Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

> All that said, I recommend reading the whole thing if you can find the time. This distillation has only a fraction of the value of the whole piece. Many tangential points are very interesting.

Over time, I’ve come to appreciate all of the little things that get left out of summaries like this to the point that I wonder if they might be harmful. In the time it takes to read a summary, it is also possible to read the first few paragraphs of the article, which should be enough for someone to tell if the writing connects with them.

Fundamentally, this is a persuasive piece and its power comes from providing a vicarious experience to the reader of the author’s experiences at Yale. Whether you agree with her conclusions or not, reading this will help you understand the fundamentals of her position much more than a summary. I worry that, by spoiling the ending, this kind of summarization encourages people to only read the piece if they already agree with the conclusion it ultimately reaches. Thus, the people that would gain the most insight avoid exposing themselves to arguments counter to their beliefs and the echo-chamber is perpetuated a little bit more.

(Side note to ‘alexandercrohde: I don’t really intend to single you out; I applaud the effort you put into writing this summary, and you achieved what you set out to do. I’ve just had this particular rant growing inside me for a while, and this was the first place it made sense to put it.)




I'm returning to this discussion having read (well, most of) the essay, and finding it far better than the HN discussion was at the time I'd first encountered it.

There's a cost to informational complexity, but also a value. The problem is that complex ideas require complex exposition, but complex exposition discourages exploration.

There are a few classic ways around this. One is the Hollywood Film / Bestselling Book blurb, often a brief sentence, if not a single word, supposedly capturing the gist of a work (or at least enticing someone to drop a dime on seeing/reading it).

Another is the in-depth review. See various London / New York / Los Angeles book review articles, some of which have graced HN. These can give an entry point, but are often themselves complex.

There's offering a few choice samples of quoted text from the work. If there's a concise and sufficient lede 'graph, that can work, though much contemporary writing seems to actively avoid this. Otherwise, a few exemplary sentences pulled from the piece may work (I'm curating a few for posting to Mastodon as I write this).

Or you can highlight the key structure of the article. alexandercrohde's comment is of this sort.

I liken this to the barker ("See the Amazing Thing!"), cracking the coconut -- making the hard-to-get-at bits immediately available, sampling, much as a grocer might provide tastes of fruit or cheese to give a preview of wares, and of providing a roadmap -- not revealing all the delights of a trip, but at least preparing the reader for the journey ahead. That's what the parent comment of this thread does, and pretty well.

There's a place for each of these, and a value in matching the appropriate preview mechanism to the corresponding form of content. Given the complexity of marketing information, it's a necessity. The sample is not the product, but it can help in deciding which products you choose to spend time on.

I'm finding the article fascinating, myself.


Having read the article first I found the summary to be helpful. You are suggesting we remove the summary to prevent people coming to false conclusions? I think actually these summaries help us to have more structured discussions?


It’s not so much about false conclusions as it is enabling tribalism by helping people avoid opposing viewpoints. It’s certainly a trap I’ve fallen into myself a few times: commenting on the general topic without reading the article and arguing against the usual counterpoint instead of the one that was actually made.

I haven’t come to any firm conclusions on this matter, so I certainly wouldn’t recommend banning or removing summaries yet. I did, however, want to point out a potential downside of them that I hadn’t seen anyone talking about, so that can inform people’s future decisions to write and post such things.


An investing analogy. Warren Buffett doesn't read analyst reports. He reads each company's own reports (primary sources) instead to make up his own mind.

Summary here = analyst report Article from author = primary source




Applications are open for YC Winter 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: