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Written language is composed of ThoughtChunks. Words are the atomic ThoughtChunks from which larger ThoughtChunks (sentences, paragraphs, essays, ...) are created. The two parts of a ThoughtChunk are (1) its intended conceptual payload, and (2) the symbols used to deliver that payload. Clear writing uses symbols effectively. Deep writing addresses concepts that matter. If you look to both axes when authoring ThoughtChunks, your writing will be powerful indeed :)

The term ThoughtChunk seeks to get at a kind of language "ScaleInvariance?". Words are not sentences, sentences are not paragraphs, and paragraphs are not essays, yet there is a great deal of similarity between each of these constructs. Words, sentences, paragraphs, essays, ... all are:

Not all ThoughtChunks are created equal. For example, "Words are evocative" and "Short combinations of letters can make different people upon seeing them each think of something" are two ways of articulating the same concept. The first is better than the second because it is more effective at evoking the intended concept. To IncreaseClarity? in your writing, use the feedback of your peers to iteratively improve the effectiveness of the ThoughtChunks you use. A Wiki is great venue for uncovering important concepts, AND for finding good language to express them.

As we chew, digest, and then label particular ThoughtChunks, our shared vocabulary grows, allowing us to better think about and communicate with others about topics of shared interest. See how it works? We now share ThoughtChunks as a vocabulary term! In fact, page titles on wikis are the ultimate measure of the power of that wiki's ThoughtChunks. The page titles themselves are the clearest, densest articulation of the concepts the wiki community has explored. Finding a good balance between the sooty chaos of perpetual ForestFires and the stagnant order of a never changing PageDatabase is one of the rewarding struggles every wiki community faces.


I am mildly puzzled by the way so many people keep making up new language. What purpose/usefulness does the phrase/word "ThoughtChunks" serve that the word language does not? If making up this phrase/word was to clarify, I offer the feedback that it muddies things for me. Even now that I've read it, I have no idea what purpose it serves.

English words are a very small subset of all the possible combinations of letters in the alphabet. They provide a precise language that can be shared and used to transmit knowledge back and forth. ThoughtChunks are a very small subset of all possible combinations of words for exactly the same purpose. A ThoughtChunk is expressively at least as rich as a single word and at the same time is less constrained than all of grammatical language. Essentially, ThoughtChunks are technical jargon that contains more of its message in the chunk itself as compared to acronyms or neologisms which often need an explicit definition before they become evocative.

First of all, "atomic" (in the semantic sense) may be a matter of "morphology". Second, one word alone is more general (encompasses a greater "chunk" of the "real world") than several words put together. Example: "gambling" is more general (a greater chunk) than "online gambling", which in turn is more general than the even more specific sentence "Online gambling is for losers." -NorbertMayerWittmann (funny to read this -- having written it, I now see that it is rather elusive on the issue of "big" vs. "small"; both Shannon/Weaver and Zipf are rather clear on this: specific requires more bits than general -- so an inverse relationship)

To provide an objective frame:eEverything we write here is to IncreaseClarity?. If I were to offer a style suggestion, it's best to write Patterns. When you draw from examples in the wild, the term to choose becomes obvious, as you choose the term(s) that are most commonly used to describe the concept. In this case, the word might be concept. Another common neologism for a similar idea is 'MicroContent?'.

For your information, regarding the use of Patterns as language, cf. PatternLanguage and Noble, J. and Biddle, R. (2002). Patterns as signs. In Proceedings of the European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, Spain, 368-391. Available from http://www.mcs.vuw.ac.nz/~kjx/papers/e03.pdf

Also, I would like to know more about holarchy. I'm not entirely sure what it means. -- SunirShah

A [holarchy] is a hierarchy of holons, where each holon is both a whole and a part. For example, an organism is a holon composed of cells which are holons composed of molecules which are holons composed of atoms ... and so on. At each level of the holarchy something new emerges from the structure that level imposes on the parts it integrates. I was introduced to holarchies via their [important place] in KenWilber?'s integral theory. I highly recommend his book [A Theory of Everything] : An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality.

You're probably right about the style thing ... but somehow concept doesn't feel quite right. Symbol might be more right ... but it doesn't feel quite right either. A ThoughtChunk is a symbol plus the concepts the symbol is intended to evoke. A ThoughtChunk is embodied in a way that concepts are not and compositional in a way that doesn't feel natural when talking about symbols. What term would you use as the meta for what a wiki page is?

I haven't addressed your suggest to write patterns ... I'm still thinking about it and how it applies to this particular ThoughtChunk and ThoughtChunks in general. --BrandonCsSanders

I think that the reference to English isn't necessary, probably all languages are similar in this respect. We may need ThoughtChunk anyway, as an hypothesis for a valid page name or a pattern. But not each page name is a ThoughtChunk, obviously WardCunningham is not built from the thoughts "Ward" and "Cunningham". Just my $ 0.02. -- HelmutLeitner

That the sum is greater than the parts is a central aspect of holarchies. Consider the human body. The essence of an individual human emerges from a very specific arrangement of cells. If you were to at random interchange cells in the human body until all different cell types were uniformly distributed, "human" would no longer emerge. The parts themselves are important, but it is the structure (the context) imparted by the body itself that allows the cells to give rise to "human". So too is the concept evoked by "WardCunningham" more than just the sum of the parts "Ward" and "Cunningham".

To restate: It is only when cells are placed into an appropriate context (say assembled into a human body rather than spread evenly across the floor) that the emergent property "human" comes into existence. A human is more than the sum of its cells even though it is composed of those cells. Similarly, the ThoughtChunk "WardCunningham" creates a context in which "Ward" and "Cunningham" each evoke more specific concepts than they evoke when they are not bound into any particular context. "WardCunningham" as a concept is emerges from binding simpler ThoughtChunks into a particular contextual structure. -- BrandonCsSanders

I tried a substantial rewrite of the DocumentMode part of this page. I appreciate the opportunity to explore and clarify this ThoughtChunk with the good folks on MeatBall. If it turns out that the concept is not important I'm not attached to its perpetual existence here. If it turns out that the concept is important but that the PageTitle? is not appropriate, I'm open to a move. -- BrandonCsSanders

On the Working in Parallel email list that HelmutLeitner is on - this came through and I thought it was good for this: AtomicThoughts?


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