Thursday, April 21, 2011

writer's block or something like it

I've attempted three different posts for this blog today. Each time, I froze.  The topics were,
  • infographics that are hard to read, never mind understand
  • correlation vs. causation
  • millennials reading Milton's Paradise Lost
The thing holding me back is the same for all of them. How is this relevant to 21st century technical communication right now and in the future? You're all wondering how Milton even got into the mix, but let's start with infographics.

Why write about infographics? In the past few weeks I've come across several infographics were hard to read, either because they used a blurry white font on a pastel background or the graphic was so dense and cluttered it was hard to understand. Some of them would have made their point much more easily as text in a table. In fact, I noticed comments to that effect on some of them.  So what's blocking me from writing about infographics? I'm not a graphic designer. I have nothing to add to the experts' conversation about what makes a good infographic. I'm not the demographic for infographics anyway, so it doesn't matter what I think about how well they communicate information to me.

Why write about correlation vs. causation? As I click around the Innertoobz/Interwebz I encounter more and more stories, blog posts, and so on, citing all kinds of weird statistical correlations. They make for good headlines, like the one from OKCupid that found that people who use Twitter every day have shorter relationships than people who don’t.  OK, I majored in math. I know how to lie with statistics. I also know that correlation is not causation. Some of the articles about the OKCupid study made that point. Many did not. So what's blocking me from writing about that? Hasn't it all already been said? And to little or no effect?

Why write about kids reading Milton? I overheard a conversation among a group of teenagers at a coffee shop the other day that got me thinking about how different real kids are from the way media portrays them. The media would have us see these digital natives as one big tech savvy monolith who would rather text each other than talk to each other. I sat next to those kids for 2 hours and not once did I see any of them look at a cellphone, smart phone, or any other device.  I, on the other hand, had my laptop on the table and was attempting to work on a book project.  Anyway, the kids were talking about required reading in their  schools and how boring and unchallenging it was, except for one girl who attended a different school from the others. She talked about how much she got out of reading Paradise Lost and how challenging it was. The other kids were fascinated. So what's blocking me from writing about this? Well, maybe I just said all I needed to say. Then, there is the fact that I'm not a kid. And getting back to statistics, this was only 4 kids, not a statistically valid sample, just an anecdote. Maybe they're the only 4 kids in town who want challenging reading and don't need to text each other when they're at the same table. Who knows?

Well, there, now I've written all I needed to about those three topics and not one word about session border controllers, managing multiple site trees, or hazardous materials data sheets.  Now it is time to go to the North Shore Web Geeks event to shake myself out of this writer's block thing that's preventing me from getting the book done, finishing my help project, and designing the darn database.

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