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“Thinking in public” for West Coast Swing

I come from a background of mostly intellectual pursuits (software, rationality). In those fields there is a strong culture of thinking in public (Learn In Public, Work with the garage door up)

And I believe that it's an important aspect of what makes those fields develop more rapidly and be more accessible to newcomers

West Coast Swing is almost entirely lacking this culture and I think the community would benefit from adopting more aspects of it.

Photo by Ahmad Odeh

What would "thinking in public" look like in the context of WCS ?

The aspect of thinking in public that I think would be most immediately relevant for most readers is "Learning in Public". You can think of it as a habit of creating a "learning exhaust".

After you've learned/understood something - sharing your understanding in a new format, using different words, etc. Create something that you of 3 months ago wish existed!

write blogs

ask/answer things on Reddit or community spaces you're part of

make youtube videos

draw illustrations


As far as I can tell this is basically not a thing in WCS community 😿

This corner of digital garden is an attempt to remedy that!

Why does it benefit community?

having different explanations of a concept using a variety of mediums and models is great, as more people can find the explanation that works well for them

there is generally a lack of publicly available well-structured explanatory WCS material out there

Levels of refinement

The concepts are often taught in multiple layers of refinement, so sometimes it'd be the case that you've learned the skill at a certain level of refinement, but may be still missing some understanding from higher levels of refinement.

I believe it's a good idea to do learning in public at each step along that path

It's valuable to have more & better explanation at each level of refinement, as-well as a sense for progression between them

Sometimes you won't realize that there are higher levels of refinement - learning in public will help you find out. Transforming unknown unknowns into known unknowns 🙂

when you are explaining a concept in your own words - it's easy to see where your understanding is fuzzy - prompting you to refine it

Explorations on the edges of current understanding

Finding better ways to teach the dance to other people

Example: Eric B. Jacobson reflecting on his experience of teaching WCS in different ways found that moving from the center * helps people to improve across multiple different dimensions of dance.

Developing better conceptual models of how dance works

Initially as you develop a movement skill you often have an implicit model of how it works/should feel like.

When you recognize this - there is often a value in creating an explicit model of how things work, which allows you to refine your technique and apply the skill more broadly.

And makes it easier to communicate the skill to other people.


It's a fake example because I don't actually know if things happened in this ways specificially, but hopefully it serves to illustrate the idea

I imagine at some point someone noticed that it feels "more natural" to lead patterns to the right of you if you've ended up offset to the left side of the slot at the end of the previous pattern

They probably then talked to some other dancers they knew, experimented with it together and discovered that doing this deliberately was helpful

And with some additional experimentation discovered that you can also project pitch, rotation, etc.

(there is also remarkably little info about it online, for a simple concept that most people in the community are aware of)

Figuring out good wcs/feedback loops that allow one to progress faster

I've found that developing better body awareness has been one of more consistent sources of growth for me personally

this can take a shape of blog post or in-depth discussion forum

In all the cases above - iteration, refinement and collaboration with other dancers are the core part of the process.

Thinking in public allows you to get feedback on your ideas faster and to increase the diversity of perspectives you have the access to.

Which helps you to refine your ideas faster and to see them extended to places you did not anticipate.

Importantly for community, it creates more information about the concept along the way. Both allowing people to better grasp the final result and to see history of development which often exposes implicit thinking models that allow you to understand the final result better.

A related thing that is also missing from WCS community is any large effort to crowdsource existing knowledge into a coherent and accessible form

In other words there is no WCS wiki out there where people would add things like

lists and explanations of useful wcs/concepts and skills

for example - a relatively simple wcs/concept/lead projection has almost no information about it online

what do they help you develop

what is a good order to do them in

also for both concepts and drills I often encounter things like:

A says X

B says X is outdated and Y is actually a better way to conceptualize a thing

Also, sometimes A agrees that X is outdated now, but they told X to C in the past and C continues to teach X

having a common repository of knowledge would help you solve this conflicts

and even where there is no consensus on a topic it can allow you to see the state of the discussion - what are the opinions and reasoning behind them

who are the pro's teaching in a given geographic area + testimonials

I expect a wiki to be a synthesis medium - where ideas that stood the test of time/criticism are aggregated

or the state of the discussion is displayed

but it seems like a wrong medium to have an exploratory idea piece

something like LessWrong combining the long-form writing and forum aspects seems good

it's an evolving/developing dance so information would become outdated over time

ideally one wants a living set of documents that change as the dance changes, but with history available to view

it’s not evolving at a fast enough pace that maintaining things would be too challenging

software is notoriously fast evolving and yet thinking in public & wikis works really well

Against most instructional material being video-only

Most of the instructional WCS content available out there are the video demonstrations. And I believe that is bad.

You, of course, want to have the video demonstrations.

But it's a bad medium to present a coherent overview of the topic

you can't search the videos

and you can't find relevant videos based on the content with something like web-search, so they are not very discoverable

you can't link to an explanation of related concept as you mention it in the video

it's hard to lay out an overall structure of a topic in a video, as it doesn't afford for non-linear exploration

It also doesn't quite afford for the same depth of discussion of conceptual material, compared to a written piece

What I think you want instead is a hypermedia piece: a text scaffolding that creates a broad structure and goes deep, but is also liberally peppered with video demonstrations and other visual aids

Why is this not more of a thing in WCS?

is it a technology problem?

probably not

people are not writing crappy wikis that can be better

or talking using old forum software that can be upgraded to something like Forum Magnum

culture >> technology

though technology can enable things

but some sub-cultures are more prone it then others?

this is my attempt to make Thinking in public a more prominent part of our culture


Would having more publicly available educational materials interfere with pro's ability to earn a living?

I don't believe so

Won't replace private lessons

personalized feedback is invaluable

has a potential to make private lessons better, it's common for me to ask a teacher - is there a place I can read up more on a concept they are talking about to understand it better and the answer is usually - 🤷‍♂️

Not aware of online platform that does exactly this

Pro's online platform - premium content

in SW world paid premium courses successfully co-exist with a lot of public knowledge

In as much as this is able to lower the barrier for entry for new people - it'd create more demand for pro's time

How can we do better?

go start a blog

when you find a resource that is helpful

contribute to a wiki

post on r/wcs

when you hear contradictory information from different people

start discussion on r/wcs to get clarity

this is a call for more people to do

and do more wiki things

that aggregate links to great explanations/etc created by above processes

improvement ideas

creating a community space dedicated to this

wcs/discord and DYOS discord are two places where saw some of those discussions

I keep coming back to running a Forum Magnum instance as a thing that address many points here if people would actually use it.

Existing resources

Honorable mentions

There is actually a WCS focused wiki, but it has no content or users as far as I can tell: https://wiki.modernswing.dance/

Good domain though 😛 (Why I don't like "West Coast Swing")


Collaborative map of WCS classes & socials around the world: https://www.aswing.co.uk/locations

What is the good discovery process for resources like this?

usual is smth like people post on reddit?

but no one ever posted a blogpost link for the last year I was subscribed to subreddit 😅

pls remedy that!

(just posted a link to a recent post of Aris'es that I liked)