In Praise of Jessica Hagy

This is the latest post from Jessica Hagy, and I’m really hoping you’re asking “Who she?”, because that’s what today’s post is all about.

As we come to the end of the year, I want to spend some time thinking about what I learnt (and what I didn’t learn) this year, and utilize my regrets from this year to try and make the next one better. But I also want to try and spend some time reflecting on a rather niche topic. Blogs that I have enjoyed reading for many, many years – and those that I would like to share with you.

I may come across as being ever so slightly biased, given that you are reading this on my blog, but I do wish more people would blog. I’ve touched upon this topic many times in the past, and will no doubt talk about it in the future as well. But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, here goes: creating something on a daily basis becomes a superpower over time.

And especially relevant to today’s post is the choice of verb in the last part of that last sentence: creating. A blog need not be about writing everyday, and Jessica’s isn’t. But this, counterintuitively, is what makes it so very powerful.

Jessica draws ideas.

I cannot tell you how much I envy her ability to do this. I prefer to think in words (if that makes any sense). If somebody asks me to explain something, I much prefer to think and speak using words and sentences, and I think I am reasonably good at coming up with an analogy that helps people understand the point I am trying to make. Or given that I teach for a living, I hope that is the case!

But Jessica? She explains ideas by drawing ’em.

If you’re looking for an example, ask yourself how I might explain the concept of, say, complements and substitutes. I might write an explainer post, or I might ask you to think about one of my all-time favorite metaphors (created by Steve Jobs), or I might long and tedious ruminations on AI and human creativity.

Jessica? She believes in the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words:

If you think of yourself and AI as having duplicate skills, there is going to be competition between you and the AI. But if you can think of yourself and AI as having complementary skills, you are likely to make a powerful team. I have said the exact same thing that she did (in the context of my example), but there is no question about the fact that she said it much more pithily, and therefore better.

How to express an idea so that it reasonates? How to express an idea so that its applicability becomes clear within a domain? How to express an idea so that people understand that it is applicable across domains? These are questions I think about literally all the time as a teacher, and as with everybody else in this profession, I don’t always get the right answer while teaching.

All the more reason to admire folks who do get the answers to these questions, and have been doing so for much more than a decade(!). Yup, that’s right – Jessica’s blog has been around for a very long time, and scrolling down her seemingly infinte blogposts with a cup of coffee for company (or, if you like, as a complement) is a wonderful way to spend an hour or ten. Llook out for her entry from the 5th of December 2022 if you plan to do this today, and elt me know if you liked it as much as I did.

Jessica has books out, including one that I’m especially looking forward to reading, called The Art of War Visualized. Another of her books is an extension of a lovely little series of sketches that she drew for Forbes, called How to be Interesting. You could, in fact, think of this post as an application of her second drawing/point in that series.

This is her info page, this is the About page from her blog, this is her Twitter account, and this is her Wikipedia entry. Finally, this is her Amazon author page.

If you have found out about her work through this post, I hope you consider subscribing to her work, and I hope you enjoy learning from it as much I have. And I hope you join in me in thanking her for making the world that little bit clearer, and therefore better.

Thank you!