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Present one idea at a time and let others build upon it (sivers.org)
26 points by icey 2853 days ago | hide | past | web | 13 comments | favorite

I understand the sentiment, but I think this over-simplifies things a bit. Often to really appreciate a good idea you need context. Also, often things that seem like good ideas turn out to be bad ideas given context. 217 pages of context is probably excessive on average, but really, sometimes it takes years to appreciate the reason certain things are good ideas or bad ideas.

The idea of context is especially important when presenting your ideas to smart audiences like HN. The reason? Smart people are generally skeptics, and will be quick to dismiss ideas unless you preemptively blow holes through the low hanging counter-arguments that are evident to anyone with some basic domain knowledge. I've seen this time and time again, where readers naturally assume their obvious counter-argument wasn't considered by the original poster -- when it actually was but the poster assumed that they were going to be assumed to have thought of it :) This usually isn't how it works, and results in pages of back-and-forth arguments that could have been skipped with some better context presented up-front.

Edit: The irony on this comment is not lost on me :)

I totally agree. Like Einstein's "simple as possible, but not simpler" - it's a challenge to present an idea so succinctly that people actually read it, but not too succinctly to where it's not convincing.

Though maybe the counter-arguments are best dealt with separately - being a separate idea - like the following day saying, "Now let's take the opposite view."?

Context built gradually instead of trying to do it all at once?

Yeah using footnotes can work, too (PG style.)

I guess in the case of a blog post the context comes from a linked news article or similar.

Btw, didn't read your 2nd para :-)

My first response to the title, even before I clicked on the link was that it was probably going to be a restatement of the amateur SF writer's error of trying to dole out ideas in their stories. Ideas are plentiful, trying to not put them in stories, apparently because they believe there should be only one or a few ideas per story is one reason most amateurs have a hard time writing good science fiction.

On reading the essay, I realized Sivers had an excellent point, but it was a point about feedback. Presenting one idea at a time makes it easier for readers to give good feedback, and they are therefore more likely to provide it.

I wonder if there is any way to combine the two views? To provide more background and context, with the necessarily larger numbers of ideas being presented, while still getting useful feedback from readers.

I posted a version of this with links here and to Sivers page on my blog at http://williambswift.blogspot.com/2009/11/many-ideas-or-one-....

... and of course the comments at Hacker News are always the smartest. I love you guys. :-)

I love having the articles here and the discussions that arise around them! Usually when I need some sort of inspiration or something to keep me grounded, I'll check out articles on your site. These tw hit home hard: http://sivers.org/hellyeah and http://sivers.org/notwork .

A little sucking up will go a long ways :)

The volume of high-quality business and life observations you've been producing lately has been super impressive and inspiring. Keep up the great work!

I really enjoy your blog posts. You have the ability to distill your ideas down to the essential concepts and communicate them very clearly. You also always seem to have the right proportions of confidence and humility, which is a rare find on the interwebs.

Wow, you are a machine! It's like you are one of those pro-bloggers who are determined to write something new every day, except your posts contain genuine insight. Respect!


Very conscious decision made 6 months ago, when I realized that writing these little articles was doing more for me than learning Haskell, going to conferences, or just about anything else.

I've met more brilliant people because of something I've written than because of any conference or party I've attended.

So I re-prioritized to make writing 2nd priority (1st is still my new company), instead of letting them fall to last priority. It means waking up earlier or staying up later, or saying no to many other things, but it's worth it.

Can you please elaborate? Just blog comments or Interesting people contacting you to collaborate because you wrote something that resonated with their philosophical tuning fork?

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