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Collaborative Writing Discussion Thread

Max and Anne B have been discussing how to do collaborative writing.

This topic is a place for them (and anyone else interested) to discuss and plan how to write something collaboratively.

They have several goals:

  • to learn about discussion, collaborative writing and learning
  • to do some collaborative writing and produce some posts/articles
  • in the case a post isn't produced: to discuss to conclusion why that didn't happen.

Max requested this topic as part of his SubscribeStar subscription.


Elliot Temple on November 19, 2020

Messages (18)

current state of collaborative writing project

The current state of things:

One of the most recent (relevant) comments in max-microblogging: https://curi.us/2380#18722 (by Anne)

> I think we should aim first for something too easy.

i.e. topics that are ~trivial. Anne and I should be able to write about these topics without issue on our own. If we find that collaborating isn't useful b/c it's too easy (however that would work) we can find more difficult topics. But if we tried something too difficult first then we might make non-obvious errors or overreach, etc.

In https://curi.us/2380#18714 I suggested

> Maybe we could each brainstorm some topics that are simple that we don't know too much about. Then we could swap lists/trees and pick ones that sounded good from each other's list?

Anne B: https://curi.us/2380#18724

> I've brainstormed some topics. Some of them require research and some don't.

> Maybe we should hold off on doing more until we have our dedicated place for the project.

I replied saying I'd brainstorm some ideas too (not yet done). IDK if we'll share those privately or here, but I guess the next steps are to pick a topic. We probably need to come up with a basic idea of methodology first -- my intuition with something like this is to like dive right in, but IDK how to do that for collab writing.

I had a checklist in https://curi.us/2380#18714:

- ☑️ discussion location

- ☐ topic

- ☑️ latency/work volume - both of us think it's manageable

- ☑️ difficulty - going to pick something overly-easy for first go


Max at 6:21 PM on November 19, 2020 | #1 | reply | quote

re: collaborative writing project

Anne and I have been talking a bit on Discord.

This was my quick topic-brainstorm.

* making dinner

* walking or driving on ice

* choosing a movie

* why do people exercise?

* why you should learn to drive if you don't have to

* differences between Australia and the USA

* using a measuring tape

* what is a dialog?

* basics of finance: rent, income, expenses

* using blinds

* how to organize your things

* taking care of a cat

* how to get from Australia to the USA (or vice versa)

Lots of these could be made more specific or have a particular perspective applied, like 'making dinner' could be "how to ...", "why should you ...", "why do ppl ...", etc.

It also occurred to me we could write a dialog, which might be an interesting thing to do collaboratively. But probably not best for our 1st attempt.


Max at 7:56 PM on November 20, 2020 | #2 | reply | quote

potential topics

Here are my topic ideas. A few were taken from or inspired by your list of topics here.

would require research:

why do some leaves change color in the fall?

how do you back up a computer?

why are vacuum cleaners so loud?

how do car manufacturers decide what color cars to make?

pick a famous philosopher in history. write a summary of their life and philosophy.

what does an electrical transformer do? what can happen to one to cause people to lose power?

describe the life of a groundhog.

what is calculus used for?

how does a dishwasher work?

might not require research:

how do you use a stove?

how do you make pancakes?

how do you make pumpkin pie?

explain the distributive law of multiplication over addition and why it works.

how to do long division and why it works to do it that way.

how to reduce fractions and why it works to do it that way.

why is error correction important?


Anne B at 5:19 AM on November 22, 2020 | #3 | reply | quote

topics

How long is our first writing project going to be? That affects topic choice. We could be going for a few paragraphs or for a few pages. I wouldn’t want to go any longer than that to start with.

My favorites from your suggestions:

- walking or driving on ice. would need some research for me, which is okay.

- choosing a movie.

- why you should learn to drive if you don’t have to. this one would be short.

- basics of personal finance.


Anne B at 5:53 AM on November 22, 2020 | #4 | reply | quote

context

Our writing would need a context. For instance, we could write to answer a question asked by a 10-year-old that we know. Or we could write for an FI audience. Or we could write for a general adult audience on the internet.


Anne B at 5:53 AM on November 22, 2020 | #5 | reply | quote

project planning

I want to note that we are not doing project planning for this collaborate writing project. My intuition says not to plan but just try some things and see how they go. My intuition could be wrong.


Anne B at 7:39 AM on November 22, 2020 | #6 | reply | quote

CWP topics

I think doing topics that don't require upfront research would be good (we might need to do some along the way anyway). Research is adding a step.

the non-research topics I thought might be good are

- pancakes

- distributive law

- why is EC important *note: i like this one but don't think we should do it first*

of the research ones:

- what does an electrical transformer do? what can happen to one to cause people to lose power?

- why do some leaves change color in the fall?

- describe the life of a groundhog (IDK what a groundhog is, like a mole?)

