12 Oct

Melissa Marshall: Talk nerdy to me

Curses!  My hope to attend Tedx Toronto have been dashed.

My application to attend this year’s local Tedx event was rejected.  (Not my words I’m afraid, but that’s what comes up when I click the link) 

And I’m not that surprised, I stood on this blog as my primary reason why I wanted to attend.  And this blog is still relatively in its infant stages.  It’s still growing and like any blog, will change over time, which brings in tonight’s topic for EdTalksTed.


Date Filmed: October 2012

Length: 4 minutes, 34 seconds

Total Views so far: 45,100

One Sentence Summary: “KISS, Keep it simple Smarty-pants”

When I first started this blog (about 9 months ago), I had the intention of utilizing this blog as my own mental juggling of what the TED Talks meant to me.  There’s a great deal of complexities that can be communicated during the 5 to 50 minutes and this medium let me formulate what I understood, what I walked away with.  It could well be that other people had the same questions come to mind that I had, or a curiosity that required further investigation and I would do the ground work for it.

Most of all, I’m no expert, and so I consider my responses to be on par with the same level of skepticism that might be more in common with the common populace.

I’ve got a great day job with a great company, a myriad of hobbies and interests, I’ll go juggling in Bellevue Square, perform with a local theater group or just work on a webcomic. 

Note: Ever since I started working on that last piece, I’ve started writing this blog even later in the evening.   It’s the midnight to 4am shift, which is also my primary blame for having spelling / grammatical errors.  (I also raise a glass to the power of disassociation with guilt.)

Note2: is the comic.  It’s about the conversations that come up during times of dead space, while waiting in line or your next download to finish.  It’s like a terrible Frankenstein mash-up of ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘Dumb and Dumber’ set in a convention setting.

Nonetheless my commitment to this blog surprisingly, still has chief precedence each week as TED Talks are generally on my mind. 

And this is where THIS Talk, really opened my eyes.  When Marshall goes deep into the tank of re-explaining that traveculae can be better recognized in the structure of the Eiffel Tower, I saw the big mistake that I was making.

I’m pointing this blog at myself.  The crazed non structured jargon that I pass on as natural local vernacular is actually naval gazing nomenclature of the thought process.

 AHEM.  I might think in vague words, but does is a good idea clouded by obscurity relevant to share?

And the answer is a fry pan hitting me in the face.  NO! 

Sharing ideas should be based upon the notion of simplistic articulation. 

FUCK, sharing ideas should be shared in a way that everyone can enjoy it.

Are you a computer programmer?  I’m not, but I do coding at various levels (SQL primarily) to support the business at work.  There’s actually a ‘trap’ that coders can fall into and that’s adding to structure where gutting and re-simplifying would be better.

It is best explained via this Jonathon Coulton video, Code Monkey:

Quick summary, Code must be both functional and elegant.  (PS> Mountain Dew is pretty good too)

The only workplace example I will ever use. (I seriously believe work and blogging don’t mix)

I had to summarize a year’s worth of data in several charts for a VP to utilize.  Historically, I might have left in the process of how the numbers got there.  This would have included formulas, a couple dozen charts of JUST numbers, plenty of math for the user to play with. 

Cause I think math is fun. 

insert Frying Pan.

However, knowing what the end result that was wanted, I sought elegance instead of proof.  (Keeping the backup somewhere else)

As Marshall describes it best, it was seeking simplicity. 

The image of a circle is actually an incredibly complex phenomenon when broken down into base parts.  What is pi?  How many digits of pi should be used for the formula’s values to be sound?  Sometimes you only need 3.14, and sometimes you need a value that will help design the Large Hadron Collider.

What caught me off guard  (Last time I’m using this as a header!)

It’s so short!   It almost feels too short, although that might be because I enjoyed it so much.

(It also supports the idea that keeping the presentation simple for better understanding.)

I love short Ted Talks.  I openly acknowledge that I rewatch them while typing these things.  Do you know what the side effect of watching a 24 minute video five times in a row?  It turns into hyper over analysis of facial expressions, and that this blog has been guilty of way too many times.

Short Ted Talks on the other hand, they are so easy to reminisce about.  Heck, I can spend the entire night talking about other things (see above) and the user still keeps the original video context in mind.


Did Einstein really say “make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler.”?  Is there a way to confirm this?  Couldn’t he have said Occam’s Razor?

Holy shit there’s an entire website dedicated to investigating quotes, and this one is on it.

(Hey, they also mentioned Occam’s razor)  Although Einstein is singularly attributed to the quote, there’s no proof. 

Marshall’s bio, as listed on the TED site (no point listing the link), reveals that she specializes in teaching speaking skills to engineering students.  This is an interesting dilemma, although the idea of teaching communication skills to explain complex to simple structures is great for presenting globally, I wonder if it is lost due to the insular nature of engineering. 

Meh, it’s a lot better than not teaching them.

So what to do?  (Last time I’m using this header too)

For one, I need to minimize or sideline the 1,000 word EdTalkTed entries.  Only the speed readers and most ardent personality types actually reach this sentence. 

For two, I think Marshall is really cute. 

For three, here’s to simplicity and the future!


– Please support my goal to someday attend a TedTalk, share this blog!

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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Uncategorized



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