Because a picture is worth 1,024 words.
Much of what we study are abstract concepts invisible to the human eye. Sure, we know what boxy hardware looks like, and two of our three physical signal transmission media (excluding wireless) are things we can reach out and touch, but most of what we work on is untouchable – ghosts in the machine. Each of us has developed metaphors to explain our beloved packets and their movements to the masses: roads and highways; water pipes and valves (sewers??); unicorns and pixie dust.
While our studies advance to theories of increasing complexity, using everyday objects to describe them becomes more difficult. Visualization techniques aid us in not only grasping these concepts more efficiently, but in recalling them as well.
One reason Einstein is considered among the greatest minds of our time was his ability to approach complex issues using his imagination and visualization, often with everyday objects. A dramatic example of this was his theory of relativity of simultaneity, which rocked the scientific world and forever changed our concept of time. A result of thought experimentation, his simple but brilliant explanation involves moving trains, observers, and beams of light. [If you’ve never read Walter Isaacson’s Albert Einstein: His Life and Universe do yourself a favor and order a copy on Amazon or download the audiobook. You’re welcome].
Because of their intrinsic value, I’m a proponent of using visual (and audible) aids whenever and wherever practical. Even while our focus is directed away from them, having them in our periphery and available for brief, pensive glances turns them into powerful learning tools. My preference is to print them in color and hang them with small magnets at my desk at work and double-sided tape on walls at home. The idea is to be surrounded, i.e. ‘immersed’ with cues and reminders to the eye and mind to increase familiarity.
Any drawing, graphic, table, photo, or even simple text serves the purpose. So far I have used:
- packetlife.net cheat sheets. Unless you’re a network newb, you’re familiar with this site already. Jeremy Stretch has amassed an excellent library of reference tools for any networker. Get them while you can – based on a recent tweet I’ve inferred his blog could be behind a pay wall one day – one I would pay to have access to.
- Cisco Live! On-Demand Library. A mountain range of slide presentations from the mother ship herself.
- Google image search. Duh.
- Photocopies from printed books