All posts for “communication”

communication

Brain Calisthenics (Guest Post by Sally James)

Posted by: leelefever on August 14, 2013- 9:07am

Categories: communication, Explanation, fun, Guest Post, science, simplicity, Up Goer

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Once there was a cartoon experiment. This experiment used the most common 1,000 words in English to describe a Saturn V rocket.  Have you wondered about getting started on describing something huge or complex in friendly language? For me, this cartoonist-inspired gizmo Up Goer Text Editor is a way to flex some muscles and warm up by challenging myself to describe using only common words. As you use the device, it strips away jargon and demands extremely lean but frequently comical descriptions... Continue Reading
Recently Ian Tucker sat down with a group of the world’s top science writers at the Royal Society’s annual book prize event in London.  The results of the interview are filled with gems of insight and humor that frame how these writers think about explanation and making ideas easier to understand.  The first addresses a question I hear often - how do you explain something without talking down to people?  Tucker asks the question in this form: When you are writing where do you set the difficulty... Continue Reading

Instagram's Real Problem? Lack of Explanation

Posted by: leelefever on December 19, 2012- 11:40am

Categories: communication, Instagram, legal, policies, The Art of Explanation, tips

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It’s not been a good week for Kevin Systrom and the Instagram team.  They recently updated their policies and caused the Internet to collectively freak out. Here are a couple of headlines: Instagram’s New Policies Could Put Them Out of Business Instagram Will Basically Sign Your Life Away (A headline I tweeted) Yikes.  But wait.  What if this is all a misunderstanding? For now, let’s give Instagram the benefit of the doubt and ignore the possibility that they’re willingly throwing users under... Continue Reading
For the first time, I've published an article in the Huffington Post.  It's based on an idea that was on my mind through the most recent election season, when facts became such a big news story.  The thesis of the article is that facts, especially in the media, need help.  We can't rely on their very existence to create change.  To be powerful, they need help in the form of context and remarkable or interesting packaging. In the article I discuss media communication in terms of layers: These... Continue Reading

Why This Bathroom Sign Is a Great Explanation

Posted by: leelefever on September 7, 2012- 10:31am

Categories: Art of Explanation, communication, Explanation, motivation, signs

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I don't often look to bathrooms, much less camping toilets for great communication, but this is an exception.   In many state-maintained campgrounds in Washington State (and elsewhere), there are "vaulted toilets" with no running water.  Like an outhouse, everything ends up in underground pit that must be maintained.  This presents a problem.  Campers sometimes use the toilet as a trash can, which makes for a difficult situation for the people who need to remove the waste. Inside these toilets... Continue Reading
Think for just a minute about the specialists who make a difference in your company or organization. Let's say you're a product manager. An IT specialist may keep your computers and networks up-to-date and working smoothly.  A marketing specialist may help you see opportunities to reach new customers or help to identify features customer want.  A programming specialist may help you discover ways software can make the product more powerful.    Together, these specialists and others become a... Continue Reading

I Was Never Taught Email Skills

Posted by: leelefever on August 27, 2012- 9:46am

Categories: Art of Explanation, communication, email, Explanation, work

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The best I can remember, my formal education in written communication ended in formal letter writing.  We learned where to put the return address and date, how to write a salutation and where to sign it.  While these are still valuable skills, in the past ten years, I have used this knowledge approximately zero times. Yet, I have likely written tens of thousands of emails over the same period.   No one ever taught me how to communicate with a computer or email. It just happened - I got a... Continue Reading
Imagine for a moment, the person sitting across from you in a meeting is introducing a new idea, but this time it’s different. She doesn’t start with a list of features or technical jargon. Instead, she builds the idea. She starts with context and connects her idea with ideas the group already understands. She packages her idea with clear language and visuals that invite everyone to understand how it works and why it makes sense.  You can see the reactions - heads nod approvingly, relevant... Continue Reading

Signs as Explanations

Posted by: leelefever on July 5, 2010- 5:00pm

Categories: communication, Explanation, funny, Signs

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It's true - I love signs.  I take pictures of them, laugh about them and talk about if they work or not. I think the fascination is related to explanations.  Signs are usually meant to communicate within constraints, much like our videos.  This post is the first in what I plan to make a series. Let's look at a few. This sign is at an establishment on a boat dock in Seattle. Like any "head" or toilet on water, it deserves special care because it doesn't operate like a normal toilet.  Overall, I... Continue Reading

What's Missing From This Sign at Airport Security?

Posted by: leelefever on December 7, 2008- 4:00pm

Categories: communication, design, offtopic, signs, travel

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Me (to the friendly TSA ID checker):  Do I have to remove my laptop computer? TSA Employee: Yes, you do. Me: It's not listed on the sign TSA Employee: Well, it's the most important thing to remove. Me: But not important enough to be on the sign? TSA: It's supposed to be on there, the people that printed it messed up (rolls eyes). The TSA folks have hard jobs and I appreciate what they do. However, it doesn't exactly give me a safe feeling when the instructions for moving through... Continue Reading

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