Threesology Research Journal
Examples of "Threes"-oriented Web Pages
page 4

~ The Study of Threes ~

The following are references culled from other websites regarding the number 3 or have "three" as a focus, though other labeling may be used. Please give all respective authors their due credits. Links to their websites are provided following each section. However, it must be noted that some of the links may not be viable since the information was compiled in 2004 or earlier.

Things In Threes

The human mind seems to find three an amiable number. One can usually remember things that come in threes better than things that come in higher numbers. Primitive cultures sometimes have numbers like one two three many ... indicating this same fact.

Since hierarchical decomposition is generally arbitrary, you might try forcing your hierarchies into a things in threes pattern. You'll find that it's easier to remember the hierarchy. Obviously, this is arbitrary, but it is also often convenient and helpful.

One of my favorite things in three is --- Three Old Greeks ---, another is --- Triple-Loop-Learning --- but there are many others. --- Ray Schneider ---

This rule is well-known to political speech writers. Listen to any speech and you'll hear the punch-lines given in threes (eg "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" or "education, education, education"). This gives power and memorability to the speech. In crude terms, --- Things-In-Threes --- make good sound-bites.

(These are known in the trade as 'Triple-Clap-Traps')--- ? --- --- Charlie Skilbeck ---

Having learnt this I consciously use it when preparing presentations (major bullet points in threes) and justification documents (three main arguments, three main benefits etc).
It seems to work.--- Trevor Mendham ---

And the punchline of a joke generally comes on the third repetition of a theme. --- Tim Voght ---

Also the folks from Rama do everything in threes.--- Marnix Klooster ---

[Rama = mysterious distant alien race in --- Arthur Cee Clarke ---'s science fiction books. (Their ships have triple-redundant systems for everything. Triple-triple for critical systems.) See "Rendezvous With Rama" --- ISBN 0553287893 ---, and related books at Amazon.

So did the Martians in --- Stranger In a Strange Land --- and the people of Tertius in the later --- Lazarus Long --- books (both by --- Robert Heinlein ---).

There is an Austrian saying: "all good things come in threes". It is used at the head of Alban Berg's Chamber Symphony (dedicated to his teacher Schoenberg: the piece is preceded by a brief motto intertwining the musical signatures of Schoenberg, Berg himself, and fellow-pupils Webern, the three themes subsequently much used in the piece).

Perhaps the key to a sequence of three things being memorable is that the context of each element is maximally distinct - no predecessor, predecessor and successor, no successor.

Beginning, middle, end - like all good stories. --- David Harvey ---

While not exactly --- Things-In-Threes --- the book The Minto Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto is a darn good way to structure ideas for presentation in a high-impact, effective way. The book is quite old, but it's still a keeper.--- Ray Schneider ---

Winston Churchill liked to use lists of threes in his speeches.

The properties of objects according to Booch:

  1. State
  2. Behaviour
  3. Identity--- Dafy dd Rees ---

I heard some psychologist explain that the old "seven plus or minus two" rule for human comprehension would better be described as "three groups of three." That is, our short term memory can handle up to three groups of three things at a time. So, a "better" way to conform to the "7 +/- 2" rule in presentations would be to present three main points or groupings, each of which has no more than three items.

--- Jeff Grigg ---

And --- Extreme Programming --- states each fact three times:

--- Acceptance Tests ---,
--- Unit Tests ---
and the code.

And of course, everyone knows that three characters is the One True Indentation --- ? --- for source code!

Except if you try to put your code examples in this Wiki. I dropped all my principles on this like a hot potato. :-)

"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.
"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true."

--- Hunting Of The Snark ---

And, US natives of a certain age all remember the following song by Bob Dorough for the American Broadcasting Corporation cartoon series "Schoolhouse Rock":

Three is a magic number,

Yes it is, it's a magic number.
Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number.

The past and the present and the future.
Faith and Hope and Charity,
The heart and the brain and the body,
Give you three as a magic number.

It takes three legs to make a tripod
Or to make a table stand.
It takes three wheels to make a vehicle
Called a tricycle.

Every triangle has three corners,
Every triangle has three sides,
No more, no less.
You don't have to guess.
When it's three, you can see
It's a magic number.

A man and a woman had a little baby,
Yes, they did.
They had three in the family,
And that's a magic number....

[This last example can be viewed as a 3 to 1 ratio when we take into account the genders of those in the group.]

The universe may be said to be divided into the following:

  1. Things that occur in threes
  2. Things that do not occur in threes
  3. --- Everything Else ---

When management has denied it three times, you can be sure it's true... --- Tim Voght ---

Frank Haynes did a song titled Threes...

Some of the verses:

Three things to be wary of:

- A new kid in his prime
- A person with all the answers
- Code that runs the first time

Three things see no end:

- A loop with exit code done wrong
- A flag untested
- The changes that come along

Three things trust above all else:

- your knowledge of your craft
- that someone wants a profit
- that someone will have last laugh--- Hank Stuck ---

--- Things in Threes ---

Rule Of Three

--- Rule Of Three --- Seems started from --- Used-Three-Times --- rule. (tres faciunt collegium.)

A pattern can only be called a pattern if it has been applied to a real world solution at least three times.

The pattern admonition that an idea be --- Used-Three-Times --- to be a true pattern is reminiscent of the Rules-Of-Three from Biggerstaff and Richter:

  1. You must have looked at least three systems to understand what is common across them (and therefore reusable).
  2. It takes three times as much effort to make something reusable as to make it usable.
  3. You will receive payback after the third release.

These, and other of Biggerstaff's rules, have been substantiated from practice by --- Will Tracz ---; he mentions them in his talks.--- Jim Coplien ---

The --- Rule Of Three --- is an instance of --- Things- In- Threes --- which is somewhat more general than the --- Used Three Times --- rule ... both are arbitrary rules of thumb.--- Ray Schneider ---

--- Rule Of Three ---

Tom Werner

In "The McKinsey Way," Ethan M. Rasiel notes that things at McKinsey come in threes:

  1. a topic is described in three bullets
  2. issues are broken down into three sub-issues
  3. a solution to a problem has three main components, etc.

It's a mental habit that forces a consultant to identify the key elements of anything.

This is worth trying in your own consulting.

--- Threes ---

The third culture consists of those scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are.

--- The Third Culture ---

several images

The first image is Odin's staff from a Middle Ages pictorial representation. Odin was the father of Thor, and a god of battle and death. Odin is often depicted as a tall, one-eyed old man with two ravens acting as his intelligence men.

Compare this with the staff of Jupiter, a common sign in Rome, and also with the staff of Adad, the Babylonian god of thunderstorms and the forces of weather.

Note that the Hittite hieroglyphs for lightning, were also three-pronged. The structure uppermost on Odin's staff is similar to one of the crowns in the Three Crowns, the symbol on the Swedish national coat of arms. Three is the magic number, God's number, associated with prosperity and power.

--- Symbols.Com- Group 24:58 ---

Writing in Threes

When authors write and are listing ideas or feelings, they often write three things. Three words are often more interesting and flow better. Read the two sentences below:

The rain forest is green and beautiful.

The rain forest is green, beautiful, and full of life.

Both sentences are correct, but the second one is more interesting to read.

When reading, look for authors use of threes. Use threes to make your own writing more interesting.

--- Writing in Threes ---

Let's take the third item from the above three-part sentence and place it with each of the two elements to make up a third type of two-patterned sentence:

The rain forest is green and full of life.
The rain forest is beautiful and full of life.

Whereas "green" imparts a truth with respect to our human color sense, (except for those who are color-blind), the usage of the word "beautiful" is rather subjective. {Even though some might argue that the color "green" is a subjective term taught and used socially.} The point to be made is whether there is more emphasis being placed on the words or the number of word "examples" in the sentence? Just because we may like the number three does not mean we should automatically assign greatest significance to a quantity than other attributes... H.O.B.

