Archive for December, 2011


The Importance of Dialogue

From Ed Yourdon's photostream
I was recently reminded about the importance of dialogue. I had the opportunity to dine with some very smart and interesting people courtesy of VersionOne and their sponsorship of Agilepalooza Irvine 2011. At dinner I was seated by David Hussman of DevJam who is a very good speaker, and has a interest in philosophy amongst other things. As David got up to leave, he asked me who my favourite philosopher is. I answered Wittgenstein as I have for the last 20 years and even as the words left my mouth, it didn’t feel right.

Dialogue is the exchange of ideas and opinions and it isn’t very easy. Some people are so busy speaking that they don’t stop to listen and others are uncomfortable with dialogue so they send emails, or they simply say nothing. Dialogue about philosophy is even harder because those who study philosophy are few. You don’t have to have studied philosophy at school, you just need to have read it and thought about it. And thinking about it isn’t enough, you need to have a dialogue about it.

When you read something, or listen to someone talk, that is only half the process. The second half of the process is to discuss what you think you learned with others. This process helps you solidify your own understanding and (hopefully) forces you to evaluate your own opinions. When David asked me who my favourite philosopher I started to think about it and after some thought realized Wittgenstein is no longer the answer. Without the discussion, I would not have realized this, or perhaps come to this conclusion far later in life. After a fair bit of thought, I can conclusively say Bertrand Russell is my favourite philosopher. I am still fond of Wittgenstein and he is no longer my favourite.

So I have (re)learned that without dialogue you are missing half the learning and I resolve to initiate dialogue about the things I am thinking about. Without that dialogue I don’t know if I have really learned anything, and if you don’t learn anything whats the point?

And unless I figure out how to get people to start commenting, these blog posts are not helping me learn. Tell me about your experiences with the importance of dialogue.



I recently discovered Kickstarter when the author Scott Berkun was looking to self-publish his book Mindfire. I contributed to his project and find it very cool that my name appears in the book in the acknowledgments. If you haven’t read Mindfire yet, I recommend you do so. I found the essays to be, for the most part, very thought provoking. If an essay in Mindfire didn’t interest me, it wasn’t due to the writing but more due to my interest in the topic.
In the same vein, Grady Booch recently joined Twitter and one of his early tweets was about a new Kickstarter project that he is looking to get funded. The idea of the project is to tell the stories of the founders of computing. This is a very cool project, and I have pledged money to this project. Because I was an early adopter I get to display a Grady Booch booblehead widget on my blog.

Kickstarter is a very interesting idea. To use Kickstarter, all you need is an idea. Post your idea with an goal amount to make that goal become a reality. If your project fails to attract sufficient money then no one loses, except you 😦  So check out Kickstarter, fund a project, buy Scott’s book, and help Grady tell the stories that should be told.

Late addition: Unfortunately only Americans can create Kickstarter projects. The rest of the world can fund those projects but only US residents can start projects. Hopefully they start expanding this to the rest of the world.

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