Because everyone has to learn some time, and what is obvious to one person isn't obvious to the next one. And anything which helps people realise something true is worth repeating from time to time.
Aside from the last part of that, I have some sympathy for people who make such comments. Often ideas are presented as "new" which are covered in any basic undergraduate textbook in the field; if someone working in the field isn't aware of these ideas, it simply means that they didn't do their homework.
There's a place for brilliant new ideas, but it generally comes after reading a book (or doing a google search) to check if a problem has already been analyzed to death.
I graduated from a university that is known for its CS department. I can still remember most of the concepts that were introduced. I can also imagine that if you work with a narrow slice of that curriculum for 10 years after graduation, you might forget or get rusty on a good number of unused algorithms or ways of thinking.
But I have also seen a lot of cases where different universities focus on different things in their curricula. For example, my university did not mention the phrase "functional programming", although that concept was well-known for over 15 years before my attendance. I was blissfully unaware of first-class functions. This is not new stuff, but several years after I graduated, I discovered it for the first time.
And imagine my surprise and glee when I discovered over six years after my graduation first-class classes, multimethods (or generic methods), and the like. Suddenly, languages like C++ and Java -- which a lot of universities force-feed their students -- seem very restricting. Yet all this is fairly basic, just different ways to think about and approach our problems.
The reality is that college can give you only so much, and you must accept that others coming from other colleges have been exposed to a different array of concepts and know about those more than you. You have to continue your career forward where the college left off.
And it sure helps when a place like Hacker News can occasionally bring up these various subjects. On the one hand, it exposes different people to new ways of thinking, and on the other hand, it might encourage other readers to join the field.
This stuff is old hat. But mentioning that and that you thought about it back in 1843 is a meaningless ego massage that, no, does not deserve sympathy. In a significant system, you cannot develop alone. Bring others up to your level, and learn from them, too.
I agree -- I did say "aside from the last part".
Perhaps the "this is old hat" people are just saying they only heard of it themselves yesterday or perhaps - as is very common - something is indeed obvious after you've heard it for the first time.
No, Feynman specifically said it takes a lot of effort and top quality understanding to explain stuff well enough for it to seem obvious to others. He didn't think it was automatic.
He further thought, for example, that being a good physicist takes a lot of imagination to come up with new and different ideas. In other words, physicists have to think of non-obvious stuff.
It's weird to assume someone who had lots of new and important ideas, and who put tons of effort into being a clear explainer of ideas, would be someone to just assume their ideas are obvious.
A sibling comment discusses people who don't do their homework before writing. I think people should not talk about public figures without doing their homework -- if you don't know what someone is about just stick to the topic instead of invoking his name.
Sometimes little tiny essays like this can be too vague if they use no examples at all. The examples are never the point, though, and it's assumed the example will just get translated in the reader's head into their own more personally-meaningful example.
But FWIW the Feynman interview that I was trying to find was his moment of seeing the spinning plate, which I think led to his Nobel prize-winning work. I couldn't find that interview, but I thought I remembered him saying that it seemed obvious at the time.
That kind of playful work - done for the fun of it after a long period of burn out - got him back on track for the work that eventually led to his Nobel. Interesting anecdote, but I don't think it's related to your thesis.
His motivation for not publishing all of it is hard to guess. You suspect it's b/c he didn't know that other people were ignorant of it, but he never stated that. My first guess is it's b/c it'd have been a lot of work to help others but not himself. When you have millions of great ideas, writing them all up for publication would be a huge chore and it's more fun to just work on more new ideas. Feynman cared a lot about fun.
Sure they do, if it's a thought in a chain of thoughts leading to something. People make mind maps all the time full of obvious ideas because it helps the find the non obvious ones. Hell people write down obvious stuff just to organize their thoughts.
Also, I do recall him stating that he hadn't considered publishing some stuff because he didn't realize it was original until someone else got credit for publishing it. I wish I had a reference, but I don't, I've read a ton of his stuff and couldn't pinpoint where I read it if I had to.
A lot of times, hit songs don't have much depth to them, even if they're catchy on the surface. A musician is probably perceiving the lack of depth more than the catchiness, whereas the listeners who make it a hit song perceive the catchiness long before the lack of depth catches up to them.