Hart’s Law; The Magical Number Three, Plus or Minus Zero
by Geoff Hart

George Miller, infamous for his "magical number seven, plus or minus two," somehow missed an even more important principle of how the world works: no matter how clever we think we are, it still takes us three tries to get anything approximately right. Although most of us have proven beyond a shadow of doubt our ability to blunder around and take many more than three tries, the overwhelming majority of us get it nearly right on the third try.

Microsoft, for example, produced two "idiosyncratic" releases of Word 97 until Service Release 2 finally got it more or less right. Similarly, Windows 3.1 was useful but problematic, Windows 95 removed many of its rough edges, and Windows 98 finally got it nearly right. Lest I be accused of partisanship, I hasten to add that Apple also routinely takes three tries.

Let’s be polite.

There are three strikes in baseball, three corners in a triangle (love or geometrical), three prime operators in symbolic logic (and, or, not), three layers in a sandwich, three elementary components of the atom (electrons, protons, neutrons), three parts to defining energy (mass, the speed of light, and a square), and three parts to a syllogism. A coincidence? I think not. I suspect that I have stumbled upon a fundamental law of nature here. So what are the important underlying reasons for the magical number three?

Also three words—the examples are endless!

In our first try at solving a problem, we usually rely on stereotypes, personal opinions, the psychic friends network, and a careful statistical analysis of several weeks worth of horoscopes to come up with a reasonable guess at what should work.

Such a rigorous design process generally functions well enough to get us into the right ball park, which is a wonderful result unless we’re metaphorically playing hockey rather than baseball.

Being good designers, we immediately begin soliciting feedback on our first draft—and discover to our dismayed horror that we’ve somehow managed to misunderstand our audience’s needs, and produced only an approximation of what they really need. Sadly, all the "bonus" Ginsu steak knives in the world aren’t going to satisfy them if the salad shooter itself doesn’t work right, so we dive back into the fray with a second try. This new, improved design not only cuts through Coke cans, it responds better to the needs our newly irate and activist audience has energetically brought to our attention. (There are, after all, perils in offering to listen. For one, people start talking…)

Crossing our fingers, we patch up the design, dress it up in new garb brighter than the emperor’s new clothes and equally resistant to fickle fashion trends, then send our creation back out into the hostile world once more, hoping that everything’s now perfect and that our ears will soon ring with the audience’s plaudits. Yet the physics behind the magical number three lurk in wait for anyone so foolishly optimistic…

Inevitably, we discover that we’ve guessed right and solved some of our audience’s problems. That would be a cheering thought if it were not for the fact that, earnest good intentions notwithstanding, we’ve also misunderstood much of the audience’s feedback and come up with incorrect solutions to problems we’ve correctly identified, correct solutions to problems that nobody identified as needing a solution, and elegant solutions to entirely different and unexpected problems.

Heaving a patient sigh, we lick our wounds, return to the drawing board, and come up with our third try at solving the new crop of problems. And lo and behold, the third time’s the charm if I might be permitted to mix the hard science I’ve relied on thus far with a somewhat more mystical reference: we’ve now achieved a usable product that satisfies most of our audience. If anyone needed more proof, this idiom reveals an age-old recognition of the magical number three in operation.

Our world would be a happier place if this were all we had to worry about, but sadly, those who develop the products we document are never satisfied with "good enough", and perversely insist on one more kick at the cat. The cat, predictably, isn’t particularly happy with this design approach, and demonstrates why small furry predators have claws. Not long after, we find ourselves back where we started, trying to design something that will satisfy our audience. Three tries later, Hart’s law predicts, we’ll probably get there, only to discover a new cat, a new audience, and a new manager—and then, haunted by yet another instance of the magical number three, we start the process all over again.

Rather frustrating, but physics can be that way some days.

