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Giving good notes is not the same as giving instructions.

A bad note

I gave a talk last year at a conference that was recorded but not posted yet. I'll say more about the actual talk soon because it was interesting for a couple of reasons.

One of the organizers recently sent me a cut of the video. He did a great job. I had had a coughing fit on stage and every once in a while would cough and it would have ruined the video to leave those in. He silenced the video at that point.

I would have handled it differently but that's a judgement call and he's doing the editing and his way works fine.

He also begins with a video of me speaking and then shrinks to picture in picture to show me speaking in the corner with my slides behind me.

At one point my face is covering the part of the slide that I'm talking about. At many points, because the venue has two screens, it looks as if I'm looking away from the content while talking about it.

I gave him a bad note.

I said I would remove me from the video at that point and just show the slides.

It's true - I would do that. But I never like the way I look on stage and prefer all of my videos to just be my voice over slides.

My note should just have highlighted the issue and left the solution to him. "My face is covering the part of the Go board that I'm talking about."

He could have faded out my image or he could have moved the picture in picture to a different part of the screen.

He'd actually already noted the issue and come up with a different suggested solution. It's then that I realized the error in my notes and backed off.

Stay in your lane

I follow a lot of screen writers and listen to a lot of their podcasts. In a recent episode of Scriptnotes, guest-host Aline Brosh-McKenna talks about giving notes on the music used in her show "Crazy Ex Girlfriend".

Aline was the show runner in charge of a show for which music was essential and yet when a song wasn't quite right, she deliberately used non-musical terms in her notes.

She didn't specify how she wanted something fixed.

She didn't ask for a Hammond B-3 Organ in a particular spot.

Instead, she would try to capture how she felt about something with phrases like, "this feels a little crunchy and a little sour". She didn't pretend she knew musical terms.

But what if she did know the musical terms? Should she have used them?

Respect the experts

We all know about directors who pride themselves on knowing lenses and specifying which lens to use to their director of photography.

You can use what you know to describe the vibe you're going for - "the feeling of the flute in Van Morrison's 'Moondance'" or "like you're standing in the audience twenty feet from the stage".

You don't specify the notes to be played or the lens to be used.

Brosh-McKenna says it's better to "make suggestions that are more of a feel thing and then allowing the person who has the expertise to say, 'yeah, you want this?'"

The expert keeps up with their field and may have a much better way of accomplishing what it is you want.

You aren't expected to know their field better than they do.

A manager can express what they want in a product but shouldn't be telling coders how to accomplish it.

Find good people, give them notes that help them understand what you want to see, and leave the implementation to them.

You may have to iterate and give more notes - because once you see what they've done it may clarify what you are looking for.

Notes for others

Friends send me things they are working on all the time and ask me for my opinion. I used to do this professionally when I edited books and websites - now it's just for fun.

My advice is never based on how I would write the piece.

I have a distinctive voice that is different than theirs. My advice is on how I think they could improve the piece while being true to their voice.

Television writer Jose Molina posted this which says that better and clearer:

"Note-giving tip: your job is to improve the writer's script, not turn it into your version. It's not about how you would do it, but how they can improve on their idea. Make sure your notes make the script better, not just different."

I have no notes for Jose.

Link to the Podcast episode from July 21, 2023.

Leaving Facebook

I've talked about leaving Facebook for a while and am now preparing to do so. There are some things I posted to Facebook and no where else so I've launched a new site containing essays that I will write from time to time called Keep Two Thoughts. (I'll post an essay in late August that explains the title).

My first essay is called On leaving Facebook and explains why.

I have friends that prefer RSS to newsletters so I will probably backfill the site with previous essays from this newsletter as well. (Note - I did)

Recipes for Yogurt and Refried Beans

I also have a food blog named See What's On My Plate where I post recipes now and then. This week I posted recipes for making Yogurt at home in an Instant Pot and for making your own Refried Beans.

Other posts of mine

This past week I also wrote an article about SwiftUI's improvements to ViewBuilder. There is also a personal post called Wear a Mask on my Dear Elena blog. (At some point I may create another version of the Dear Elena site so that I'm not dependent on Word Press.)

A cool visual math proof

The instructions are here for this cool proof that the products of the slopes of two perpendicular lines is -1 (unless one is vertical). At first I scrunched up my face and said "I don't see it". And then I read the instructions and found it surprising. I don't remember knowing such a pretty and straightforward proof for this. The tweet came to me via Susan Whitehouse (@Whitehughes) "You may well have seen this before but it's new to me today, and I like it. A nice simple proof that perpendicular gradients multiply to give -1. Let the line through A be y=mx and the line through B be y=nx, and use Pythagoras in triangle OAB" The image is in the linked tweet.

Maggie's link

One of the fun things of having Maggie home for the summer is that she introduces me to a lot of series and one-off shows that she watches. Her link this week is Nostalgia Nerd's episode "What Happened to MIDI?" Spoiler alert - Midi 2.0 was adopted just this year.

Other people's stuff

Javier posts fun and helpful SwiftUI articles to the SwiftUI Lab. Post WWDC he has a series on Matched Geometry Effect. That link takes you to part one. You'll want to read the follow-on as well as all of the other posts on the site.

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