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The curse of knowledge


I really enjoyed Ben Myers’ article Ben’s Humane Guide to Technical Blogging; I found myself nodding in agreement all the way through, but it was his sixth point that really stuck with me:

You’ll be amazed what some people don’t know yet … The curse of knowledge is such a real phenomenon in creating technical content, and few topics are “too” basic for someone to find helpful. You never know who will be one of today’s lucky 10,000 thanks to you.

Ben links out to two places there; the first is a Wikipedia article on the curse of knowledge/expertise, which describes it as:

a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, who is communicating with other individuals, assumes they have the background knowledge to understand.

The second is to the Ten Thousand XKCD comic which says:

For each thing “everyone knows” by the time they’re adults, every day there are an average of 10,000 people in the US hearing about it for the first time

I’ve been a designer and developer for a long time and have accumulated all sorts of knowledge over the years; some of it I’ve actively sought out, or learned through a painful or embarrassing lesson. That’s the stuff I know I know. The rest has been absorbed from who knows where (Twitter? Blogs? Podcasts?), and that’s the stuff I tend to wrongly assume everyone knows.

Some ideas I actively dismissed as too basic to write about; others fail to come to mind at all, they feel so fundamental. Those are the things it’s probably most important for me to pass on!

The funny thing is, on the odd occasion I do cover something I initially thought might be too basic, I get a lot more positive feedback than I do with the majority of in-depth articles I put out there.

So here’s to more 101-style articles in the coming year!

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