There is an old saying that goes something like this:
Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.
Throughout my career in computers, I have often referred to various tasks as “handing out fish” or “fishing lessons” depending on how I decided to approach it. In recent years, I have often leaned toward fishing lessons over handing out fish because I hate having to repeat work, though sometimes if a task will never need to be repeated obviously teaching is a waste.
More recently, I’ve come to realize that I enjoy working with people who can figure things out, where I don’t need to actually teach them, but I can just give them the tools they need and they’ll teach themselves. This I have come to refer to as “giving them a pole and showing them the ocean.” Of course, this technique does require that the person is familiar in the arena. I couldn’t do this for a programming job with the guy who cuts my neighbor’s lawn, but if I’m talking to another programmer then he should already be familiar with enough basics that if I give them a language and a goal they should be able to fill in all the missing steps themselves.
Since I put this in the gaming category, how does this pertain?
I’ve always admired EVE Online, even if I didn’t overly enjoy the game, because the game itself is little more than a set of mechanics and some tutorials in how to use them. If that is all the effort you even put into the game, EVE is shallow, bland, repetitive and boring. However, using the tools of the game and the Internet (in the form of message boards and other bits) and stepping outside the safeguards of high security space, the players have crafted themselves a very deep game of social interactions and political intrigue that rivals the plots of many popular novels. And it is a game you can’t teach. You can’t be an EVE player and teach someone how to get involved in the machinations of the social entities. You can only give them a pole and show them the ocean.