--- Usability Newsletter ---

Three Types of Thinking

Type of Thinking
Link to Context? Isolated? Aspects? Useful in ... Can use ...
Everyday Thinking Yes No Tacit Practice:
Intervening in real-life situations; Doing.
Lower Abstraction
Lower Abstraction Yes No Aware Understanding situations; reflecting on situations, problems, etc. Decision support. 'Research' into situations. Theories derived from higher abstraction. Also experience from everyday thinking.
Higher Abstraction No Yes Isolated Understanding laws; Scientific research to discover laws and express them as theories. Data from aspectually-constrained situations.

--- Three Types of Thinking ---

Three important elements to any presentation:

  • Delivery skills
  • Content organization
  • Listener interaction

Delivery Skills:

You must have good delivery skills or your message is lost because you interfere with the listener having confidence in you and therefore your message. Delivery skills include both physical and vocal mannerisms such as:

  • Eye Connection
  • Pauses & Breathing
  • Vocal enthusiasm

Content Organization:

You must organize your information in the same way that people "listen". Answer the questions that are in their heads: (For example)

  • "What do you want me to do?"
  • "What is in it for me if I do this?"
  • "What is your conviction about this information?"

Remember also that the human mind organizes the spoken word into threes. We refer to this phenomenon as "The Rule of Three". So when presenting information, you want to determine what three key points you want to cover in your presentation. That way the listener can retain the information more easily and the information doesn't feel overwhelming. The "ABCs" of content organization are:

  • Action
  • Benefits
  • Conviction

--- Stream Your PowerPoint Presentation ---
by Susan Fiala

What was the (three-part) Proto-Indo-European (PIE) ideology?

I have already mentioned a tendency to think in pairs. There is also a tendency to think in threes. This tendency to think in threes forms the basis of Georges Dumezil's "tripartite ideology." Now this theory is still controversial, with some rather heated emotions on both sides. I fall somewhere in the middle; it seems to explain a lot about Indo-European culture, but is not the be all and end all.

This theory states that Indo-European culture (and, by extension, PIE culture) was divided up into three groups, which Dumezil calls "functions."

  1. The first function is the magical-religious one. This consists of the priests and the rulers.
  2. The second function is that of the warrior.
  3. The third is that of the producers.

    Shan M. M. Winn has summed it up nicely in a book title: "Heaven, Heroes, and Happiness."

As with all such systems there are elements that do not fit. For instance, the king, although identified with the first function, does not really fit there. He comes out of the second function (he is in fact a warrior), is inaugurated by the first function, but must support all three functions. He is called "transfunctional," then.

There are also those who are outside the structure entirely. These may be slaves, or foreigners, or artisans. The occupy an ambiguous place in society, sometime forming a fourth function (such as in India- the "untouchables"), and sometime being viewed as somewhat dangerous.

Although I have described them as if they were classes, that is not their entire role. Dumezil named them "functions" rather than "classes" for a reason. They show up in the oddest places. Medicine, for instance, was divided into three types:

  1. prayers and magic (first function)
  2. surgery (second function)
  3. herbs (third function).

In this way the three functions ordered the thinking of the PIEs.

As an interesting case, take the modern American government. Based on a combination of originally:

  1. Pagan Common Law
  2. Roman government
  3. Athenian democracy

    (don't ever let anyone tell you that our system of government is based on Judeao-Christian principles), it has:
  1. the Supreme Court (the "priests" who interpret the sacred document)
  2. the President (the commander-in-chief)
  3. the Congress (the representative of the mass of the people).

And the Chief Executive is the representative of the second function, who must be inaugurated by the chief of the first function, but serve the country as a whole.

The tripartite ideology does indeed show up in the oddest places.

