The Roaring Success of the First Ever Transpection Tuesday

I just like hyperboles 🙂

It was the brain that was roaring afterwards unable to flip the “Sleep” switch on. It was a success because I felt it’s going to help solve problems or clarify thinking. It was the first ever for me and Erik to do together. It had elements of transpection in it but the session definitely took its own path(s) (we can always excuse ourselves by saying we’re “young and stupid”… oh wait! We are adenturous and curious instead!). And finally, I chose Tuesday because of alliteration. We can make it a thing like #transpectiontuesday

This blog post explains and reflects on what the hell happened during Transpection Tuesday.

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The What and the Why

Since we chatted on Monday and I had to admit Erik’s insights helped big time to make sense of some stuff, I proposed this: let’s pick a topic and do a Skype session on it to dig deeper, question, learn from each other’s insights and see where we end up. Erik and me spent more than 3 hours discussing various threads that followed from Erik’s topic: why do we self-educate ourselves?

We didn’t set a time limit which is probably the main reason we clocked at 3 hours. The main reason we had to stop was because it was getting late not because we ran out of things to say and reflect on.

The collective notes are here: TTnotesSept102013.

Sure, there were plenty of things we didn’t come up with and the list of additional angles can grow long. But this is not the point… we weren’t trying to cover everything anyway.

As Erik pointed out, we could also try to stick to one topic better next time we do it. But it was fun to explore different threads that stemmed from previous threads that stemmed from preivous… and so on. We also ended up discussing a lot of things that didn’t make it to the notes but were relevant to us (personal experiences, some psychological stuff, giving feedback). So all those pages make up just the skeleton of the session. Since we didn’t record it, we don’t have more meat at this point. But I’m satisfied with the notes as they are.

What It Was Like

We took turns in presenting ideas and used short monologues where one was speaking and putting out ideas about our topic. The other one listened and took some notes, then responded by adding to points or throwing some more ideas on the field of discussion. We asked each other questions but it probably something to focus on more next time.

There were ideas we spent more time on than others and sometimes I felt like we’re moving pretty fast from topic to topic which, on some ways, is exactly the kind of conversation I enjoy. Such a discussion for me is about quickly mapping the terriory.

Erik kept saying” there’s something else”, so this was like a sign for moving on and finding new ideas.

There’s a lot I could say about the experience but I’d end up with a long rambling text. Therefore, I’m just putting down some key points only. I’ll probably have other thoughts on it later which may not make to a blog post so if the list isn’t profound, then let it be known that the cogwheels are still turning.

  • full acceptance of things said is key in order to avoid self-cencorship in discussion – “no bullshit” mode
  • be patient and have fun with jumping from topic to topic
  • somewhat outrageous connections may take place (randomly insert discussion of early Christianity)
  • good collaboration on listening and synthesizing
  • having fun, following the energy
  • quick summaries of “what we have so far”
  • having an “articulate mirror” provides surprising insights
  • ask “why”

Anything good?

Yes. I just feel like the good stuff happened in my head: some things clicked to places. I felt the thinking through of some concerns and problems helped me downsize them for myself. I feel like I have a better grip on the topic than before. Apparently, the results I can describe right now are more of a subtle kind than very concrete. However, in my personal reality, they’re completely relevant.

I’ll take a couple of more days but then take some action on my self-education plan as well.

One thing is certain – we’ll do this again. Excited to explore!

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Devil in the Details: How to Connect Ideas in Text

Ilari wrote about indexicality a while back.

Then Duncan Nisbet wrote a blog post about how he tries to improve/reduce his use of deixis.

I ended up ranting a bit in the comments section about it because this topic is very familiar to me: I’ve been drilled and trained and what not about deixis at the university. And there’s another topic similar to that of deixis where the devil is in the details: linking words.

I had learned about the linking words back in school, of course, but after entering the university, I quickly learned I hadn’t paid sufficient attention and respect to them. All those comments and strikethroughs in red pen… My supervisor for my BA thesis gave me the ultimate lessons in using linking words by asking in a very ironic voice “Why do you use “because” here? Do you really think there is a causal relationship between these sentences?”

What are linking words?

Linking words and phrases are sentence connectors that are used  to link one idea to another. For example, “because”, “as”, “so”, “firstly”, etc are linking words.

Each of them is used to create a specific link between ideas. You would use “because” if there is a causal relationship: “He was tired because he had stayed up late”.

Why are linking words important?

They are important because using them right makes the text easily readable. If misused, the text may become fairly difficult to understand.

In my experience people don’t often pay attention to linking words and sprinkle them in the text incorrectly. As a result, the text becomes less clear or the text suggests connections between ideas that are not there. I often find the linking words for causality and contrast are misused. Then it’s the burden of the reader to figure out why two sentences that seem to go together are contrasted or why causal relationship is suggested even though the content of the sentences doesn’t suggest it.

As a (frequent) editor of different kind of texts, I have learned that the most difficult texts to crack aren’t necessarily those where the terms are used incorrectly or where the grammar or syntax isn’t clear. The biggest source of misunderstanding for me comes from disjointed ideas and poor connection between the ideas.

I have looked out for the use of linking words in my testers’ bug reports and have explained to them how to use linking words and what to pay attention to.

The reason for this is that if linking words are used effectively, the text is easier to read, so the reader doesn’t have to make a big effort. The text will flow much more nicely if you connect your ideas properly. Also, since I try to make my bug reports crisp and to the point, I want to make sure I have used linking words efficiently.

Clarity is important when dealing with programmers who often skim read the reports (because they’re busy… what did you think?). Importantly, I think that getting such details right is a fundamental skill in both written and oral texts.

Therefore, I suggest it’s worthwhile to scrutinize your reports and find out (if? and) how you use linking words in them.

There is plenty of material out there but here’s a fairly decent collection of linking words. Print the list out and stick it on the wall!