The Non-Importance Of Being Complex

I think one of the biggest differences between someone who embodies a educator-mindset and someone who isn’t there yet but wants to be is –

An educator or teacher doesn’t think anything they’re teaching is beneath them or is too easy to beg teaching.

I started thinking about this when I saw time and again, experienced Python developers who I respect and have learnt a lot from talk and write publicly about topics that would be among the first ten things someone learning Python would be expected to have learnt. But this can be said for any other technical concept/subject/domain as well.

This distinction is something that’s prevented me from talking/writing about so many topics that I possibly could have. It’s not about how “basic” something is. As long as it’s something that you have learnt and believe even one person will be aided by it, it’s worth talking or writing about. This block falls flatly in parallel with the perfection-vs-progress block, except here, you’re i.e. I’m waiting to write or talk about something that is, in my mind, “complex”. Imaginary chokeholds.

But why should that be?

I can think of reasons extremely easily and none of them hold water in retrospect –

  • Anything easy is already done.
  • Anything easy would have been figured out without needing your documentation
  • Low hanging fruits are excuses for not wanting to think about or not wanting to put in the effort to learn and talk about more difficult topics
  • You’re limiting yourself when you limit yourself to easier topics

Two of these can be refuted just with a second reading.

  • So what if it’s already done? You’ve never put to the figurative paper your understanding of the topic yet.
  • So what if your document will not be referred? If you’re talking about topics purely and mandatorily to serve as look-up materials, you will always be left standing at the start line.
  • The third and fourth points are a little harder to fight. Might be merit in this. Every now and then you should push yourself to balance the easy topics with something a little more nuanced (that is not to say easy topics lack nuance).

The bottom line is something that everyone who’s ever decided to write something technical for an audience to read has been beaten senseless with –

Don’t think about the audience you’re writing for. Start with an audience of 1 i.e. yourself. Do the content justice. No topic is too easy to write about.*

(*) None of this is a guideline for journal based publications.

The Impermanence of the Internet..?

Let’s assume I die tomorrow.

Alright, let’s not be quite so morbid to start off.

Let’s assume I die the day before this website is to be renewed. They will probably give me a warning of a deferred payment for 30 days. Perhaps 60. Then the website is deactivated. And after another 60 days, this website will have been deleted. I haven’t put this on an auto-renewal plan. There will be no one paying for the website if I don’t do it.

In such a situation, this website will cease to exist. More importantly, (as if anything we do has importance; let’s humor ourselves that it does) everything I’ve written so far will evaporate as if it never existed. As if it were never written. Some of it might linger on in some people’s memories, those of who have read some of it. But eventually it’ll all be gone. If there is a future generation that could have tripped over some sign of my existence by way of my thoughts, this medium of storage, the Internet, the blogosphere, doesn’t offer for that possibility at all. Then again, why does it matter for anyone in a future where new memories will be created to ever read the ramblings of mine from 2021? I think even in my most cynical of states, I know the answer to this question is that it does matter. Because as meaningless as someone’s (yours, mine) day today is for a future that might be unrecognizable from today, it might just open up someone’s imagination to wonder about a time they never knew. A time they were never told about. After all, it’s only because of scientists of generations past noting down all their findings that science and technology has made the progress it has today.

There are definitely many points of failure that need to fail before the aforementioned apocalypse sets in. My payment to WordPress has to stop. Failing which, my website will probably be demoted to a domain with the characteristic branding of a freeloader by way of the website hosting this page – which is not so bad. Then at some point, WordPress itself has to stop existing, which is not all that farfetched a scenario. Businesses are sunset all the time. The point is, there can be a situation in which the passing-down of thoughts to the next generations can fail if continued in this medium.

Then what medium is foolproof? Or rather, deathproof? Is there such a way? Is the actual practice of writing on paper better? I’m inclined to say – Yes. I’ve seen written notes from 3 generations prior to mine, which, while in Tamil, are still present. But as I “write” this, I realize I’m at a cusp-ish-generation that will be the first to leave behind thoughts in a digital format i.e. in a cloud-based form. So I have no real yardstick by which to brand this form of journaling an inferior one.

I guess time will tell.

But I won’t be around to find out.

No one can write just one..word

Today (prompted by a breadcrumb of other thoughts), I found myself thinking about how Lays used to be called Ruffles Lays, atleast in India. But when I looked it up, I couldn’t find a shred of textual evidence on the Internet. Pretty much everything listed Ruffles and Lays as two separately owned brands under Pepsico.

