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I need to do a better job of explaining what I mean

I’m grateful to have received feedback, from multiple people in multiple places, that some of my writing is hard to understand. My working life is so saturated with jargon that I often forget to stop and define terms - so, for example, while I know what I mean by “human-centered design” or “the open web”, I’m leaving some of my readers confused. Even when people are familiar with those terms, they can be so ambiguous that my definition may differ from theirs.

I love feedback like this: it’s something I can actively work to get better at.

So, first: this post is a commitment to make my writing more accessible, regardless of the reader’s background.

Secondly: I’ve been wondering if there’s an opportunity to intentionally dive into those explanations. Let’s take “human-centered design” as an example: I think there’s value in not just defining it, but explaining how one might go about it, using how I try and practice it in my work as an illustration.

I could do that here in this space, or in an accompanying website that is sometimes referenced from here. Explainers and documentation are not as time-centered as a blog is: while blogs and newsletters are organized like journals, where updates are included in subsequent entries, I think definitions and explainers are more useful when published as web pages that evolve over time.

My very first blog, which has long since been lost to time, had a glossary feature that I built to support exactly these kinds of explanations. What I’m describing goes further than a glossary, but serves the same purpose: if I have a web page about “human-centered design” that evolves as my understanding evolves, every time I write a post that references that topic, I can link to it, and you’ll have a better idea of what I mean, as well as links to further resources.

This isn’t a substitute for clearer writing - which, again, I’m going to work hard to provide - but hopefully can be a resource that deepens that writing and makes it more valuable.

Let’s see. I’ll start with the very next post.

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