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This stood out to me: "I whispered audibly enough for a few nearby people to hear, 'Be specific! Be specific!'" because it also applies to writing. I'm a grad student in English lit and teach undergrads. Their writing is filled with generalities about the work and/or author; very few have the training or discipline to talk specifically about the work and to examine particular sentences. So I spend a lot of time doing that in class.

Actually, most people are like this with books or movies or other things in their lives; they'll be able to say if they liked a book, or could "relate" to it (whatever that means), but beyond that they won't have much concrete (another synonym for "specific). Which is okay, since they're not trying to be professional writers or critics. But if you are trying to a be professional x (writer, critic, startup), you'd better be willing to look at details, since details are everything.

The older I get, the more I believe details are everything. Well, maybe not quite everything, but certainly 95% of the thing.




"The details are not details, they make the product" - Charles Eames

One my favorite quotes on design. And as you pointed out, details are key to make something outstanding.


I watched that onstage office hours session on Youtube and the same thing struck me "They need to be more clear and more specific" My startup is based in an industry that I have been working in for six years so specifics are not the issue, it's condensing all the details down into just a few minutes.


I always liked Spolsky's approach to this, described in his "painless functional specs" piece, of using little stories or scenarios to illustrate typical use cases.


> Their writing is filled with generalities about the work and/or author; very few have the training or discipline to talk specifically about the work and to examine particular sentences.

It's easier to bullshit and fluff your paper with generalities than it is with concrete arguments. It also requires less critical thought. Gotta get that word count up. This is a tactic students use on purpose.


Huh? Spamming details requires no critical thought and puffs word count. A tight logical argument can suffer from low word count. Generalities replace details when the writer doesn't know details, regardless of critical thinking.


Students rephrase the sources they copy from to avoid getting busted for plagiarism. Rephrasing details you don't understand is risky because you might change their meaning to something factually incorrect. Generalities that don't say much to begin with are easier to paraphrase without running the risk of saying something original, and if you do accidentally say something original, it's less likely to be obviously wrong.


It's also easy to throw down tropes that are so general that they have a good chance of applying to the point you're supposed to be making, no critical thought required.

Like this example given by pg in http://ycombinator.com/howtoapply.html

"Information is the lifeblood of the modern organization. The ability to channel information quickly and efficiently to those who need it is critical to a company's success. A company that achieves an edge in the efficient use of information will, all other things being equal, have a significant edge over competitors."




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