Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Why Do You Write The Way You Do?

Hey Kids,

Reader Mark Wallace wrote in a comment to the blog yesterday, and I wanted to answer the comment in an actual blog post. So here goes:


Thanks for reading! There’s a point where publicly writing forces me to answer a few questions that I’m not ready to make a quick decision on. I appreciate feedback like this because I really haven’t made up my mind on how to answer those questions.

First, do I leave out the references for the fundamental reasons that shape my beliefs (Complex Adaptive Systems, what Frank Knight believes, what a frequentist is) or do I leave them in for the curious?

I’ve made a conscious decision to leave them in, because there are going to be a number of people on a journey just like I find myself on, and they’ll need breadcrumbs, clues about what I studied and why my thought processes are the way they are. Be that to agree, disagree, or come up with a totally new perspective.  So, it’s not meant to be condescending or pedantic, it’s meant to inspire trips to wikipedia and Amazon. It’s an attempt to teach those who want to learn to fish, how I learned to catch fish – to abuse the old saw. Alternately, it’s to attract those with differing or stronger perspectives to educate me.  I’m not a bass master, if you will and I’m always seeking a better way to be a good fisherman.

Related, the second is – how much time to I spend crafting a perfect blog post vs. putting stuff up?

Last year I went through a period where I hardly blogged at all – mainly because I would try to do something “perfect.” I missed blogging during this dry spell and believe it or not, others told me they missed it too. So I decided to “just blog it.” Sometimes this means I’m too hurried with my day job to bother putting in links to wikipedia or amazon or whatever (let me google that for you), sometimes it means I forget to put “(CAS)” in after I type “complex adaptive system” and just refer to the acronym later on. So it’s not really smarter, just stupider.


Finally, at what point is blogging different that book writing?  Where is TL:DNR?

Let’s face it, we’re in the Twitter age.  Even this post is “TL:DNR” for many.   I always feel like I’ll write until I’ve said what I can say.  If you don’t want to read it due to length and your busy schedule, that’s fine. I totally understand.

But I do feel limited in what I can write here by pressure from family, non-security commitments ( like SIRA) or by work itself.  So as such I can’t go into depth into some areas of background, and have to trust that either we’re on the same page, or if you’re curious (see #1) you’re willing to get there.
In conclusion, Mark – I’m always up for direction and criticism, feedback and your opinion.  And I sincerely thank you for taking the time & effort to send me your comment.  I hope this explains to you and others kind of where I’m at in this.

3 comments on "Why Do You Write The Way You Do?"

  • Mark Wallace says:

    Thanks for a substantive, respectful reply – are you sure you really belong on the internet?

    Disclaimer: I don’t blog anymore precisely for the reasons you cite. So I’m going to go over in the corner here and fry up some crow. When I get done, may I offer two quick suggestions:

    1) Hyperlinks. I’d suggest that at this point you ought to get your blogging software to replace “Knightian” with a link to the post where you’ve discussed your problems with Mr. Knight. (You could cite wikipedia, but I seem to recall that you have actually written more than one post about Knightism).

    2) Additional contextual clues – Tags that help me to put myself in the right frame of mind. “Aha! this is Alex expressing frustration; it won’t directly educate me, but will provide me with many opportunities to explore the issues that frustrate him.” and “Oooh Goodie – Alex has delivered a nugget of wisdom that reaches a conclusion. I should carve out some time to read this and think about it.”

    Thanks again. Crow tastes much better when stir fried with respect and thought. I promise to have a bit of humble pie for desert.

  • alex says:

    LOL, dude, no need to eat crow.

    Will take these suggestions to heart, absolutely. Already figuring out how to mod. my blogging to be more better helpfuller.

  • LonerVamp says:

    Not to be contrarian, but from the first line I would expect not to udnerstand the full context of this post, having been taken from the middle of a thread I don’t follow.

    I do like posts that are both dumped out for public consumption as well as those toiled-over, perfection-driven posts. But I will say, sometimes it’s very worth just putting something out rather than toiling over it; if for no other reason than being wrong will drive more productive discussion than striving to be perfectly right and polished.

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