Ask Me a Random Question

Ask Me a Random Question

I recently was asked to come up with some ideas for an article or two. I was having trouble coming up with an idea to write about, because the writing space was too broad. Since just asking for random ideas seemed to work for The Bee Story, I thought I might see if lightning strikes twice and conduct a little experiment.

My Writing Process

SO…how to generate an article idea? For me, it comes down to identifying a few things I can “hook” my mind on.

  1. Find a research challenge, like learning how to do something, or teaching a best practice, or gathering data. My problem is that there are so many things I’m interested in, picking one is a pain in the butt.

  2. Find a personal experience that somehow relates to the challenge. It could be that someone has made an observation or experienced something recently, and they tell me about it. That usually triggers a research avalanche on my part. It also helps if I know a little bit about the audience I’m writing to in terms of personality, life, and career experiences.

  3. Find a tricky application that requires a bit of insight or sorting out. The more befuddling the issue, the better…I like trying to make clarity out of mud. I draw the line, though, at issues that come down to “belief”…I think people are entitled to their own beliefs (as I am to mine), so I focus topics that are debatable based on observation, experience, and verifiable events and facts.

More succinctly, this all might be expressed as the packaging of a set of thoughts to match a particular scenario comprised of INTEREST, EMPATHY, and SITUATION.

Making Up Assignments

Usually I write based on impulses I’m feeling at a given moment, never having thought of an article series or “editorial stance” that I might take. If I were to start an audience-driven editorial board, I might try implementing a process that looked something like this:
  1. Submit a TOPIC OF INTEREST, and identify a SPECIFIC PART OF IT that has caught your interest. Explain that interest.

  2. Describe how that specific part of the topic of interest came to your attention, in the form of a brief narrative.

  3. Pose a question stemming from that interest, tied to some relevant aspect of your life, career, or philosophy.


p>Anyone want to try this out? Submit your ideas in the comment areas. I’ll write up something based on submissions, if there are any. And if anyone else would like to write something based on the submissions, let me know and I’ll link to your post as part of the experiment.


  1. Wade Winningham 18 years ago

    Although I was a Computer Science major in college, there were two non-math classes I took which have been an integral part of my process ever since. One was a Design class.  I graduated from college back in the DOS days, but I felt even at that time for character-based screens, you still had to make those screens presentable.  One of the best decisions I ever made.

    The other class was Non-verbal Communication. While this didn’t have an impact directly on my code, it definitely does when dealing with people.  You don’t always think of it, but you can present yourself in a way that you appear confident and trustworthy.  You can read the same in others and read their unspoken reactions, as well.  Valuable in negotiations and in getting feedback.

    Sometimes I get so focused on some code, that I will literally code in my dreams and remember what I did.

    That was a long winded way of asking you what non-Design things you feel affect your own work.  I know you have some video game experience. I’m wondering how that affects your day-to-day process and if you have any hobbies that may, as well.


  2. Bill Busen 18 years ago

    Visual design.  General principles and how your own style emphasizes certain of them.  Which of them you are trying to grow in.  Lots of us are non-visual, so we only know it when we see it, if then.

  3. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Wade: Thanks for that great comment! I’ll write about non-design influences…that’s a really really great question.

    Bill: That’s an excellent question too…the part that I find really interesting is “a lot of us are non-visual, so we only know it when we see it.” That’s an interesting topic to explore.

    Thanks for the great questions! I’ll address them next week!

  4. karmatosed 18 years ago

    I would love to take part if I can as these questions and the concept is a great one.