All I Really Need to Know I Can Learn on Wikipedia

Thu, Dec 14, 2017

Simplicity Rules

Recently I picked up a book I first read in fifth grade. It was a book I really didn’t have any business reading when I was ten years old, but I remember liking Robert Fulghum’s humor in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and its sequels. It also probably helps that each story is short (less than five pages in my small paperback version). I may appreciate that even more as an adult.

The book was first published in 1986, and its stories reference much earlier times, all well before technology and the Internet became ubiquitous. I’m not sure which are the simpler times. In the book’s first story, I found myself reminiscing about how information used to be gathered:

Spiders. Amazing creatures. Been around maybe 350 million years, so they
can cope with about anything.

At some point in the writing process, someone had to source that arachni-fact. Maybe it was within the “S” volume of their encyclopedia set, or a thick book of trivia. Otherwise, it would require a trip to the library and a search for the right reference book.

As I quickly type this post into my cloud-hosted blog software, I opened a new tab and got a similar answer in seconds. I didn’t even write out my complete question, because Google suggested this search based on many other curious humans.

We already know that many things have changed because of the Internet. Reading Fulghum’s “uncommon thoughts on common things” from over 30 years ago sent me thinking about the other efforts required for him to publish his book:

  • He may have written longhand on yellow legal pads, or typed on a manual typewriter. Once he saw success, perhaps he bought an early and expensive “personal computer.”
  • Drafts were likely typed and mailed to the publisher. By the early 90s, maybe he faxed edits.
  • He was discovered when a printed copy of his story was sent home with school children, one of whom had a literary agent parent.

Today, he’d likely write directly into a relatively inexpensive laptop, perhaps using writing software within a web browser. Feedback and edits could all happen within the same document, which could then be exported for publication.

Or maybe he’d just have a blog, which, of course, he does.

Leave a Reply