Evergreen notes can increase conversational bandwidth

If a topic you’ve thought deeply about comes up in conversation, the constraints of the medium can become frustrating: it’s often hard to convey lengthy, detailed thoughts in conversation. If you’ve published an article or book on the topic, of course, you can always share that as a follow-up. But that’s a fairly high bar. You probably have lots of well-developed knowledge you haven’t recorded as publishable prose. Evergreen notes can fill this gap. They may lack the narrative structure and prose quality of an essay, but evergreen notes are polished enough to stand on their own and to be worth developing over time. Sharing such a note can increase a conversation’s bandwidth.

In some ways, evergreen notes are more useful in a conversational context than well-developed publications. Evergreen notes should be atomic, so they’re short and highly focused. They’re often short enough, in fact, to be read on the spot in the course of conversation. A conventional publication would take too long to read, so it becomes a follow-up reference. An evergreen note’s contents can evolve the conversation in realtime.

I’ve found this particularly useful on Twitter. It’s often a bit frustrating to answer a nuanced question in that context, but a link to an evergreen note with a one-line summary frequently works well. Sometimes the note’s title suffices as a one-line summary.

This effect is particularly striking when multiple people’s notes are involved: Conversations incorporating multiple discussants’ evergreen notes may promote collaborative sense-making.

Last updated 2023-07-13.