Showing work to experts

I’ve been giving talks recently about my research to many people who are not really in my field. There’s a kind of “wow, gee whiz” quality to those talks, because the people watching and listening don’t quite know how I am doing things.

However intelligent or sophisticated the audience (and some of these audiences are extremely intelligent and sophisticated), and whatever the merits of the subject or the presentation, such a talk inevitably becomes at least part magic show. The energy in the room can tend toward the theatrical.

Today, on a visit to Microsoft Research, I am showing the same work to several people who have been thinking deeply about problems similar to the ones I am tackling. Their work is different from mine, but is certainly related.

I get both more and less from these people. On the one hand, they see right through the magic, so it doesn’t really work for them. And yet, because they can often reverse engineer what I’m showing them, just by watching my demo, they can provide unique insights into what I might try next.

It is not as though either of these audiences is better than the other — both are equally valuable. Yet they are differently valuable. Being able to show my work to both is really quite wonderful.

By the way, happy Bastille Day. :-)

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