Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Does Writing Make You More Literate?

The beauty of online writing, as I've perhaps mentioned so often that you're tired of hearing it, lies in its radical democracy. You don't have to be a geek or an HTML jockey, you don't have to be 15 years old or anything else to almost instantly take part in the conversation. But just as important as the fact that writers need not be techies to have access to a free printing press, is the less-remarked-upon fact that techies and other left-brainers can discover the beauty and power of writing and sharing more fully formed ideas.

Which is why I was a bit bowled over when I came across this blog posting recently. The fellow who wrote it is pretty clearly a died-in-the-wool geek. And yet blogging has led him to ask a wonderful question--Does writing make you more literate? Do you learn more?--and then to answer it in rather compelling fashion. You can almost hear this guy struggling toward that highest of human goals, balancing the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

"...finding and retelling my own logic, writing it down and causing myself to think through the logic, meaning and flow from one idea to the next, that pushes me to find multiple meanings...And so in writing it down...I feel most deeply connected with the information and the meanings, and the choices I've made in explaining or demonstrating."

His beautifully reasoned argument, while in need of a good editor perhaps, instantly reminded me of the central theme of William Zinsser's powerful book, Writing to Learn, which makes the case that by the very act of writing about it, we can more completely master any subject. If you've never encountered this book, I encourage you to grab it soon from your library.

Bikers Unite
. Good things often spring from problems and disasters. And such would seem to be the case with the infamous WMJI shock jock invitation to convert bikers into vehicular targets. Spirited Solon bike shop owner Lois Cowan skillfully marshalled and organized outrage until it became a national story, and Clear Channel had to not only apologize but do something positive to make up for their employees' potentially dangerous buffoonery. And now the local biking community has collaborated on an incredibly well-produced and well-distributed monthly print publication, CrankMail, which bills itself as "the voice of cyclists in Northeast Ohio," and which ought to serve as a cohesive voice for all the smaller groups. Pick up a copy at bookstores and selected drop-off points. Or check out the less-comprehensive online version here.

Finally, if you have too much time on your hands today...You may want to scan through this fascinating document, the original Stanford research paper in which the two young founders of Google first sketched out their idea for a killer Internet search engine. While the war over web search is about to pick up full steam, Mssrs. Brin and Page may just become paper billionaires in the next few weeks. Talk about the power of connecting the right and left hemispheres of the brain...


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