I’ve been on a bit of a sanity bender recently: science, logic, evidence, experimentation, clarity and things like that. Here’s a short list of some of the things I’ve been reading:
- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (H/T mwhudson)
- Straight and Crooked Thinking
- Pretotype It (H/T lifeless)
- Lost Tools of Learning
- Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total-Nonsense (H/T lifeless)
- Puzzling outcomes in A/B testing
- Politics and the English Language
If you’re writing software then I recommend “Pretotype It” first, because it’s likely to make you write less software, and that can only be a good thing. They are all great reads though.
There are a few general themes: be explicit about your assumptions and try to verify or falsify them as soon as you may; do experiments; beware of certain mistakes or logical short-cuts; learn statistics; understand what you are saying. Wonderful notions all, but I’m not sure whether they are working out for me.
Occasionally I’ll get an email that has a couple of sentences but somehow manages to squeeze in all sorts of conflations, non sequiturs, and general fudging. It’s hard to know where to begin. I can make a fair stab at analyzing the errors, but synthesizing a response that actually helps is very hard.
Rigour also puts a restraint on rhetoric. It’s hard to say something convincingly when you have a bunch of qualifiers dangling at the end. My writing (even now!) is slowed down as I notice the unfounded assertions and unstated assumptions that lie behind it.
Also, much of this doesn’t help you get from a vague, interesting intuition to a workable idea, from hunch to hypothesis, if you will. Sometimes a notion needs to time to grow before it’s rejected as irrational or incorrect. Something like Thinking Hats can help here.
This is all peanuts though. Do more science. Really.