Could streaming help convey tacit knowledge?

Domains involving tacit knowledge often rely on apprenticeship. Watching over the shoulder of experts conveys a great deal. Obviously there’s value in the relationship being live: apart from the emotional component, you can ask questions, and get feedback from your mentor on your own work, and so on. But how far could you go from just watching? What about watching recorded videos?

A lot of programmers livestream their working sessions (see e.g. Handmade Hero), but the practice seems relatively rare for other knowledge work domains. I’d love to learn from great designers’ or researchers’ live streams.

My observations from livestreaming

I’ve done three extended public streams so far:

  • one about using writing to understand a disagreement I had with a book

  • one on reading a review paper

  • one on implementing a high-fidelity prototype with Framer

  • With the stream going, I found it surprisingly easy to stay 100% focused and on task for a 5+ hour working session. This isn’t usually a big problem for me—I’ve collected a lot of strategies for distraction—but as in meditation, the process usually requires some conscious “returning to the breath.” Here it didn’t.

  • I felt obliged to narrate as I worked. I think the video would be massively less useful without that. Narration is taxing—I found I couldn’t ruminate while also narrating. So sometimes when I got stuck I’d have to switch back and forth.

    • In a “rubber ducky” sense, forcing myself to narrate could be helpful. Sometimes things becomes clearer when I try to explain why I’m confused. But some mental trails are simply inchoate, and will remain so for quite some time. Trying to make them legible can damage them.
    • When stuck during streams, I felt pressure to get myself unstuck much sooner than I normally would, e.g. by giving up or switching strategies. This is sometimes a useful pressure, but often not—many times I’ve broken through a block by banging my head against it for hours (or weeks).
  • I felt a little hit of gratification at the end of my workday when producing these streams. My projects are all super long, so a given day rarely produces legible output—but hey, look, I published a video! This strikes me as dangerous.

    • I’ve been training myself to draw fulfillment from the process of creative work, rather than outputs. Feeling a boost from publishing a stream seems like it would help here, but I fear it’s actually just manufacturing an output and satisfying the outcome-oriented impulse. Process over product
  • I did feel some hazy sense of “performing” while on stream. This is certainly bad: I need to feel totally unfettered by social expectations in my creative space. Otherwise I’ll be afraid to do hard things, or weird things, or things I don’t understand. Maybe I could get used to this in time.

    • Tactically speaking, I’d feel hesitant to let myself get side-tracked down a rabbit hole—even though such rabbit holes are often essential to later projects. Streaming is probably more appropriate when I have a clear plan to do something concrete for many hours.
    • See e.g. big disconnect in Ivan Vendrov’s comments on my note-writing session
  • Do people really learn anything from these streams? People certainly claim to learn things from my note-writing stream. I can believe it, maybe, but I wonder to what extent people are deluding themselves. Certainly it’s extremely inefficient: what’s the insight-per-minute?

  • “Livestreaming” is the trend, but maybe it’s better to just post screen captures. In my 5hr session, I spent the first 20m giving context and motivation. Someone watching live would miss all that and would get much less out of it. But “presence” does offer interesting tingles.


  • Are the troubles of Tacit knowledge exacerbated in the streaming format, relative to real apprenticeship? One obvious difference is hi-fi interactivity. When I worked with more experienced designers, I’d pepper them with questions. Sometimes that’d make their instincts explicit.

  • How to make these videos legible / scannable?


I’m particularly (personally!) interested in watching interface designers stream:

See a nice list here: