I think this is the right place to discuss this, because we're all about "how
The recent thread -- percentages vs ratios vs status bars showed the degree of
difference in our thinking. Obviously all of us could understand any of the
suggested formats, but it was interesting to see that each of us seemed to
have only one "native" format -- the format that would convey complete
meaning at a glance without conversion. Mine was percentage, Bens was
statusbar, several liked (3 of 5).
Upon seeing 3 of 5, I'd translate it to 3/5, and then divide 3 by 5 to get a
percentatage. Where's my calculator.
One might conclude that Ben is a visual thinker and I'm not, but in fact I am.
When someone describes where to find something in the house, I visualize it.
Even if they describe it as a set of directions, I translate it to a
visualization of a map of the house.
When someone gives me driving directions to drive from point A to point B, I
mentally put it on a map. When actually driving there, I visually superimpose
a translucent map on top of what I'm really seeing out the windshield.
Back in the old days when I repaired stereo gear, at night I'd take a circuit
diagram home in my mind, and study it while doing other stuff. Once again, I
could see it superimposed on what my eyes really saw. Mind you, I don't have
a photographic memory -- the circuit diagram was greatly simplified, but I
Perhaps I have a well practiced habit of converting 92% to a status bar,
although I'm not aware of actually seeing it. Whatever, when someone states a
percentage, I "feel" it, I "understand" it. To me, other forms, espeically 3
of 5, are just just arithmetic problems to be solved, and have no intrinsic
meaning in and of themselves. But obviously to others they're the most basic
form of data.
We're all smart, but the disparity in the way we're smart is amazing.
I wonder if there's something we all have in common that causes us to depend
so strongly on outlines. I think many of us use outlines tens of times per
day. We can't imagine not having them. I bet several of us depended on
outlines before computers could make them (I did).
It never ceases to amaze me that the majority of people have no use for
outlines. I'm not talking about dummies that watch Jerry Springer and The
Simpsons, I'm talking about people every bit as smart as us -- people who
have been introduced to outlines and know how they work and what they can do,
but somehow they don't need outlines and don't really see the value. How does
their mind work? Do they find other organization methods easier to use than
hierarchies? If so, what organizational methods? Why are they like they are
and we like we are?
OK, that's it, I've written 11 of 11 paragraphs of this email (not counting
the salutation or sig).
You bring up some good points. How do people think?
I think visually and in hierarchies.
I've always thought in hierarchies when trying to learn or remember. At
least I think I always have.
When learning something new I adopt the hierarchical 'black box' mentality.
You start with a black box representing some circuit, program or problem
you need to create or solve. Then you open the box and analyze the pieces;
which are, in turn, black boxes. Then I repeat the process, recursively,
on each until I reach a sufficient level of understanding and/or knowledge.
(I do tend to stop well before I have to deal with quantum-level
But when using brainstorming to solve a problem, my thoughts are much less
focus and really very scattered. I walk, wander, read, exercise, whatever.
The back of my mind is still cranking away on what ever problem it is that
I'm trying to solve. Somehow good stuff just tends to fall out of the
noise. Once I have some good stuff to work with, I use outlining to
document and refine.
I personally believe that the human brain stores information hierachically.
There is actually an educational game for children that demonstrates this.
It has to do with remembering a large number items. If the list of items
alone is presented to the children, most can only remember about 5 items.
But if the children can imagine a hierarchy, they can remember more than 20
items. The hierarchy often used is a house with a few rooms. Each
a different color. Using their imagination they put a few items from the
list in each room. When called upon to recall the list of items, the
children go from room-to-room in their imagination reporting the items in
each. I think that gives them a huge edge over other children.
www.noels-lab.com Chips, firmware and embedded systems
www.vimoutliner.org Work fast. Think well.