> How long is our first writing project going to be?

I think a few paragraphs is good to aim for. a kindle page is like 300 words so maybe a few kindle pages could work, but regular sized pages would be a lot I think (I think ~700 words per page is close to typical). in any case, I don't think we should be too worried about writing a small amount.

---

I think I got a bit stuck replying to this. I had some thoughts on method earlier and didn't write them down immediately. Then when I tried to write this post I wanted to include them but I couldn't easily concentrate enough to put them down again -- concentrating on other things was easier though. Anyway, posting this to get this bit unstuck at least.


Max at 12:35 PM on November 22, 2020 | #7 | reply | quote

picking a topic

Now I see a process problem. How do we pick a topic from here?

I think the simplest topics from our lists are these two:

- why you should learn to drive if you don’t have to

- how do you make pancakes?

If you pick one of those two I’m happy to go with it. Or if you suggest something else I’m happy to consider it.


Anne B at 8:26 AM on November 23, 2020 | #8 | reply | quote

CWP topic

I think pancakes is simpler. My ideas on driving are more complex. So pancakes seems like a good first topic.


Max at 5:57 PM on November 23, 2020 | #9 | reply | quote

We have a topic: How do you make pancakes?

Now what? How about this:

- We figure out a context/audience for our writing.

- We decide on some main points.

- We do the writing.

- We fine-tune the writing.

(I wonder if we have very different ideas on how to make pancakes.)


Anne B at 2:33 AM on November 24, 2020 | #10 | reply | quote

re: collaborative writing project - next steps?

I haven't posted in too long. I've had problems doing much FI stuff recently, I think I'm avoiding doing it for some reason. It might be related to some real-life work that I don't really want to be doing.

This from [Anne's post]() seems relevant:

> dishonest with themselves about or have negative emotions about.

I don't think I have negative emotions about this thread, but rather the RL work stuff (which is temporary at least).

I had been meaning to post my thoughts on next steps. I have more than just this, but:

the first thing I thought co-authors should do is synchronize all their knowledge. Figure out where the agree and where they disagree. They can decide on a scope so they don't get into unnecessary detail.

like, @Anne, for scope we could say something like: we're only going to consider pancakes and methods you would find in a modern western kitchen or that modern day western ppl might do (e.g. camping). Also, we'll include both pre-mixed pancakes and from-scratch pancakes, but we won't bother with details like making flour; we'll stop at things you can easily buy at the grocery store.

(We don't have to use that scope btw, I just wanted an example)

Then we can list all the stuff we know, but not in too much detail. like making various types, and where to go for recipes, and what you need to cook them.

I don't think we should talk too much about the thing we'll write yet. like not structure-level, but broad content level stuff sound okay.


Max at 1:54 AM on December 2, 2020 | #11 | reply | quote

I forgot to link Anne's post: http://curi.us/2380#18917


Max at 1:54 AM on December 2, 2020 | #12 | reply | quote

scope

Deciding on a scope should come first, then listing the knowledge we each have that fits within that scope.

I suggest a narrower scope than your example scope--maybe just regular pancakes (not things like potato pancakes) and just cooking them in a modern Western kitchen (camping adds too much complication).

We should also think about context/audience before we start listing knowledge.

We might run into differences between the US and Australia in what’s in a typical kitchen and what’s easy to buy at a store, but we’ll look at those as they come up.


Anne B at 8:12 AM on December 2, 2020 | #13 | reply | quote

cwp: scope and context and audience - mb we should handle this situation like trying to agree on and criticize IGCs

> Deciding on a scope should come first, then listing the knowledge we each have that fits within that scope.

The two issues I can see with that are:

- how can we decide on scope if we don't know what's common and what's not? (It's less of an issue with pancakes b/c it's easy to assume we have overlapping knowledge -- and be right in that assumption)

- we might miss out on some interesting topic if we don't share a bit generally first. like for us to judge scope we should probably have some idea of what each other knows.

The second one isn't much of an issue b/c we can write another article after the first one.

The first one feels more foundational though. like we need to have a good idea of what common knowledge we have and how we can build up on that.

another way can decide topic-stuff is: one of us could suggest something they want to write about or think would be a good topic. then we can discuss those options.

hmm, thinking about it now:

first, I agree with your order in #10.

> - We figure out a context/audience for our writing.

i think context comes before audience. you can only write something for an audience if you have the right knowledge of that audience. that knowledge is part of context. also part of context: our individual knowledge, our shared knowledge, our ideas around meaning (what a pancake is, what 'making' a pancake means, etc), our expectations and ideas around social norms e.g. of making pancakes (what's typical / expected / useful / common).

so, how can we figure out what the context is? if we need to have some idea of the context then we need to be clear enough about our own ideas in the above list, and also the other person's ideas. being clear *enough* gives us plenty of slack as we incrementally build things up.

