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Dicto-tool and Random Word Lists as a Mental-model-helper

Thursday September 20, 2018

I use the Geany editor for lots of text editing tasks, and I’ve developed a bunch of little actions within the editor that perform various functions. As per the title here, when I type the word “dicto” and press the Tab key, I get a list, like this:

cookbook
fatheads
bushings
regulator
basements
biofeedback
guessable
toileting
downpours
identifier

This is a list of words pulled at random from a dictionary file on my computer. These word lists are extremely valuable to me in creating new mental models or theories, or in refining and adding depth to existing theories or models. Here’s how I use the word list:

  • I generate a list of 10-30 at a time.
  • I take the list one word at a time, and ask how the concept of the word—not just the literal word—relates to the work I’m doing.
  • I keep this very light—if there’s no connection that comes to mind within a few seconds, I’m on to the next word.

For example, take the word “cookbook.” It reminds me that, with regard to my latest theory (it concerns Information and Impression), I could come up with a sort of “cookbook” of applications of the theory. Even a small list of recipes could help make the theory more approachable.

Next comes “fatheads.” This is a magnificent word indeed. What makes someone a fathead? I want to look up the various meanings of this word, and see what concepts hide behind it. But for now—skip!

I jump quickly down to “identifier” (you can see I do not hesitate to waste entire sequences of words). My mind rests on that word, and it brings to mind a question. “What are some identifiers for Information? What about Impression?” These are very good questions that could help add some concision to my theory.

This is an example of the type of simple tooling (see last post) that I try to create. Something that’s easy to implement, yet which could have very high leverage.

I also keep a paper dictionary nearby for the same purpose, but this is faster when I’m already at work.

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