Short guide to keep messages concise and meaningful

The character limit in Twitter is a feature for greater reach. Make each character count, for your readers and your visibility. Long texts are not necessarily more valuable or useful, they have a greater extension to do so, and they have more sentences to try to get quoted and get visibility that way. If that works, short text may not be a good idea. This may be a matter of opinion. At the very least, this is a short guide to always be revised in the future, by me, and primarily for me.  YMMV.

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

Mark Twain

My opinion is clear, keeping posts short is important:

  1. Brevity is the soul of wit.
  2. LoC spent,
  3. Long posts are never finished, and never published. Do or don’t, there’s no try.

Short posts can always become long. Single tweets can become long discussions, and tweet storms are not so comfortable to write, or read, or discuss. To keep the process faster, more rewarding, and less boring, I am going to:

  1. make many assumptions about what readers know and can understand (less explanations), including Spanish, (not-so-pop) culture, and any acronym I know (but not too many),
  2. limit posts to 500 words, and
  3. stop striving to provide answers, because I still have a lot of things to figure out. Food for thought is not bad.

Current options (e.g. Twitter) are not the final form discussions on the Internet. Assuming zero or few replies (my case), blogs are fine despite of their “asymmetry”, when written with discipline. Twitter is successful for a number of reasons, but one is the discipline it imposes. Here are some suggestions for discipline to achieve similar results (in addition to the 500 word limit).

  1. The title is a sentence and an idea. It should fit in a tweet with the link. If reach is important, try to make the preview interesting, i.e. title and fist sentence.
  2. The whole post is about that idea, for clarification, explanation, presenting supporting information, proof, evidence, educated guesses,… If there is any related idea that could be necessary for the background, either link to some explanation, or write it if needed and then link to it. There are no excuses for digressing, edit and fix. Think of the single responsibility principle. If it is too short for a post (less than 200 words), then add a comment in the comment system.
  3. No fillers. 500 words is the limit, not the goal. You may think that lists are nicer with some number of elements (3, 5, 10,…). The best number is one. If that is not possible, the number that is closest to one is the best.
  4. Read and reword. Could you write shorter sentences? Each character counts. Remember Twitter. It should be as short as possible, if it is shorter than possible, that is fine. Misinterpretation may be better (e.g. accurate) than original intention.

Clearly, 500 words is plenty, maybe too much, so no excuses.

Only coerced labor can keep humans accountable

There is a theory about how people would just do drugs, have sex, and do no good in general if they did not need to be accountable by their jobs and the pressure of society to keep them under control. Note: not that doing drugs and having sex are bad things, but they are only good (for individuals and society) when in moderation and under control.

I have always thought I was not that kind of person. I have always thought that if I had some basic income, for example, then I would spend my days doing free software, publishing some research, and also having a healthier life: exercise every day, respecting sleep hours, enjoying more time with family and friends, etc. But I found myself wasting most of the time that I am not working.

A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.

Charles Darwin

Back to the point, certainly a job is not a sufficient condition to keep humans accountable, if that was so, work addiction would not be a problem. All sorts of volunteers, NGOs, parents,… prove that it is not a necessary condition either. A fulfilling life with a purpose is a much better way to keep humans accountable. Sometimes it is not about what you want from life, but what “life” wants from you, and caring about that.

Therefore, the theory mentioned in the first paragraph is clearly wrong. It is a quite harmful model, and something to forget. At this point in time, I do not think that life wants much from me. But I know that I do not want to be the kind of person described in the theory. Therefore, for various reasons, I am going to start to write some blog posts. They are going to be short and fairly crappy, to be honest, but they are better than nothing. This may be one of those rare cases of information published on the Internet where only the author reads it, and I am fine with that.

But more importantly, this may be one of those rare cases where a person (or group of them) can prove a theory wrong, intentionally. So if you say: “people will not do anything useful unless you pay them”, I respond: “you cannot stop me”.

To try to give a take-home message: try to do something that you genuinely enjoy and that you think that it is valuable, because that may be what gives you energy (motivation, not stamina), a sense of purpose in your life. Some things provide instant gratification (like Twitter), some things take a bit longer (like WordPress), and some much longer (like GitHub). I am going to try to train myself to get more and deeper gratification by doing gradually harder and more useful things. Maybe you should try to do the same thing.


Starting the blog

Sometimes I’ll feel like saying something too long for a tweet, or maybe not obvious enough from just a bunch of links with no further explanation (but they will always be obvious to a great extent). I’ll then post it here and reasonably expect nobody to read it, the posts will not be particularly optimistic, you will not be happier after reading the blog, thus it is unlikely that

The posts will be short, so that I do not spend too much time writing them and you don’t waste too much time reading them. I don’t have great aspirations of pretensions for this blog, but to write something and get it out of my head. The topic may include everything, but will probably focus on information processing, from artificial intelligence to cognitive biases, including emergent behaviors from natural and artificial laws, rules, programs, etc. Someone is giving a good use to, hence the narcissistic address.

Posts will probably contain many links. There are several million caffeinated apes spending many hours typing in non completely random ways, and most know more than me about what they type, therefore I find few reasons to waste resources in the cloud (with all that is implied by that) adding worse contents. Try to read one post or two to see if any of this makes any sense.