ReadWriteWeb recently talked to Lee LeFever — one half of Common Craft, the black belt explainers behind the Paperworks format — about why he and his wife Sachi gave up the custom Web brand work that brought them wide acclaim. LeFever explains that while the custom client work was rewarding, they decided to focus on creating explanations for general educational use, because:
1. Custom videos do not scale. We would have to hire people to grow the company and we don’t want to hire. We are a two person company.
2. Custom videos are usually promotional. We are more comfortable with education than promotion. Another realization is that promotion is fad-driven and education isn’t as much. We see a longer lifespan for our videos in education.
3. Our goal is independence – we want to work for our own goals on our own schedule and maintain a lifestyle that supports us.
I’ve mixed promotion with explaining before and also ran into these issues. While product promotion invariably benefits from clear explanation, the drive to promote something can handicap good explaining.
An animation by Devin Flynn that excellently explains what happens inside your ear when sounds come rolling through, in the style of little kid filmstrips and Sesame Street:
[Found via the Super Deluxe blog]
Don’t leave good metaphors lying around unattended, or somebody might get hurt. Up to a certain point, a good metaphor does wonders to facilitate understanding. But as you get deeper into a subject, a metaphor will become less and less accurate. And if you don’t toss the metaphor when it starts to go bad, it will actually block deeper understanding.
So, metaphors get you over a learning hump, but you can’t be too devoted to them. They’re like training wheels that… . That one fell apart before it even got started.
Anyway, one of the biggest, hairiest, most useful and potentially most troublesome metaphors of our time is the idea that computers are brains (and vice versa). This one is so mighty, in fact, that it’s easy to forget it’s actually a metaphor. And if you take it too literally, you’ll fundamentally misunderstand both computers and brains.
In a new smarty-pants post on Developing Intelligence, Chris Chatham puts computers and brains side by side and rattles off 11 metaphor-busting differences between them. In the process, he sheds a lot of light on both. For example, difference number 8 is that in the brain, processing and memory are handled by the same components. One effect of this is that you can easily overwrite a memory with an inaccurate version in the process of remembering it. Please, remember with care.
In addition to the illuminating explanations throughout, I really like how Chatham gets some more use out of a metaphor before chucking it. Once you’ve learned all you can by seeing two things as the same, see what you can learn by investigating how they’re different. Good trick.
[via Cognitive Daily]