Getting to the point

Isaac Asimov edited a wonderful collection of short short stories which he introduced by explaining that novels had a point (or perhaps several) with a lot of stuff around them, short stories had a point with a little stuff around them, and short short stories had just the point.

Here are a few of my favorite point sources on the Internet:

One Sentence – True stories in one sentence

Post Secret – Honest (sometimes life-saving) postcards of secrets

Indexed – Thinking relationally without math

2 Responses to Getting to the point

  1. How big can a “point” be?

    Although I recognize the limitations of perception/time, and that brevity and “simplicity” have high value in communication, I feel we need also be concerned with sharing (beyond communication) epics. What is potentially in store for humankind this century is an Epic Beyond Epics. If we create what we envision, it will be a story beyond any of the SciFi epics, and will dwarf all prior human epics.

    How can we mark a short semiotic structure (e.g. a short essay or tale) that it is part of a part of a part of a grand scheme. Grand schemes can be abstracted only to those already knowing the scheme.

    Let me tag on another related issue. How many people actually read long documents on a monitor? Many print them out to read. I often use TextAloud and have the text read to me. Yet I try to compose in hypertext; but this requires extended reading by others while sitting at the computer, which many people object to. Large schemes are more nested networks of information packets and are poorly represented by a linear outline. We need easy to use ways a person can navigate (and maybe participate) a long hypertext web that would be equivalent to a long book. History tracking can help, but they need to be displayed as a network. Also, when composing in hypertext I would like my created linked pages to be shown in separate windows. Wiki is a good first step, but we need ways to temporarily isolate subwebs. PersonalBrain and the old Trellix provided web maps. But we may also need guided tours through the webs.

    I feel that all that computers can do for us today (and I am competent with only a small subset) remains significantly inadequate to our needs in creating new human stories and organizations — but we are usually distracted by the rush of new products to think deeply on what we will really need in terms of necessary technology.


  2. John Abbe says:

    Yes, i certainly didn’t intend to offer points instead of longer forms. I’ve been meaning to blog something for weeks, and simply found it much more easeful to start with something short (and not coincidentally about short things). I like your, um, point about marking short bits as parts of larger wholes. This is one of the things i love about wikis – you can make many small pieces and then put them together in as many different ways as you like.

    I agree completely with your assessment of how early we are in the development of computer technology. On the hardware end, it really won’t be long before the interfaces to such things will include books of paper-thin flexible touchscreens for casual reading, and multitouch table and wall screens for exploring and creating the rich networking of ideas you reference. But software is going to require a lot of harder work. The challenge is how to offer the power of complex relationships that computers make possible in a form (initially) simple enough that anyone can walk up to and interact with, and then organically invite them into understanding and playing with the complexities as they like. This is what i work on quarter-time at Grass Commons, on our software Wagn –

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