Good Morning, I hope this finds you well.
The video of my RailsConf talk, Nothing is Something, has been released. The ideas for this talk were two years in the making, the talk itself took two months to assemble, and I had given it two times before heading RailsConf. You'd think that after all of this preparation I'd have the dang thing nailed, but the day before my scheduled time-slot, it still felt incomplete.
Nothing is Something is the biggest, most useful talk I've ever created, but despite that, I could not succinctly explain what it was about. When the creator of a talk can't describe it in an elevator-pitch sized sentence, the entire talk is suspect.
Scott Berkun gives prospective speakers excellent advice in his Confessions of a Public Speaker, wherein he draws a careful distinction between a talk's "arguments" and its "point". He says that a talk should have one clearly articulated point. You begin a talk by alluding to your point, you end by stating it, and everything that you say in between is an argument that exists in its support. If you don't know your talk's point, you don't have a talk, you have a collection of random arguments. Some listeners may be able to connect the dots and infer your intention, but many will draw an alternate conclusion or no conclusion at all. The success of a talk depends on your ability to convey your point.
I knew that Nothing is Something had a point. I understood the point. I had carefully crafted arguments to make the point. Yet I found myself incapable of articulating that point. As a matter of fact, the first two times I gave the talk, I didn't end by summarizing my point, I just stopped talking and put up a slide that said "Thanks" so people would know that I was done.
Fortunately, the night before I was to speak at RailsConf I enjoyed a fireside chat with Women Who Code. They asked me about my talk and I spent many minutes attempting to explain its point. My inability to concisely explain, and their persistent desire to understand, eventually led to this question (7 minutes and 40 seconds later!), which supplied the perfect analogy. I slept on the idea, woke up with a clear understanding, and spent the next day writing a new summary, which I used in the talk that afternoon.
This summary adds no new content, it just explicitly states the point of the talk. Although the difference sounds small, the effect was huge; the talk is vastly improved by this addition. The insight that led to the improvment was triggered by a question from someone who just wanted to understand, and who was willing to stay engaged until she did. And now everyone who watches this talk will benefit, which makes that question a contribution to open source as real as any line of code.
How cool is that?
I hope you enjoy Nothing is Something, and that your arguments always support your points. :-)
Public POOD Course, October, New York City
I'm teaching a public POOD Course on Oct 19-21, 2015, in New York City with author and Head Chef at Ruby Tapas, Avdi Grimm. I've reserved three seats at a 25% discount for newsletter readers. The discount is available until 12pm EDT, June 5, with my thanks for reading.
If you don't manage to snag one of those discounted seats, you can still beat the rush and secure a regular ticket before the official course announcement is made later this week.
CodeNewbie Pocast in June
I'm joining the CodeNewbie folks on a podcast, which will be published in June. Details to follow.
99 Bottles of OOP Book
99 Bottles of OOP is coming along nicely. As always, updates and beta access will be announced on the (very low traffic) 99 Bottles Newsletter.