John Cook and Brief Notes

Assumed audience: Other writers, and people thinking about writing and publishing.

A few months ago, I noted the value of different forms of writing: the different kinds of value I see even in technical writing from long deep dives on something vs. someone who puts out many pieces on the order of a few hundred words a day:

It’s neither better nor worse inherently, though: it is wildly different. [One] is throwing off summaries and knowledge (more like an old-school late 00s blogger!), [the other] are writing essays. The difference is mostly breadth vs. depth.… I learn about many more things from [the former] than I do from [the latter]; but I learn much more about each thing from [the latter].

I was reflecting on this again over the weekend, reading one of the many interesting posts on math that go up — usually several a day — from John D. Cook, who throws off knowledge at a rate I find positively staggering. I don’t know what his exact mechanics for writing and generating material are, but I suspect that it’s basically someting like: If I write up something for my consulting work, take an extra 15 minutes and turn it into a blog post. That’s a great strategy for a consultant.

It’s also a really helpful thing for people who will never pay Cook a penny, though: The result is an incredibly informative blog. I cannot directly use the vast majority of what I read there, but I learn about whole categories of things simply from having him in my RSS reader.