Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

07 May 2018, 14:32 p.m.

Tentative Taxonomy of Tech Talk Narratives

Several months ago, as I was talking with Michael Rehse (my actor programmer friend who initially advised me on the code review play), we talked about the intersection of theater and technical talks, and taxonomized tech presentations. He and I came up with some:

the MacGyver
I did this ridiculous thing and it worked!
the Stephen King
I underwent horrors!* (Perhaps in retrospect the better trope namer here is "hell house" because these talks often end "beware and avoid my fate!" in the same way as certain scare-you-into-acting-morally Halloween hell houses.)
the Amazing Grace
I once was lost but now am found! (On this theme in Julia Evans's early blogging.)
the Bob Ross
Here's how you do foo with bar! (Perhaps that's appropriate for hands-on workshops and This Old House is a better trope namer here for lecture-style presentations.)
the Mr. Rogers factory tour
Here's how foo turns into bar! A soothing exploration of a complicated machine, following input as it turns into output. Variant: Macaulay-style "The Way Things Work" exploded diagram.

I wonder what other large categories there are for this.

Separately from that "what kind of story is this" categorization, a tech talk can have varying amounts of Reading Rainbow/!!Con-style emphasis on the discovery of joy that I discussed in "Toward a !!Con Aesthetic".

* I would genuinely love to go to a talk where the speaker started: "I could a tale unfold whose lightest word / Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, / Make thy two eyes like stars start from their spheres, / Thy knotted and combined locks to part, / And each particular hair to stand on end / Like quills upon the fretful porpentine." And then talked about, like, a database migration.