Quantum of work

Quantum of work:
He(Vivek Haldar) talks about quantum of work here.
He mentions that “knowledge work ” is measured in minutes. I hate going by words, rather than some solid measurable definition,
but if I have to roll with it, I would say he has a point. Though he seems to be biased by Academic Researchers’ workstyle.
I get that most of his work(researcher), is limited to reading a set of papers, thinking about the ideas,
writing out the flaws/gaps/criticisms/related implications in them (in a mail to the author?) and then moving on to other papers and ideas.

He defines it as

A quantum of work is the theoretical longest amount of time you can work purely on your own without needing to break out into looking up something on the web or your mail or needing input from another person.

He may be right about it being measured in a matter of minutes, But there are implicit assumptions.
Since he uses a fiction writer,(he says, unless you have all your references and notes in hand,you’ll break out).
I would contend that all of that presumes the fiction writer is looking up references to learn how to use them,
rather than looking them up for patching the details. Or as some writers like to claim, imagine most of what they write themselves.

When I usually am writing these blog posts(obviously not the same as fiction), I start off putting together the elements of the post in my head.
Infact, at this stage, I usually am not even at the computer, then I write out the text, while leaving in placeholders for links and stuff i need to lookup.

Now, I am not really experienced or voluminous or good writer, but I’ll refer to what VGR says here.
Most of his posts even the ones that are 20K words long could have been and sometimes do get written in a condensed form first.
In this post he says that, he usually uses previous ideas and defintions he has established,
and can actually write down the condensed form in a napkin.

Note: this kind of work has a heavily strong backlinking to one’s own previous work, and tends to ignore others’ work around the area.

VH also says,

The trajectory from linear long form work to fragmented quantized work had been quite steady and there are absolutely no signs of it reversing.

. Now for people like me that’s a more scary thought.

My sense of best done/most work-satisfaction, tends to come from having focused on some work for a long time(going over the trade-offs repetitively and obsessively, till am sure I can’t improve the decisions).
I don’t mean continously incrementive work on that time, but not doing anything else when I am on it.
I might just be pondering/reflecting over it.Unfortunately, the modern day workplace is the antithesis of it.
And it seems to be not only seen as normal, but also a requisite to fit into the “Work Culture”.
I suspect this is one of the reasons, modern workplaces are “fragile”
This is one of those things that makes the reliance on big corporations scary.

I also wonder if these two work styles are related to the ghost vs vampire approach to life.

I tend to think of the second work-style(measured in minutes) as vampiricist, in that it’s made of experience seeking rather than meaning-seeking. VGR claims, people fall either in the extreme experience-seeking or extreme meaning-seeking categories. I am not so sure about it though.

I have also noticed when I write code, for a reasonably complex feature, I tend to write code and think alternatively in sprints. These two reach or hit a natural rhythm of variations that help the feeling of flow. I have also observed sitting at my desk is perhaps the easiest way to get stuck in my thinking flow/mode.

But the most important of all is carrying out a conversation with someone or clarifying a doubt or something like that. These things almost always create an immediate impact on the ability to write code. A lot of programmers have written about this, so I will just note the observations/thoughts that came to my mind.

It seems the actual act of conversing with someone about code(either the one you’re writing or he’s writing or either of you are planning) is perhaps the fastest way to lose track of your thoughts/ideas/dilemmas/trade-offs. It’s not that you are not conversing with yourself, it’s just that the conversation with yourself is at a level that’s more primitive(??) or natural than words can capture. You’re usually forming theses, testing them, collecting data. Forming theses is the part that involves most of language, the rest need language only when you’re trying to convince someone else of your conclusions. Otherwise they are left to your perceptive and pattern matching parts of the mind.

As always, this is all theory, and reality has a way of finding richer variations and surprising people (more specifically theorists) :)

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