Share your notes

Twice now, I’ve tried to write a post with the title “Share your notes” and ended up writing something else. The first time, I started by trying to explain a supporting idea, that people learn more easily by example. I ended up having enough to say about it that it became its own post. For the next attempt, I started with an example from my experience with learning music composition, but that took a whole post to drill into as well.

At this point, I dropped the concept for the time being. The more I tried to write about it, the less sure I became that I had much coherent to say about the main point. But I’m pressed for time tonight, so I’m going to share whatever I have and finally put this title to rest.

Imagine a programmer who discovers a technique they think is useful. When this happens, they might consider two different ways of sharing the discovery.

My core thought here is that, from the point of view of building knowledge, it seems more useful to share the blog post. A user of the library doesn’t even have to learn about the technique*, but a reader of the post will. Furthermore, that living knowledge can then be repurposed in contexts that the originator never even considered.

This is the key benefit of “sharing notes”, as I call it. In the case of the library, you see a single application of a single technique. The concepts shared by the post can be applied unlimitedly, and as people remix these concepts, they can spawn unlimited new techniques.

Taking notes, in the sense of recording your learning and observations in a more easily digested form, is a critical tool for growing one’s own knowledge and generating new ideas. When these notes are shared, it plants knowledge in other minds, where it can flourish into a million more ideas. With a single, finished solution, which hides the insights that lead to its creation, no such flourishing can occur.

Do you keep notes on anything? Do you think they would be useful to other people? Has access to someone else’s notes been useful to you? Let me know your thoughts at my Ctrl-C email: gome ​@ ​

* Of course, if the library is open-source, then other programmers could learn the technique by reading the source code, but the blog post is generally more accessible, and not all code is open-source.