And this wasn’t actually the first time I’d thought about this. I’d thought about it before but was just to lazy to search more and prove my memory right.

Until today –

I found this video from years ago – published 2012 , but I know it’s atleast from a decade more ago –

that proved definitively that it used to be called Ruffles Lays !!

(Image from video)

Then came the inevitable rabbit-hole-diving that led me to reading about the supply chain journey of potatoes ending up as Lays – well, whatever’s public info anyway. Thank you Meeta Punjabi, 2015 –

Then there was a thought about the whole “which flavors are in India (since 1995) and which ones aren’t” and how new flavors are introduced. One of the first major introductions-in-forever came with Lays Maxx made it here in 2015 –

But there were older ones surely? When was that Caribbean flavor introduced? Wasn’t it called West Indies something? And that meant some association with Cricket…right?

I thought about this a lot before I finally hit upon 2 articles – one that proved that this flavor was atleast as old as 2012 –

a) A guy reviewed it here as received from an Indian friend of his in 2012 –

b) I searched for Lays in association with flavors in 2011 after I found article (a) and this led me to finding DING DING DING

There were SIX flavors introduced as part of the World Cup 2011 promo! Each for one of the countries playing in the WC :

  • Herb ‘n’ Lime (Aus)
  • Peri Peri Sauce (SA)
  • Sweet Onion Sauce (SL)
  • Grilled Cheese (Eng)
  • Hot & Sweet Chilli (WI) aaand
  • Magic Masala (Ind)

Somehow 3 of the 6 from this list have gotten all but phased out from the Indian Market. The Grilled Cheese flavor makes an appearance every now and then, but let’s be real. It isn’t reeally going to make it back here…(awkward)…

I have never heard of Mango Mastana or Hip Hop Honey. But if either of these were on shelves I would not buy them.


2013 apparently saw the arrival of French Salt & Pepper and Chile Lemon. How are these winners of over 120 available flavors across the world?

“The company recently launched two new flavors – Lay’s Chile Limon and Lay’s French Salt & Cracked Pepper. To promote both the flavours, the brand has also launched a set of TVCs beginning with Chile Limon flavour. The Lay’s French Salt & Cracked Pepper, which will have a universal positioning would be unveiled after 20 days.”

– Prasant Naidu, 2013 –

And yes, there are at least 120 flavors of Lays globally –… Of course, filtration was probably done by way of availability of raw product and what was Feasible to sell while making a profit. But still..come on Pepsico -.-

Also Lays, Cheetos and Uncle Chipps are All owned by PepsiCo. So next time you say “I hate Cheetos but I love Lays”, you should know that it doesn’t matter.

But you probably knew that… I didn’t.

Writer’s Fatigue

We are all writers in a sense – coders write code, digital marketers write Facebook and E-Mail posts and an advocate writes legal proposals or notices. But this article aims to address those who write long form text in order to inform or educate or entertain – either by way of journalistic reports, enthusiastic essays or even casual book or movie reviews.

Both the segments have something to sell – some form of an idea, translated into its end forms. But the latter segment, I’ve found, needs more persistence if they are to be successful in their endeavor. We’ve all heard of “Writer’s block”, that excuse most authors offer up as an excuse to explain their laziness and/or procrastination. And there are a lot of articles on how to overcome this (imaginary) affliction. But relatively less is spoken about how writers end their works. There are some, of course, but the phenomenon is experienced more than it is spoken about. Let’s assume therefore that the writer; a writer, is all gung-ho about what he’s writing and has a solid start and an idea in place; a solid premise with which to begin his work. And he continues putting on paper, so to speak, the words that are taking shape in his mind as he takes context into account of what he has already written. And at some point, when the facts have been laid out and he has said what he has had to say, the crux of the idea, atleast, he pauses. He hasn’t really thought this through. He scratches his head and looks around for inspiration. Maybe some object in his surrounding can be incorporated in his work that will bring him closer to a conclusion. He retraces his steps and reads what he’s already written. Did he miss some logical threads? Did he jump the gun at some point to an unobvious inference? He hasn’t. In the meantime he’s received a ping on his cellphone that prompts him to check on a tweet he’s posted earlier in the day. It’s a response cheering him on. He’s boasted promisingly about how he means to write something concrete by the end of the day. He guiltily slinks back to the minimized document and rests his hand on the keyboard, by now having forgotten where his thoughts wandered off and he rereads the last line. He tries thinking about the original premise again. Should he add an alternate angle to the pot? Will this help him round off the whole thing nicely by stating that all perspectives having been looked at, this is the logical end of the topic in question? Perhaps. He thinks about all the authors he’s read. How did they conclude their works? The last arrow in his quiver – imitation. But even drawing inspiration from that seems laborious. His eyes droop. He yawns. He’s exhausted..his brain cells are slowly shutting down, having thought so much about something that should, ideally, not be so tough to do now that he’s managed to convey his original idea pretty cogently. But, as easy as it should be, the end is, in fact, a very important part of the article. But the writer is tired and he makes up a lazy half-assed conclusion and hits “Publish”. He’s victorious. He has completed his work, hasn’t he? He’s too tired to feel guilty, to acknowledge the gnawing voice in his head that’s telling him he hasn’t done complete justice to what he set out to do.

