simplicity

Why courts don’t use legal-size documents any longer

From Suzanne Snider’s “Old Yeller” (Legal Affairs: May/June 2005):

The legal-size legal pad has been under attack since as early as 1982, when then Chief Justice Warren Burger banished legal-size documents from federal courts. One informal survey estimated Burger’s move saved almost $16 million through more efficient use of storage space. Several states followed the federal government’s lead …

Architecture & the quality without a name

From Brian Hayes’ “The Post-OOP Paradigm“:

Christopher Alexander [a bricks-and-steel architect] is known for the enigmatic thesis that well-designed buildings and towns must have “the quality without a name.” He explains: “The fact that this quality cannot be named does not mean that it is vague or imprecise. It is impossible to name because it is unerringly precise.”

Social capital: subcultural vs cultural

From danah boyd’s “Friendster lost steam. Is MySpace just a fad?“:

What’s at stake here is what is called “subcultural capital” by academics. It is the kind of capital that anyone can get, if you are cool enough to know that it exists and cool enough to participate. It is a counterpart to “cultural capital” which is more like hegemonic capital. That was probably a bit too obscure. Let me give an example. Opera attendance is a form of cultural capital – you are seen as having money and class and even if you think that elongated singing in foreign languages is boring, you attend because that’s what cultured people do. You need the expensive clothes, the language, the body postures, the social connects and the manners to belong. Limitations are economic and social. Rave attendance is the opposite. Anyone can get in, in theory… There are certainly hodgepodged clothes, street language and dance moves, but most folks can blend in with just a little effort. Yet, the major limitation is knowing that the rave exists. “Being in the know” is more powerful than money. You can’t buy your way into knowledge of a rave.

“Coolness” is about structural barriers, about the lack of universal accessibility or parsability. Structural hurdles mean people put in more effort to participate. It’s kinda like the adventure of tracking down the right parking lot to get the bus to go to the rave. The effort matters. Sure, it weeds some people out, but it makes those who participate feel all the more validated. Finding the easter egg, the cool little feature that no one knows about is exciting. Learning all of the nooks and crannies in a complex system is exhilarating. Figuring out how to hack things, having the “inside knowledge” is fabu.

Often, people don’t need simplicity – they want to feel proud of themselves for figuring something out; they want to feel the joy of exploration. This is the difference between tasks that people are required to do and social life. Social life isn’t about the easy way to do something – it’s about making meaning out of practice, about finding your own way.

kanso and shizen and presentations

From Garr Reynolds’ “Gates, Jobs, & the Zen aesthetic“:

A key tenet of the Zen aesthetic is kanso or simplicity. In the kanso concept beauty, grace, and visual elegance are achieved by elimination and omission. Says artist, designer and architect, Dr. Koichi Kawana, “Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means.” …

The aesthetic concept of naturalness or shizen “prohibits the use of elaborate designs and over refinement” according to Kawana. Restraint, then, is a beautiful thing. … Restraint is hard. Complication and elaboration are easy…and are common. …

The Zen aesthetic values include (but are not limited to):

  • Simplicity
  • Subtlety
  • Elegance
  • Suggestive rather than the descriptive or obvious
  • Naturalness (i.e., nothing artificial or forced)
  • Empty space (or negative space)
  • Stillness, Tranquility
  • Eliminating the non-essential

Ben contemplates fatherhood

From Ben Jones’ Benblog, February 2003:

I was also thinking it strange, the idea of being a businessman. How, when I have children, and people ask what their daddy does, they’ll say, “Oh, he’s a businessperson.”

Maybe I’ll wait until I retire for little ones, just so they can say, “Oh, he gardens. And writes. And draws stories for us. And cooks. And sings. And plays harmonica. And makes up songs on the piano. And saves beautiful wood. And makes mommy laugh. And make other strange happy yummy noises when their door is closed. And dances. And paints with paint he grinds himself sometimes. And cooks. And camps. And photographs. And plays sports. And reads. And other stuff. Sometimes, all dressed up. But mostly, he just hangs out with us, doing the stuff we want to do.”