> (I wonder if we have very different ideas on how to make pancakes.)

so, how do we get an idea of the other persons ideas (and make sure our own ideas are clear enough)? well, we can conjecture about scope, audience, subtleties of the topic, etc. I don't know if there needs to be a particular order for these things. I suspect it's situation-dependent. We can easily change if we need to, anyway.

---

scope notes:

BTW, I think scope and topic are basically the same thing. like the topic of 'making pancakes' covers a lot of things depending on scope. if someone gave you a writing task with a broad/vague topic, what sort of clarifying questions would you ask? My guess is that good questions to ask are about scope (or restrictions on scope). Maybe there are others?

> (not things like potato pancakes)

I hadn't even thought about potato pancakes. it's not really a term I'm familiar with. we (Australia) have a thing called potato fritters though.

Just a normal kitchen sounds fine. the camping thing is just "heat up a bit of metal and use it like a stove" anyway. mb we can mention at the end like "you can make pancakes in all kinds of places, like when camping" and just leave it at that.

> We should also think about context/audience before we start listing knowledge.

Hmm, how can I conject something like "scope should include both making pancake mix (from a store) and making pancakes from scratch" without some ideas about who we're writing it for and why we're writing it?

This feels like a bit of a recursive problem. Like I need ideas about audience (and other context) to suggest scope stuff, but I need ideas about scope (and other context) to suggest audience.

I think that means they have to get suggested together. It's like an IGC. You can't evaluate just an idea or just a goal, you need all 3 components. I think that's the case here too.

So we can look at this process as:

- suggest IGCs. basically: suggest (audience,topic-scope) pairs

- resolve disagreements & misunderstandings

- criticize the IGCs put forward

- get to 1 IGC or just choose one if we have multiple good options and no need to refine further

By the time we finish that process, we should have a good idea of our own and the other person's ideas, and we should have resolved any disagreements, misunderstandings, or knowledge gaps (we can just flag to gaps to address later).


Max at 1:44 PM on December 2, 2020 | #14 | reply | quote

> So we can look at this process as:

> - suggest IGCs. basically: suggest (audience,topic-scope) pairs

> - resolve disagreements & misunderstandings

> - criticize the IGCs put forward

> - get to 1 IGC or just choose one if we have multiple good options and no need to refine further

That seems fine. Shall we start suggesting audience/topic-scope pairs?


Anne B at 10:47 AM on December 3, 2020 | #15 | reply | quote

re: collaborative writing project

#15 Yup.

The idea I had getting to this point was that we'd write an intro to making pancakes. The audience would be adults like us but who didn't know how to make pancakes. They'd have a decent life experience (they know how to cook other things, the name of utensils, etc). We wouldn't explain kitchen fundamentals, just things relevant to making pancakes: ingredients, method, breakpoints (like when to flip), how to tell if it's under-cooked or over-cooked, some simple variations, and maybe other stuff if we think of anything to add. We might need to explain some more advanced kitchen things. A good sign we should is if there's a disagreement or if one of us has a knowledge gap around such a topic. We can cover making the batter in one part -- that way we can cover methods for from-scratch and premixed before talking about the cooking part. I think the cooking part can be general for the two methods, which is why it makes sense to me to cover them first.

How does that sound? Did I miss anything?


Max at 10:50 AM on December 8, 2020 | #16 | reply | quote

audience and scope

#16

That’s close to what I was thinking. Some comments:

- Instead of our audience being adults, it should be people who have cooking/kitchen experience. Plenty of teenagers and some kids have this.

- By “like us” do you mean people who live in places with roughly the same kinds of kitchens that we have? That’s what I was thinking. I’m not sure how to state that. I don’t know much about what kitchens are like in different parts of the world.

- I don’t have experience making pancakes from a mix. If you do, I think that’s good enough. I’ve made cake from a mix. And I can read about making pancakes from a mix and/or buy some mixes and try them.


Anne B at 12:24 PM on December 10, 2020 | #17 | reply | quote

personalization

Some recipes or cooking instructions include personal stuff like this. I don’t want to do this kind of thing and I doubt you do either. But I find it interesting that people do it. I think it’s because they hope to get a bigger audience that way.

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/9920/peanut-blossoms-ii/

> I make these every year for our annual cookie open house. We make about 15 to 20 different kinds of cookies and have a 4 hour open house with friends. We then prepare cookie trays to take to shut ins and freeze the rest to enjoy all year long. My husband helps with this four day project! He's retired ... and I'm partially retired. It has been a long standing tradition that we enjoy every year!

There may be more subtle kinds of personalization in cooking instructions, like the author saying what flavors they prefer or something.


Anne B at 12:27 PM on December 10, 2020 | #18 | reply | quote

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