Another important parameter in this discussion and one that’s even more relevant today than it has ever been is distraction. Humans today have shockingly low attention spans, fueled by smartphones and the Internet and false measures of satisfaction received from hits of dopamine from social networking sites that they think they’ve made contributions to by way of one-line statuses and “microblog” entries. Likes and Reactions and Hearts do nothing to disabuse us of our misguided notions. These excuse for ideas are fleeting and are wasted on the transient content hoarders. Their only purpose is to give us those bursts of “happiness” and are not of any value when ideas have to germinate and grow in our minds. And while there are many thinkers and doers on these websites that do offer up tons of free advice and thoughts that poke and tickle our minds, these effects are again, impermanent and do not leave any lasting traces to better us as individuals. Let’s say you do draw some value. It’s still minuscule compared to what you’re losing out on in the process. This is a massive reason for Writer’s Fatigue.

Paraphrasing a quote that has dated well from when it was originally made, I believe in 1867, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”,most people are told. Maybe they’re friends of this writer. Maybe the journal that’s published his work has some faith in his past works and this article has therefore passed muster. And so, the first network that this writer can reach reads the article. The fact that it starts off strong dripping and showcasing the pinnacle of his enthusiasm is very good. But if, by the time, the reader reaches the end of the article and is not offered the requisite satisfaction, or if his interest has somehow dwindled by the 60 or 70% mark, the writer has quite unambiguously failed in his efforts. He has transferred the idea he wished to convey to the reader, sure. But the idea will not linger. Because it is now clouded with this air of dissatisfaction. If, even by chance, conversations are struck up about this piece of work, it will always have words synonymous with “okay” or “alright” attached to it. And the secondhand narrative will not come off as persuasive as it could have been. A whole second network of readers deprived of an idea all because of the writer’s fatigue; his failure to end his article with the same interest he had started his article with. And this is the damage that “writer’s fatigue” can do.

Is there a solution to this? Is there a way a writer can power ahead and give an article the kind of conclusion it deserves? Will a reader be rewarded for the time he has invested in the article all the way to the bottom of the page?

One of the most obvious solutions is to take a page out of Stephen Covey’s book. He famously remarked – “Begin with the End in Mind“. Easier said than done, yes. But it always helps if you sit and think about the entire draft and not just the meat of the matter, before putting pen to paper.

Another step in the right direction would be to deprive one’s self of all distractions while writing so as to not interrupt the flow of thoughts. In the dozen short stories I’ve written so far, only a couple of them have had satisfying endings, if I say so myself, because they’ve been written with some amount of intense focus, and it shows. The irony that this very post will be shared on the vile aforementioned social networking websites is not lost on me. But I have tried to prevent myself in their usage while working on this post. Attempting to walk the talk, as it were.

If the subject has a conclusion of its own – like the end of a movie or the last page of a book, that’s easier to see as a logical end, but even that shouldn’t be jumped to just because you’re tired of writing. Because, as I’ve already said, a skydiving experience is only blissful, if your parachute opens up and you land safely, gracefully. The alternative is a plunge that no one recovers from. Abstract subjects are less easy to end, but for these, a scope of discussion must be established.

Of course, these aren’t silver bullets and you are ultimately at the mercy of the subject of what you’re writing about, the amount of practice you’ve had and your own mind. I’m learning how to overcome it consistently myself. But I hope this atleast helps address the issue if not resolve it.

Maybe this isn’t a satisfying end to this article either.

Maybe it is.

What do you think? Have you faced Writer’s Fatigue? If yes, what’s your way of tackling it?