses the form to convincingly demonstrate this with a non-fiction consideration of the properties of the form.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Stereotyped Science

I think that what most people associate with the term 'science' is, I'm afraid to say, little more than a stereotype. Very little of those associations seem to come from actual knowledge from the sciences or of what scientists actually do, but from heresay, from things labelled as 'science' or 'scientific' simply to give them prestige, and though media reporting on science. This article at Guardian Unlimited talks about the latter, and how it it is not only of a general low quality, but biased in the sort of picture of science it portrays. It's quite good, I think, and quite damning, too.

(via Slashdot)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Jon Udell: Audio Synaesthesia

Jon Udell writes:

After listening to a bunch of podcasts on long bicycle rides this summer, I've noticed a weird synaesthesia effect. When I first listened to Jim Gray's discussion of asynchrony I was at mile 23 of this route. When I listened to it again and transcribed the quote for my blog, I saw that landscape again. It works the other way too. If I repeat a route, I remember what I heard along the way...

Reseach on How Bystanders Affect Buying Behaviour

EurekaAlert reports on some research from the University of Alberta:

Through a series of carefully controlled experiments at a campus bookstore, researchers learned that consumers will, in every case studied, spend more money to buy a brand name item when someone they don't know is standing near them at the time they choose their purchase. Consumers also tend to spend more money when a group of people is standing near them but are more inclined to buy cheaper items when no one is near.