Scaling Synthesis

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Why do people prefer to structure later or not at all?

Last updated March 17, 2023

This page can be thought of as a contextual index page - so point to other pages while discussing how that’s relevant to the common forms of structure people add to their notes. This is a hypertext hub.

It takes too much work to create structure. Adding structure up front can be too restrictive, preventing people from work at the speed of thought. If I’m thinking too hard about structure before I write the note, I forget what I was going to write down. If they don’t add structure later, it’s because Adding structure later feels like a chore.

Context is necessary for knowledge reuse, but Specifying context for future reuse requires predicting trajectories of future reuse and Predicting trajectories of future reuse of information objects is hard. Specifying context for future reuse is costly and It is difficult to predict whether structure now will be worthwhile later, so people determine that it is unlikely to be worth the effort. People will often prefer to leave ideas “percolating” in their head, as this allows for a more rapid and open flow of thought than writing it all down, which feels like prematurely closing their mind.

Through all of this, an underlying problem exists in most tools: An increasing amount of structure leads to entropy.

For more, see Formality Considered Harmful and Incremental formalization can mitigate risks of formalism in interactive systems.