Posts Tagged tools

Organizational Notes

Now that I’ve transitioned to a more project-y role and a less programmer-y role, I find myself needing to reference my notes far more often (they aren’t just embedded in code) and also keep track of a variety of tasks on multiple projects (again, not well organized on their own in the manner of a source control repository).  I’ve started relying on a couple of tools, and I thought I’d share.

I use post-its on my work monitor for immediate bite-sized tasks.  This helps me focus when I am drifting, as I am wont to do when my computer is in front of me (it’s just so easy to get into web-browsing or email-sending/reading mode!)  The great thing about these post-its is they are easy to get rid of when I complete a task (although a little wasteful?)  One bad thing is they are hard to bring with me when I am working elsewhere (not my desk) and also difficult to keep track of progress… I’ll have to ponder that.  Maybe little post-it flags attached to the main ones to indicate progress?

I use my little desk whiteboard to keep track of longer-term projects, because it’s set up in a place where I look a lot (and it’s easy to notice when I return to my desk from other locations).  That way I have a good mental picture of the ongoing projects, and I can also attach tasks on post-its to projects (by name).  Since I remember things visually (where on the page, but not what page number, for example), this means I can construct a good picture of what I have to do.

So far, it’s been working well.  I’m a little sad that I am using analog forms to represent this stuff… but maybe I can set up my iPad to be a “digital whiteboard” while I am at my desk?  That’d be neat!

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Analogies are Dangerous

Everyone I know loves to argue by analogy.  I do it all the time!  (In fact, I doubt I will be able to finish this post without them!)  I also explain by analogy, and Zac has indicated to me that psychology research shows that our brains actually *think* in terms of analogies – that is, we are designed to associate ideas in patterns that are essentially analogies.

So why are analogies dangerous?  It’s because when you explicate – give meaning – via analogy, you are collapsing the space of understanding to a particular projection in analogy-space, one in which the analogy is THE way in which things are related (or at least the indicated relevant way).  It is a powerful tool, but like any tool, it is the tool user’s responsibility to be aware of the consequences of the tool’s usage.  When I use an analogy to explain something, I am not only biasing my audience because of the way I am taking stuff in the world and projecting into the analogy-space (before it was a political policy, now it’s a kitchen with too many cooks, etc.), I am also biasing my own thoughts about the matter.

I’ve been trying, when somebody explains something or argues something by analogy, to internally come up with one or two other ways in which I could form a different analogy about that thing.  Sure, the relationship between a game designer and a game developer at Wizards is like a writer and an editor, but it’s also like a cop and a lawyer, or like an architect and an interior decorator.  By stepping back and considering other analogies, I feel I am flexing my brain analogy-pattern muscles.

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