Keeping ideas simple

writing, post

May 2016

Writing a book means communicating ideas. While writing, one difficulty I find is dealing with too many ideas at once. Keeping ideas simple and clear is very hard. By chance, I saw a TED talk by Chris Anderson discussing the importance of communicating ideas.


Chris Anderson mentions 4 strategies to communicate ideas. How could it apply to writing embeddednodejs.com ?

Strategy 1: Focus on just one major idea

Writing starts because of passion for an idea. Hardware and web technologies (such as JavaScript) motivate me a lot to write embeddednodejs.com. At the same time, in my daily work at Intel in Germany, I get plenty of interesting challenges that do not directly relate to the book. Solving problems as engineer is great, but it also takes away time from writing. This can result in chapters with too many ideas at once or in chapters with not enough depth. To improve working on single, major ideas, I am very grateful that Kelsey Breseman joins the book as a coauthor. With her experience from the Tessel project, she helps me understand the problems with existing hardware platforms for connected devices.

Strategy 2: Give a reason to care

With open technologies, there are faster ways to innovate and to collaborate. This changes the way we learn, play and work. It is driven by new economies of scale and new ways to particpate in hardware projects on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. The early release of the book has had already a bit of questions, mainly related to selection of boards and hardware. Some readers asked about guidelines for projects. These projects show that we start to see computers as new medium for physical interactions.

Strategy 3: Start with the language of the audience

The brain is an important metaphor for the computer. But the brain is just one part of the nervous system of an animal. When you start building systems of connected devices, you get a feeling of the complexities of a nervous system in general. You need devices that are able to plan and to communicate, as well as devices that just act on simple inputs and outputs. So, to explain building computers, it may help to look at metaphors with animals and insects. Also, looking at the language of Arduino might help. Arduino comes with nice concepts in “sketches” to show how hardware works.

Strategy 4: Make your idea worth sharing

Projects as Tessel and Arduino life from people sharing their experiences. For the book, I try to build the book website and the book examples around concepts that can be linked and commented on Github. It is hard because there are so many hardware platforms available. And, projects often have special requirements that do not easily map to other projects. Yet, it is the core of open source and with open board schematics and hardware libraries sharing improves day by day.

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