What happened was, I finished a record and as nearly always
happens to me, in finishing the record I started to get a
glimpse of the next step. There's always a cutting edge and
a trailing edge to what you are doing. Well, when I
finished that record, I knew what the cutting edge was.
The record was due out in September 1991. And so I went
straight back into the studio and had begun working on some
new material, which followed what I felt was the cutting
edge of this soon-to-be-released record.
Then the company said, "Well, September is a terribly bad
time to release; can you leave it to February?" And I said,
"I don't mind leaving it to February, but I won't release
this record then. I'H release what I've finished in
February, which is likely to be quite a lot different."
So that record just disappeared in the mist of time and I
carried on working with the new material, and that's
what became Nerve Net.
It may be obvious to you, because you're doing market research, but it may be totally obscure to an actual consumer looking for the solution.
Although as startups go, we know that it is all in the execution.
But after reading a bunch of books and blogs over the course of a couple of years. I have come to realize that stating the obvious is pretty hard. And only a few, will think of the obvious for the many.
Well, yes and no. My problem is that other people find it so "amazing" it moves it into "incredulous"/incredible...ie "I don't believe you and think you are lying" territory. :-/ Still working on figuring out how to talk about my ideas without going down in flames, being called names, yadda yadda. Phooey.
(And, yes, I still think some of it is terribly obvious and is based in part on things that are "common knowledge", so I remain somewhat baffled by the strong reactions.)
A: "How did you make so much money, B?"
B: "I got up early every day, worked hard, kept learning and stuck to my principles."
A: "But there must be some kind of trick. How did you _really_ do it, B?"
Ego also comes into play, since people lacking self-respect will see themselves as a static entity seeking outside validation, not a work-in-progress that grows through achievement. Suggesting otherwise attacks their blind spot, and they'll tend to react to it as a threat.
If you're talking about Bill Gates, sell to Larry Ellison "Here's how I'm going to put a thumb in his eye." Or at a more accessible level, tell the same thing to Calcanis as regards Arrington.
It was just as obvious two months ago as today, but now people have a one word conceptual model to use without needing to understand cookies, browser requests, proxies, broadcast domains, or cross site issues.
Obvious to us. Amazing to the normals.
That was the problem with before: in order to understand the threat, you needed to have a sophisticated mental model to be able to convince yourself "Yes, while I am unaware of any actual threats that use this, but I can see the potential for abuse." You needed to be able to deduce a threat from first principles. But once an actual threat exists, you get a shortcut; you can work backwards from the known threat rather than forwards from the system itself.
The trick is, not just finding 1 person, but many people who think it. And not only that it's amazing, but so amazing that they'll pay you for it.
On the plus side, this should mean that for any reasonable idea, given the size of the internet, you should be able to find at least a small bunch of people that will pay for your 'genius'.
In the end, execution is the key and it does not have to be perfect on day one. Half baked can be made 3/4 baked and so on...
I think almost everyone would feel enlightened by the title but the way the article is written, it seems it's tailored to inspire those who cannot build but would want to dream rather than those who can build but feel like the implementation of a concept is obvious enough and requires no extra polishing.
I was recently working on building a mobile app for a web service, and I suggested to my client that he could open the API and give out the documentation. He didn't understand why, so I said developers might build more apps on their platform, or make little things like widgets.
It blew his mind, but it seemed totally obvious to me, so obvious that I almost didn't suggest it.
This is probably true, yet largely irrelevant. Whether someone's ideas are obvious to them or not matters little compared to how much impact those ideas have.
It seems particularly relevant for mental or theoretical work where choosing the right approach has a great deal of leverage. If "all" you have to do is "just" look at a problem in a certain way, or examine the equation like so, or frame the issue from a particular viewpoint, then the resulting breakthrough may simultaneously be quite stunning to people who didn't think of it and quite obvious to people who did. Changing your viewpoint is as easy as deciding to do so - it's a task that doesn't even require the mental effort of, say, memorizing the dictionary, or similar feats of mental and memetic agility. But knowing that you can change your viewpoint, and choosing exactly the right viewpoint to use, is an extraordinary ability that not everyone has.