Great email yesterday on the concept of allegorical onion soup. The email asked this question “if we are trained to read for content how can we not?” Good question. One that deserves a non smart aleck answer. So I won’t make the quick and snappy reply.
First, we are taught to read for content that is correct. But hopefully you were also taught to read one sentence at a time, not the entire book at once. So the easy answer is that we should simply read a multi-author document one line at a time.
The e-mailer responded to that – which I expected she would, by asking how do you tell something is a multi-author document.
That is truly reading for content.
When I was teaching reading now more than 25 years ago I used to stop the kids when they read the first couple of sentences and ask them two questions.
- What just happened?
- What comes next?
The goal for teaching young readers in that scenario was getting them thinking about the content of what they were reading. That same skill applies to multi-author documents. The first thing you read for is voice. Below are two examples of information conveyed in two distinctly different voices.
- Refer to section one, of the original and in that find the specific guided response required.
- If you consider what was laid out in the original and then consider the context provided you see that the solution requires the addition of two not one components.
The first dead give away. One answer refers you to the document and moves on. The other answer refers you back but also adds additional information at the end. In many cases you can quickly determine the number of document authors based on that simple litmus test. How much information is being returned and what type of information is being returned.
The first is also likely the voice of the author of the original document. My document was good enough as originally written is the subtext to the message if you go negative. The other way to view it is there are legal or regulatory limits to what can be answered or the original question was too vague.
Our second voice is a person who offers guidance and support BUT HAS ALREADY designed the system in question. Ergo of the two the risk is greater that the second person has already designed something in their head and expects your design based on the document to come out to exactly what they said.
It is a great skill and one that architects can benefit from!