Listening Lightly, Learning Out Loudly: Thinking Out Loud, Actually.

I have been taking Harold Jarche’s Personal Knowledge Mastery course as part of my professional development. My university paid for the PD just as they would for anyone going to a conference. Considering how strapped we have become, I consider it a minor miracle and am grateful to my department head, Rob Hale, for approving the work. My goal it to repay the department by sharing out and thinking out loud about the course as I work my way through it.

I have been taking the time to work my way through the work each week. I am a bit behind, but I have already made some valuable re-discoveries for myself, one of which is the idea of ‘thinking out loud’. This is an intellectual trick I have used for years. Alan Levine is a master of this blog genre. Just like Jarche does in the course I am pre-filtering some of Alan’s related wisdom: here on asking for help and here on how to write a worthwhile comment.

I particularly wanted to share one of the ways I am seeking information for thinking out loud.  Part of Jarche’s course involves a considerable reading list each week. This week’s topic has been “Narrating Your Work” and as usual he has included half a dozen pre-filtered and spot-on web references.  Happily, I have found a way to ‘read’ everything.  I listen to them.

How do I do that?  I use the app, Pocket.  One of the features of this uber handy tool is listening via TTS (text-to-speech).  So, I am using Pocket to listen to all Jarche’s links while I am doing farm chores and otherwise occupied with my hands.

Listening is a very different kind of reading.  I approach it in several ways. First, I have learned that you can’t expect to get a lot of detail by listening, but you can filter out the ‘surprises’ and save them.  For example, one of the articles has a grand think aloud about a cookie business startup.  Nice story.  Or perhaps the advice on how to talk to folks if you are an introvert.  Second, I have a later, close reading of the pre-filtered high points which I make note of in my high tech pocket daybook.

I, also, find that I don’t mind listening to a particularly packed post several times.  For example, I am listening to Venkatesh Rao’s newsletter, Breaking Smart, and discovering new ideas every listen. His newsletter “Destruction Is a Choice” has opened my eyes about the idea of social luck in ways that I might not otherwise have gotten. I listened to it five times in a very loose way, not trying to pin information down each time, but just to hold it lightly and then return to it.  I am re-reading it very closely now, but I am finding it feels like I am returning to an old friend instead of a stranger.  (I often feel daunting texts are strangers.)

There are some issues. For one, the TTS voice can be off-putting at first, but I found myself adapting quickly to it.  Some texts seems to be easily read while others that are image rich or with lots of embedding are problematic.  Another is that the TTS service is only available in the app.  I wish it worked on the desktop, but I haven’t found it there, so….

I am still working on this. The real work comes as we try to make sense of the signal as it seems to perversely yearn toward noise.  I have the same issue when I do annotation flash mobs using, Now Comment or Vialogues. What on earth do you do with the 213 annotations in this article?  Or the 63 comments here on  Vialogues? 

I am open for suggestion.  The lesson of Pocket is simple:  gather with a light touch and don’t freak about the FOMO.  That might be a good piece of advice for any kind of knowledge gathering. Be a woolgatherer at least part of the time.  Eventually, you will focus and feel how you are beginning to have skin in the game.  Anteing up is being accountable to the other players.  They will take you more seriously if you do.



  1. // Reply

    Hi Terry.

    Good article. I feel that most of the articles I’ve posted on are “thinking out loud”. In my articles I’m pointing to libraries of information that show what others are doing, or thinking (I’ve pointed to Harold Jarche for several years) and I’m using maps and graphics to share what I hope others will do with the information I’m sharing.

    Your graphic about how people connect in networking events, and what motivates them to go beyond and do more to solve a problem or provide a solution that fills a need is something I’ve focused on for a long time. I created this presentation about “vertical and horizontal networks” several years ago to share my thinking on this.

    I read your Nuzzle news daily but enjoy your long form blogs more. Keep writing.

  2. // Reply

    Reading the Uzi/Dunlap quote, and know you pushed it into Equity Unbound, and wonder about that, too: how do we ensure a networking event/affinity space makes a difference in the world? Is it just more diversity in our reading/interactions? Is it more internal — making sure we are not too comfortable in our echo chambers? Avoid the jargon and stay true to the real? These are all difficult questions when talk can be cheap. Have you and I made a difference over the years and networks and paths that we have crossed? Have we made a difference in our own lives? The lives of others? What’s the currency of our interactions?
    PS — Yes. Yes. Yes, I think. I don’t know — shared poems?


    1. // Reply

      The Trappist monk Thomas Merton once excoriated his silent brethren by calling them “cozy cheesemakers”. Well, they were. He just wanted them to be so much more. He wanted to be so much more. I want us to be so much more, but I am not quite sure how to be so much more. Cop out on my part? I probably am one of those cozy cheesemakers. I ove cheese. Especially stinking cheese.

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