Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

16 July 2007

Mountain Reflections

Clark @ 3:56 PM

Well, we had a great trip: 4 passes in 7 days (3 over 10K feet) through beautiful mountains. Sure, I came back sore, dirty, tired, and cut up, but also mentally recharged. Naturally, I had some learnings as well.

The main one is the necessity to be very systematic. For example, I put up my tent with the rain fly on the day we had bad weather, and in the middle of the night wanted to tighten it against the wind gusts. I’d staked it out, but there had to be a way to tighten the line. I tried doing it by feel, and then got out with a light and tried to see how to do it (forgetting my glasses). I was fortunate that I didn’t *need* to tighten it, as I didn’t figure it out that night. Following through in the morning, I saw that there was a tiny little v-shaped gap in the line holder that you could jam the line into to hold it once you’d pulled it tight. What I hadn’t done was notice it the night before when setting up.

We also came across a group of inner-city youth, girls in this case, who were being taken into the wilderness as a path to help them avoid some of the traps they might encounter in their day-to-day environment. We didn’t have much chance to discuss their program, but I recall many years ago that happening in my experience in Outward Bound. There’s something about nature that helps put life in perspective, and about challenge in helping you develop your sense of self.

Overall, I came back with even more commitment to taking the time to do it *right*, and being more patient about things in general. We do have pressures to move quickly, but we need to strike the balance to do what’s necessary, not just what’s expedient.

I hope you have a way in your life to take time off and reflect on what’s important in your life. And, ideally, a way to keep in touch with nature and the rhythms of life and the earth as well.


  1. Clark,

    Glad to see you made it back. I guess you were able to stay away from the bears.

    The thoughts about tightening the line on your tent makes me think about usability and product design. I see the objective of usability being that it should be difficult to do things wrong. Not knowing the exact piece of equipment you were working with it is hard to criticize, but is there some way to make the function more obvious?

    Just my thinking

    Comment by Richard Sheehy — 17 July 2007 @ 1:39 PM

  2. Richard, good thinking. It’s actually an elegant design, just subtle. As I used to teach interaction design (long story; short version is “anyone who studied with Don Norman can teach it”), I’m very interested in usability (anyone who designs should read his Design of Everyday Things). Particularly as we include a performance support focus, our systems will be as much about getting to and using (and creating) information as about ‘teaching’. When I talk about game design, I say we have to test usability first, then educational effectiveness, and only then can we worry about the subjective experience.

    There was a bear (or 3) marauding around the backpackers camp, but we’ve bear cans, and used the bear boxes. Others weren’t so lucky; some folks a few tents over didn’t quite shut the door on the bear box properly, and the bear swiped it open and ran off with some of their stuff! Across the river in the car camp, car alarms were going off all night as the bears cruised around (annoying).

    Comment by Clark — 17 July 2007 @ 2:30 PM

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