“Viral Explanation”

This is very important for you if you want your thinking to spread through your extended networks, beyond the small circle of people you can reach directly and beyond the small group who will read what you write: If you explain your stuff so well and so vividly at the same time that it will stick to people’s minds, helps them to make sense of the world and they can transmit this explanation without changing its basic shape and sense to other people, you have developed an explanation that can spread like a virus.

Why do we talk about explanation and not information? “Explaining” is making sense of the world, giving a coherent understanding of how things hang together and why something is important. That’s what sticks to people’s minds. Information is just a collection of facts (A pile of bricks is not a house… it is a potential house waiting for someone with a plan) . Without explanation and context, information as such has no meaning and doesn’t stick. Jay Rosen argues in this thought provoking post that today’s journalists got it all wrong, thinking that you feed the crowds with information and then they will be interested in explanation. It’s the other way round he says: If you give a useful and engaging explanation, people will now be looking for more information. Viral explanation is a term I learned from Howard Sherman, quoted by Rosen.

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