On writing

I was reading E.W. Djikstra's EWD1000 today, and came across this quote:

If there is one "scientific" discovery I am proud of, it is the discovery of the habit of writing without publication in mind. I experience it as a liberating habit: without it, doing the work becomes one thing and writing it down becomes another one, which is often viewed as an unpleasant burden. When working and writing have merged, that burden has been taken away.

and this one

[blah – about something he wrote] .. Had I only written with publication in mind, it would never have seen the light of day. […] The only way to discover that a neglected or ignored topic is worth writing about is to write about it.

related is probably that I've been spending a lot of time actually writing my thesis these days (I'm not at 39 pages, hurrah!), which is fun because putting thing son paper forces me to think about them and I realise how incomplete some of my initial "research" was…

While writing my thesis I also come across lots of questions that I did not previously consider:

  • Does one write a thesis in first person? Or is it still "we did blah", I feel odd writing "I decided X, I discovered Y";
  • Will I print my thesis in color? partially?
  • How do you chose what symbols to use for formulas/theorems/etc? I'm sure I read about this somewhere before, put the closest I can find now is this Guide to Writing Mathematics;
  • how much detail to you include on well known technologies? For instance, I write about multidimensional scaling, the method is from the 50s, surely anyone who cares knows by now? :), on the other hand some details might be useful for a discussion.

…and now it's probably time to get back to *real* work/writing.

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