It is difficult to know what you should know when you have a lot to learn and are in an intelligence-signaling environment. A side effect of having written detailed technical notes is that I calibrate my confidence on a topic. If I now understand something, I am sure of it and can explain myself clearly. If I don’t understand something, I have a sense of why it is difficult to understand or what prerequisite knowledge I am missing.
I like this passage in particular, and I divine a second meaning between the lines, and that is: developing understanding, and then putting it out for the world to see, requires bravery. The more you do it, the bolder you become. It gives you some skin in the game. You can't just deceive yourself that you know something. And, if you're doing fundamental research (like the author), you gotta be brave - because there's a good chance you could be wrong. Many people are very afraid of being wrong.
As an aside: I still get nervous every time I publish a post on my own blog.
I also plan to dig out my highest-rated HN comments and turn them into blog posts or even an ebook some day. There's probably 10-100k words I've written here already.
Ha! I'm just starting to grasp that - been going through chapter 8 of Art of Electronics, 3rd Ed. Getting a hard and fast education on noise. Shot noise is fascinating. I still don't have a great mental model to compare it to. The closes I've come is dripping water vs a continuous stream of water.
I also plan to dig out my highest-rated HN comments and turn them into blog posts or even an ebook some day.
I had this same notion the other day. It's neat how an internet post can inspire such clarity of thought.
Also, he has what I found useful and inspiring advice about writing/putting stuff online, e.g.
"Make your website be your filing cabinet. If you have little projects underway, put them on your website while working on them. Reject the paper-publishing traditions of polishing an article to perfection before publication. DO NOT ELEVATE IMAGE OVER CONTENT. (Perhaps even keep yourself honest by cultivating a deep revulsion for "image.") Instead, let all your flaws hang out, and type things directly into your site in rough draft form (label them UNDER CONSTRUCTION if you really must).
Expunge the fear of embarassment from your life, and instead practice making foolish mistakes in front of thousands of strangers. Stop using your PC to store files, instead use your website as your main storage. Let people poke through your filing cabinet. It will contain far more than a perfectly polished website does."