One aspect of the functions which Dumezil did not seem to have noticed, and which has been set up as an alternative theory by others (particularly Michael York), is a binary division, mentioned earlier. Outside/Inside, Female/Male -- the binary division runs through our culture. But it is also a part of the tripartite ideology:

  1. The first function may be divided into the enforcers of religious law (the priests) and the enforcer of social law (the king).
  2. The second function is divided into the good warrior who protects society and the dangerous one whom we must be protected from.
  3. And there is the odd fact that the deities associated with the third function tend to be twins; since one is frequently mortal and one immortal, this may be a recognition of life and death as two sides of the same coin (not that the PIEs had coins, mind you). So the ideology of the PIEs is an interplay between three and two.

--- What was the Proto-Indo-European ideology? ---

Note: The statement that the ideology of the PIEs is an interplay between three and two may be looked upon as a suggestion that there is ample evidence for acknowledging that there was a sequential developmental trend in cognition. I have thrown together a type of illustrative chart showing a sequential developmenta1 trend for a variety of concepts and occurrences:

evolving consciousness

Additional 1-2-3 examples:

(metaphysical attribute)
(one and many are viewed as opposites) "THE MANY"
(metaphysical attribute)
Monistic/"Unitarian" thinking Dualistic/Polarity thinking Trilistic/Trichotomous...
(reliance on the "one," separateness, uniqueness, "chosen")
(increase in two-patterned views)
(increase in three-patterned views)
Archaic/primitive thought Post archaic and Middle Ages thought Post Middle Ages and present thought

Note: the previous example is a very brief mention about what ideology the Proto-Indo-Europeans are considered to have had. It portrays a brief summary of the Tripartite ideology of Georges Dumezil, and rightly points out that there was also a tendency for these early peoples to view many aspects of their world in pairs. Additionally, it also points out that while the tripartite ideology of Georges Dumezil is useful, it does not appear to resolve issues concerning examples were there are three distinct "functions" and one auxiliary component such as the so-called four-caste system once used widely in India.

Also, the three-part Proto-Indo-European function system of Georges Dumezil leads many researchers into thinking that his system is supremely flawed when they cite that a non-Indo-European group such as the (Asian-related) Buryat Mongols have a three-part social structure. For example, from page 272 of J.P. Mallory's book "In Search of the Indo-Europeans":

Indeed, one may argue that tripartition itself need not result in the Indo-European system. Lawrence Krader, in his study of the non-Indo-European Buryat Mongols, observes that their 'triple division of the social world' is carried through into the spirit world and the three souls of men. The Buryat spirits are arranged according to the three different Buryat social classes: Aristocrats, Commoners and Slaves, categories that are tripartite but not those of the Indo-Europeans.

Such an occurrence of the tripartite phenomena seemingly outside a standard of expectation leads us to the suggestion of a larger tripartite organizational theme that is not addressed by the conventional Dumezilian theory. In other words, what is not being considered is that the Dumezilian form of tripartite ideology of Proto- (and Modern) Indo-Europeans does not address the appreciation of an ideology which incorporates a larger overlapping developmental structure of singularity, duality, triplicity, and the 3- to- 1 ratio circumstance with respect to the human species as a whole.

The existence of an overlapping transitional development amongst differing human species groups is being overlooked, dismissed and denied any consideration. The Dumezilian form of Indo-European scholarship is being used as a tool fashioned into a weapon intended for a singular objective that limits a larger appreciation of the tripartite phenomena. It is an inept form of scholarship when such a usage is limited primarily to specifically recognized attributes of Proto-Indo-European groups, when such a weapon can be re-fashioned into a tool that can also delineate transitions between races and cultures as well as genders.

Hence, an occurrence of a tripartite social system being used by Non-(Proto)-Indo-Europeans may say something about regional/environmental influences during a specific time period inasmuch as it may indicate a transition in human cognitive development connected to an underlying 1-2-3 maturational development sequence related to biological life forms... perhaps distinct and even separate from cultural transmissions and disseminations...H.O.B.

Latest Updated Posting: Saturday, 17-June-2007... 3:53 PM
Your Questions, Comments or Additional Information are welcomed:
Herb O. Buckland