Before and after

I’ve given several talks about my research in the last few weeks, and I’m seeing a consistent rhythm. In the days before the talk I add new capabilities, build cool and sexy demos, work through the narrative and timing, practice making everything flow.

There is a particular kind of development that happens in those times — cool, bold new features, sure to catch the eye of onlookers. There’s a lot of focus on textures, movement, all the flash and sizzle.

But the days after one of these talks are just as interesting, only in a different way. I have no pressing deadline, but my head has become filled with all sorts of questions raised by the act of presenting my work — both from the things that worked well and from the things that failed to work.

I find myself enormously productive in the days after one of these talks, but it’s a very different sort of productivity. It is a time for gradually building toward new directions, for making good on promises I had sort of made in my presentation, for moving things from mere “cool demo” to actual working system.

It’s funny — people are always appreciative when I give a talk about new work and I show demos of things they’ve never seen before. But another way of looking at it is that those people are doing me a favor. In a way, they are my research collaborators.

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