Why, Where, and What I Write

I’m a cognitive scientist, entrepreneur, adjunct professor, and author. I use an integrative design-oriented approach to mind. Hence, in addition to ‘cognitive’ functions, I’m interested in ’emotions’, sleep onset, insomnolence, motivation, and how the various functions blend and interrelate. I do quite a lot of R&D on cognitive productivity with macOS (cf. books.

This page lists where I tend to write.

Books

I’ve published two Cognitive Productivity books, and am working on Discontinuities: Love, Art, Mind. I have other book projects in the works.

Blogging

Hook productivity and mySleepButton forums and email support

I discuss Hook-related issues on the Hook Productivity Forum. I also answer questions about Hook and mySleepButton via email. Those are two CogSci Apps inventions.

Academic publications

I also write papers, give presentations and present research posters in cognitive science. See my SFU page and ResearchGate.

My most recent paper is “Mental perturbance: An integrative design-oriented concept for understanding repetitive thought, emotions and related phenomena involving a loss of control of executive functions” (in press).

Internal technical documentation and the benefits of technical writing

I love technical writing. As a result, most of what I have written in my career is actually not public.

My first job was as lecturer and then ast professor of Military Psychology and Leadership. At age 27, I left that job to become an at-founding employee — technical writer— at Tundra Semiconductor. I didn’t take this job out of passion. While I love tech writing, semiconductors do not appeal to me. However, this job had major benefits. Tundra’s exist valuation was also over $1B. That has enabled me to work on cool projects for my entire career. Moreover, at Tundra I learned about ISO processes, and wrote their first technical writing ISO specs.

The Tundra job enabled me to become an expert in R&D processes. I love processes. (Productivity is based on processes.) I’ve basically been a founder all my professional life. I’ve used my process knowledge and dispositions in every project I have led.

I have written a huge number of functional specifications and other technical documents for companies and projects of which I have been a founding member:

  • As part of my Ph.D. thesis, on Goal Processing in Autonomous Agents, I wrote reams of technical documentation. The thesis is perhaps still the most extensive/detailed analysis of goals and goal processing.
  • Abatis Systems corp. I was the first employee there. I wrote the largest number of detailed functional specifications. I also setup the technical library there. Abatis was purchased for over $1.3B in what was the largest acquisition of a privately held Canadian corporation. We were purchased not for our sales but our intellectual property.
  • gStudy, nStudy and Learning Kit project (at Simon Fraser University). I was a project founder there too, and its technical lead (2002-2009). Phil Winne is the Principal Investigator of that project. I wrote a large number of specifications for those projects.
  • CogZest. A number of specs for intellectual property that was sold to CogSci Apps Corp. They led to mySleepButton and Hook. And there are as yet unpublished software based on that work.
  • CogSci Apps Corp. I’m a co-founder of this company. I’ve written reams of technical documentation.

At Abatis onwards, I was not merely writing about other people’s products. I have been writing about IT products I’ve been designing and creating.

Why I write

I write for many of the usual reasons, and some that are not so usual.

I love writing. It clarifies my thinking. It’s necessary for my projects. It makes the world a better place.

After my viva, Maggie Boden urged me to write up my thesis in a book for the public. She said “When I want to learn about something, I write a book about it”. The demands of my first marriage delayed my first book by over years. At the age of 40, I gave up joint custody, which has allowed me to focus on my work (almost to my heart’s content; but there are too few hours in the week.)

Technical writing of one’s own IT products, which is part of designing IT products, is very important for cognitive science and AI. To understand the human mind, you basically have to be an IT engineer, because the brain and mind are information technology. That’s why so much of psychology fails.

Moreover, most of the products I have been developing during my career are cognitive productivity. One of the fundamental reasons that theoretical AI is a cognitive science is that by implementing software models of mind we test those models, and we develop our thinking about the human mind. (See Maggy Boden’s numerous books about AI for elaborations on this point. She has written more about cognitive science and AI than any other scholar.) Similarly, developing cognitive productivity products and writing about them is an exercise in better understanding the human mind. When done from an integrative design-oriented perspective, it helps one to think deeply about the mind. It highlights knowledge gaps, and helps one to bridge them. (See Cognitive Productivity: Using Knowledge to Become Profoundly Effective for an argument about the importance of identifying and bridging knowledge gaps for knowledge building.)

To understand why I wrote my first Cognitive Productivity book, read it. I will add however that the entire book also is a bit of humor. The book contains requirements and functional specifications for several cognitive productivity products that knowledge workers require. If you read that sentence carefully, you’ll see that I implied specifying in advance of publishing the software a new market worth billions of dollars. I was certain that I could get away with writing these books without fear that competitors would implement the products before I did. This is to refute the common view that you need to keep your great ideas secret. I was right. We at CogSci Apps got to Hook productivity first. The book also specifies other products. If you’re a prospective founder who wants to know more, get in touch if you would like me to consult with you on those other products (or just read the book).

My second Cognitive Productivity I wrote because I realized that to better convey practical knowledge, I should not just use text and images; I should use screencasts. It’s loaded with screencasts.