Informal Documentation

Over my past three years of maintaining a healthy intellectual appetite, I’ve realized that I learn optimally in iterative cycles of consumption, consolidation and execution.

Expanding individually:

  • Consumption
    • sweeping the current literature and the fundamentals
    • you may even backtrack along recent ideas to find out the roots of the specific subject
  • Consolidation
    • you let the ideas that you’ve consumed simmer in your head
    • this may lead to observing analogies, connections that weren’t explicitly consumed by you or seeing opportunities for improvement in existing ideas
  • Execution
    • Learning for its own sake is fun and all but results do matter and completing projects is when one actually learns about the abstract intricacies that are difficult to document. Some call these as exceptions.
      • We do try clubbing exceptions into classes but never completely succeed in doing so cleanly: some specificity always remains.

Over multiple iterations of such a cycle applied over a subject, one gathers a lot of undocumented personalized wisdom. Things that have been observed before but no one ever considered writing it down somewhere.

This seems inconsequential in the moment but as the field progresses, a lack of informal documentation leads to a greater transition barrier between the fundamental texts and state-of-the-art.

Whenever I delve into a subject, I approach it with an intention of applying it to problems and, if possible, document the approach in a generic manner so that someone who follows the same intellectual route doesn’t take as much time as I did into getting to that point.

I will eventually end up with several colleagues to have good debates with over the subject matter if it is diverse and interesting enough.

Building boundaries for advantages over the opponent is a short-term strategy and only works if one’s willing to invest explicit efforts into protecting their secrets.

I find that a waste of energy and a source of unnecessary stress. This is why, I’ll keep my intellectual pursuits public.

This involves reinterpreting old texts and portraying concepts in a comprehensible manner.

All of the Eurekas in my life have been observed due to this same intention of building bridges and never with the incentive of protecting knowledge - I enjoy serendipity and do not want to worry about being too careful with whom I can discuss a particular concept with.

To me, the roots of all domains are connected and given my efforts over the past three years into grasping some fundamental texts, I’ve concluded that - in the long game - creating intellectual walls is a waste of time.

Over the course of my life, I’ll be diving into several intellectual domains via established texts and research and will be informally documenting minor eurekas that I encounter via the following:

  1. All generic observations and domain-agnostic stuff gets documented on this blog
  2. All technical developments in my pursuit of learning about the computer (I like computers) will be documented via an org-roam wiki where I’ll be a little more formal and responsible in terms of what I write. All tooling updates and choices will be documented via this epistemological history.
  3. Youtube is something that I’m thinking of to fill in the gaps. Any intellectual pursuit is not just about observable results but also about all the failures that you navigate your way around. These act as time capsules that’ll allow me to remember why I choose to do what I once chose to do.

Do note that I’m not an expert in any domain yet, but informal documentation, I’ve noticed, definitely accelerates the process of grasping novel ideas and helps a lot in developing a voracious intellectual diet without explicit result-oriented-stress.

I’m someone who accumulates knowledge for the sake of winning debates and being able to appreciate all the interesting phenomena that go unnoticed without a keen eye.

I’ve tried proceeding without such personal documentation systems in the past (for short-term efficiency) and I’ve noticed that I quickly lose my edge - It’s stressful and definitely not fun.

Enjoying for the long haul is why I choose to regularly assimilate what I learn.