Learning friction

Here’s a model of communication:


We want to get the concept into Bob’s head. The medium is text, in this case. Alia encodes the concept into text, and Bob decodes the text into the concept. Encoding and decoding takes effort. It’s process loss. Friction.

Compare these two statements:

  1. A belief that is held by many is that one should, as a heuristic to be observed as widely as possible, eschew avoidable obfuscation.
  2. Keep it simple.

They mean the same thing. Which one has more friction? Hmm…

Some causes of friction:

  • Convoluted grammar
  • Unfamiliar words
  • “See Figure 6,” where students have to scroll with their mouse wheel to get to the figure. Just repeat the figure. Pixels are cheap.
  • Unclear pronouns. An example from the Web: “Lizzy told her mother that her sweater had a hole in it.” Whose sweater?

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