What it is
A SummaryBlock is a section of text that describes the rest of the text. It can be an introduction, or it can be a summary.
It can be written as a paragraph, or bullet form (BulletSummaryBlock), or perhaps some other form entirely. (Perhaps a Visual:MapOfContents.)
How it's useful
- It provides a mental framework for comprehension, before reading the text: people read the block in introduction, and then fill in their understanding as they read. It’s like doing the outside of the puzzle, before doing the inside. It gives you something to hook on to.
- It aids mental integration immediately after reading: You can connect all the little pieces you read into a coherent whole.
- It aids mental reactivation long after reading: By just reading the summary, you can remember almost all major points and arguments. You don’t have to reread the whole paper.
- It aids in navigation. A SummaryBlock will frequently be a small map onto the larger text. You can find something in the SummaryBlock, and then understand roughly where the more detailed piece of information is in the larger document.
- It helps rework pages, especially if you’re on a wiki, or in some other collaborative loop. You can focus on essentials, and pay attention to the minutiae later.
- It is terribly useful in structuring arguments. It can keep big points in view, putting minor points to the side. (See DivergingArguments to understand the perils of keeping up with minor points.) It’s also a convenient place to hitch along a suggestion about where the discussion should go next.
SummaryBlock on Community Wiki
There are many ways to do a SummaryBlock, but here is what we do on CommunityWiki:
- First of all, you don’t have to write a SummaryBlock. It can just be convenient at times.
- We generally agree that some text is so small, that it doesn’t need a SummaryBlock.
- You can write both introductory and finishing summary blocks.
- One approach is to make the introductory SummaryBlock loose in detail, while the finishing SummaryBlock can feature more detail.
LionKimbro is experimenting with the BulletSummaryBlock. ChrisPurcell is a little skeptical, and prefers plain-text paragraphs, but has nevertheless hit BSB with a list of recommendations/restrictions.
A new experiment is present at the Jigsaw Renaissance experimental wiki:
What I did is make sections that list the key threads, whether they are “complete” or not, and the status of those threads in terms of resolution.
Here’s an example summary:
|transporting pages ||unresolved - disagreement about when, how - consolidating vs. fresh new world |
|basic raport (why? how?)||established - being ActivelyOpen?, consolidating communications, participation, …|
|OddMuse:Portraits_Support_Extension ||installed |
I think this could work – you only have to name the threads, and tell a little bit about where you got.
You can also see at a glance where your completions are.