Sit on the fence between abstraction and practice

Theory and Practice is about a fence. It’s tempting to steer all the way towards the abstract, academic side, or all the way towards cutthroat practical side. Some of the most intriguing, productive people I’ve known sit on either side. Both sides like to accuse the other of not producing results, but that’s subjective. An academic’s results are wholly different from a practitioner’s results.

On occasion, you’ll run into someone who can actually explain complicated theory stuff to you in an accessible way. If you find someone like this, make sure to hold onto them closely, as they’re really rare. But they can help provide you with some insight that will really boost your productivity, without having to invest all the time in figuring out all that wankery that the priests of theory love.

This is a really nice way of explaining why someone like Richard Feynman is awesome. He was equal parts discoverer and explainer (plus another equal part mischief). This is exactly the thing I aim to achieve when I write here, make code, or present at conferences. There’s a whole bunch of ideas that aren’t in practice but, presented and packaged properly, can help move a lot of practitioners forward while recognizing the work of academics and nudging them to keep working in that area.

A lot of good things come out of connecting the people on opposite sides of the fence. Sitting on a fence isn’t exactly graceful, but sometimes it’s the only way to move ideas along. Don’t be afraid to eschew purity or pride for progress.