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Recent Readings

Book review: Darwinia
Reviewed: Friday, August 11, 2006

Summer reading: Spin
Reviewed: Saturday, August 5, 2006

Reviewed: Tuesday, July 18, 2006

the Omnivoire's Delimma
Reviewed: Wednesday, July 12, 2006

the Golem's Eye
Reviewed: Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Perception, reality, etc.
Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Java, Python, Ruby guru Mark Watson points out that he feels more productive using LaTeX rather than Word and this reminds me of the whole "is incremental spell checking really a good thing" debate (that I've had with myself annually since 2003; don't be too surprised if you haven't heard about it; my ex-agent failed to get the big network contracts he promised. Which reminds me, isn't stream of consciousness interesting. I suppose it depends on the consciousness... <smile>).

At question is what work style and tools help humans find maximum productivity and creativity. Is is better for a writer to work with pencil and paper -- forced to produce marks on paper at a rate slower than thought -- or with a word processor that highlights spelling, grammar, and logical inconsistencies (I made that last one up) on the fly? Is it better for a programmer to submit batch jobs to a mainframe or have background processes constantly checking the source for problems? The truth is probably a muddy thing. My opinion, however, is that the best (in terms of productivity, creativity, and flow) is highly context dependent and is often at odds with what feels psychologically most productive.

We need time to think; we need (metaphorical) quiet to get into the flow. A tool that shouts "spelling error" with every typo is providing more distraction that help. Yet it feels good to make those red squiggles disappear -- "We're making progress!" -- it feels good to play with fonts and shift the format. A computer is a far different beast that Heidegger's hammer: it can be at hand in many ways simultaneously. It's up to us to ensure that the tools we use are optimizing the important tasks, not the trivial ones.


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