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Collaborative Writing Discussion Thread

Max and Anne B have been discussing how to do collaborative writing.

This topic is a place for them (and anyone else interested) to discuss and plan how to write something collaboratively.

They have several goals:

  • to learn about discussion, collaborative writing and learning
  • to do some collaborative writing and produce some posts/articles
  • in the case a post isn't produced: to discuss to conclusion why that didn't happen.

Max requested this topic as part of his SubscribeStar subscription.

Elliot Temple on November 19, 2020

Messages (10)

current state of collaborative writing project

The current state of things:

One of the most recent (relevant) comments in max-microblogging: https://curi.us/2380#18722 (by Anne)

> I think we should aim first for something too easy.

i.e. topics that are ~trivial. Anne and I should be able to write about these topics without issue on our own. If we find that collaborating isn't useful b/c it's too easy (however that would work) we can find more difficult topics. But if we tried something too difficult first then we might make non-obvious errors or overreach, etc.

In https://curi.us/2380#18714 I suggested

> Maybe we could each brainstorm some topics that are simple that we don't know too much about. Then we could swap lists/trees and pick ones that sounded good from each other's list?

Anne B: https://curi.us/2380#18724

> I've brainstormed some topics. Some of them require research and some don't.

> Maybe we should hold off on doing more until we have our dedicated place for the project.

I replied saying I'd brainstorm some ideas too (not yet done). IDK if we'll share those privately or here, but I guess the next steps are to pick a topic. We probably need to come up with a basic idea of methodology first -- my intuition with something like this is to like dive right in, but IDK how to do that for collab writing.

I had a checklist in https://curi.us/2380#18714:

- ☑️ discussion location

- ☐ topic

- ☑️ latency/work volume - both of us think it's manageable

- ☑️ difficulty - going to pick something overly-easy for first go

Max at 6:21 PM on November 19, 2020 | #1 | reply | quote

re: collaborative writing project

Anne and I have been talking a bit on Discord.

This was my quick topic-brainstorm.

* making dinner

* walking or driving on ice

* choosing a movie

* why do people exercise?

* why you should learn to drive if you don't have to

* differences between Australia and the USA

* using a measuring tape

* what is a dialog?

* basics of finance: rent, income, expenses

* using blinds

* how to organize your things

* taking care of a cat

* how to get from Australia to the USA (or vice versa)

Lots of these could be made more specific or have a particular perspective applied, like 'making dinner' could be "how to ...", "why should you ...", "why do ppl ...", etc.

It also occurred to me we could write a dialog, which might be an interesting thing to do collaboratively. But probably not best for our 1st attempt.

Max at 7:56 PM on November 20, 2020 | #2 | reply | quote

potential topics

Here are my topic ideas. A few were taken from or inspired by your list of topics here.

would require research:

why do some leaves change color in the fall?

how do you back up a computer?

why are vacuum cleaners so loud?

how do car manufacturers decide what color cars to make?

pick a famous philosopher in history. write a summary of their life and philosophy.

what does an electrical transformer do? what can happen to one to cause people to lose power?

describe the life of a groundhog.

what is calculus used for?

how does a dishwasher work?

might not require research:

how do you use a stove?

how do you make pancakes?

how do you make pumpkin pie?

explain the distributive law of multiplication over addition and why it works.

how to do long division and why it works to do it that way.

how to reduce fractions and why it works to do it that way.

why is error correction important?

Anne B at 5:19 AM on November 22, 2020 | #3 | reply | quote


How long is our first writing project going to be? That affects topic choice. We could be going for a few paragraphs or for a few pages. I wouldn’t want to go any longer than that to start with.

My favorites from your suggestions:

- walking or driving on ice. would need some research for me, which is okay.

- choosing a movie.

- why you should learn to drive if you don’t have to. this one would be short.

- basics of personal finance.

Anne B at 5:53 AM on November 22, 2020 | #4 | reply | quote


Our writing would need a context. For instance, we could write to answer a question asked by a 10-year-old that we know. Or we could write for an FI audience. Or we could write for a general adult audience on the internet.

Anne B at 5:53 AM on November 22, 2020 | #5 | reply | quote

project planning

I want to note that we are not doing project planning for this collaborate writing project. My intuition says not to plan but just try some things and see how they go. My intuition could be wrong.

Anne B at 7:39 AM on November 22, 2020 | #6 | reply | quote

CWP topics

I think doing topics that don't require upfront research would be good (we might need to do some along the way anyway). Research is adding a step.

the non-research topics I thought might be good are

- pancakes

- distributive law

- why is EC important *note: i like this one but don't think we should do it first*

of the research ones:

- what does an electrical transformer do? what can happen to one to cause people to lose power?

- why do some leaves change color in the fall?

- describe the life of a groundhog (IDK what a groundhog is, like a mole?)

> How long is our first writing project going to be?

I think a few paragraphs is good to aim for. a kindle page is like 300 words so maybe a few kindle pages could work, but regular sized pages would be a lot I think (I think ~700 words per page is close to typical). in any case, I don't think we should be too worried about writing a small amount.


I think I got a bit stuck replying to this. I had some thoughts on method earlier and didn't write them down immediately. Then when I tried to write this post I wanted to include them but I couldn't easily concentrate enough to put them down again -- concentrating on other things was easier though. Anyway, posting this to get this bit unstuck at least.

Max at 12:35 PM on November 22, 2020 | #7 | reply | quote

picking a topic

Now I see a process problem. How do we pick a topic from here?

I think the simplest topics from our lists are these two:

- why you should learn to drive if you don’t have to

- how do you make pancakes?

If you pick one of those two I’m happy to go with it. Or if you suggest something else I’m happy to consider it.

Anne B at 8:26 AM on November 23, 2020 | #8 | reply | quote

CWP topic

I think pancakes is simpler. My ideas on driving are more complex. So pancakes seems like a good first topic.

Max at 5:57 PM on November 23, 2020 | #9 | reply | quote

We have a topic: How do you make pancakes?

Now what? How about this:

- We figure out a context/audience for our writing.

- We decide on some main points.

- We do the writing.

- We fine-tune the writing.

(I wonder if we have very different ideas on how to make pancakes.)

Anne B at 2:33 AM on November 24, 2020 | #10 | reply | quote

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