Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The big picture

Am I a details person? The impression of most people is that I am; this blog certainly is detail-oriented. But I would argue otherwise.

I approach most topics as scaling problems. If you are talking about atoms, the appropriate level of detail is the atomic; if you are talking about aggregates, the appropriate level of detail is small but at the macro scale; if you are talking about galaxies, the appropriate level of detail is stars and dust.

On this blog, most entries are detail-oriented simply because small domains are easier to describe than large domains and the answers are more satisfactory and complete. (Even so, I often miss interesting points; I am grateful for comments.)

Contrast the small scale of algorithms where behaviors can in many cases be analyzed fully with the large scale of company-wide systems where behaviors are imprecise and many factors difficult to analyze come into play.

For a short blog entry written to a general audience, I would rather approach an algorithm as the level of detail. I believe it is more satisfying for the reader and less time-consuming for the author. For a white paper (such as this one I wrote while at EBS) I have more freedom in exposition to tackle a larger topic. Perhaps more opportunities will come for me to write about the bigger picture.

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