Blogging is an endurance sport. It takes a while to hit your stride, but as Deep Dish’s 4th birthday approaches, and with it, a million views and a thousand comments, I think I have a decent sense of whether it’s all been worth it. Is blogging really that rewarding? Did I waste my time on this thing? Should you start […]
CLEARANCE SALE! VANS SHOES CHEAP! I was as surprised as anyone to hear that I’d pivoted from blogging to hawking knock-off footwear on Facebook. After pulling down the scam posts and changing my password, I checked my activity log. At least three interlopers had somehow managed to access my account, one of them several years ago. Creepy, but unimaginative: they didn’t lock me out, or steal my identity, or use my password to access other sites. As far as I know, my nudes are still between me and Zuckerberg.
Then there was the second incident: I changed my Google password, immediately forgot it, and couldn’t get back in. I filled in the account recovery forms over and over, and sat there silently panicking as each robotic form rejection destroyed a tiny piece of my soul. There was no way to get in touch with a human being. With one moment of carelessness, I was sure I’d lost all my work, and years of treasured memories.
On both occasions I got lucky: it could have been much, much worse. Screwing up for a third time was probably tempting fate, so I decided it was time to actually sit down and sort out my online security…
No-one is ever forcing you to act on a recommendation, this is just another data point to factor into your decision, and more information is always better. Right?
…no. Search costs are a thing that exists. Bad information is worse than no information, so we have a responsibility to find and boost genuine signals, rather than spray out more noise. As Tyler Cowen says, giving someone your favourite book imposes an obligation on them: now they have to read it, or skim enough to convincingly pretend they read it, or at least feel guilty about not having read it.
Format, context, preference, timing: unless all these factors happen to line up, specific recommendations sound a lot like random monkey noises.
I say all of this as a prelude to the fact that I’m about to…lay a bunch of recommendations on you.
What’s the difference between Robert Galbraith and J.K. Rowling? Clearly, being a talented writer is necessary, but not sufficient. Rowling has momentum on her side. At this point, she could publish the contents of a bowl of alphabet soup, and it would still sell better than 99 per cent of novels by hopeful first-time authors.
This is a ‘no duh’ example, designed to get you nodding your head along. But momentum is everywhere, and it’s rarely in plain sight. Without being consciously aware of doing so, I’ve written about it in four domains…
The blog has entered the terrible twos! In keeping with last year’s tradition, here’s a quick status report, a little housekeeping, then a look ahead to some new projects coming down the pike. By the numbers: 22 posts published in year two. I guess that means I have to do 33 in year three? Regular traffic is up ~800 per […]
The rat’s paw moves constantly, sometimes becoming a blur as it depresses the lever over and over. Once, twice, ten times, a hundred times, five thousand times in the space of an hour. With each push, an electrode sends a jolt of electricity coursing through its tiny rodent brain. The rat will push the lever for as long as 24 hours without stopping. It won’t eat, or sleep, or make any effort to leave the confines of its stainless steel cage. Unless the men in white lab coats cut off the current, it will stimulate itself to death.
It’s 1954, and science has just stumbled upon the brain’s pleasure center. Heady days! The excited researchers repeat the experiment on monkeys, and find, again, they can reach right into the hypothalamus and light it up like a Christmas tree, transforming their subjects into blissed-out automatons. The seminal paper concludes that these results could “very likely be generalized eventually to human beings—with modifications, of course”.
Napoleon Hill was a pretty shitty human being, but you have to give him props for being perhaps the the greatest conman in history. It’s not just the sheer brazenness of the con, but that he got away with it scot-free, and continues to be revered long after his death. Think and Grow Rich, published in 1937, is still a bestseller today. It has 4.5 stars on Amazon.
None of the glowing reviewers seem to be aware that rather than soaking up the principles of the greats, curated and distilled over 20 years, they’re reading fiction cut from whole cloth by a conman whose only expertise lay in parting fools from their money.
As incredible as this is, it’s not the topic of this post. Ideas must be judged on their merits, and Think and Grow Rich is the perfect jumping-off point for exploring the positive thinking phenomenon.
Hill didn’t come up with the ‘Law of Attraction’ himself, but he perfected the archetypal self-help format: if you trace back the explosion in gurus waxing lyrical about the the power of belief, Think and Grow Rich is ground zero. Every purveyor of inspiration porn for the last 80 years—Tony Robbins, Oprah, Deepak Chopra, The Secret—has a direct lineage to this book.
It all starts with this idea: If you believe in yourself, the universe will provide. Conquer your thoughts, and you conquer the world…
I propose this general principle of travel:
If you skip the top-tier or ‘must-do’ attraction, you will usually have a way better time at a fraction of the price.
I’ve noticed this more times than I can count, but was too scared to say anything out loud in case I looked like an uncultured idiot. Privately, I think of most of these brand-name experiences as expensive box-checking exercises: been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. I wonder if we’re trapped in an Emperor’s New Clothes situation, where everyone is secretly underwhelmed, but no-one wants to defect from the agreed-upon narrative. Instead, we post up our happy snaps and loudly reassure each other how great it was…
One year ago today – with trembling fingers – I hit ‘publish’ on my first ever blog post. A squalling infant entered the world, confused and alone in a strange land. It was ugly, weird, and coated in blood and slime. I named it ‘Deep Dish’. I’m a proud parent these days, and it’s been a rewarding year. But this little brat has also kept me awake for plenty of long nights. To mark the blog’s first birthday, I thought I’d give you a look behind the scenes, as well as a sense of where things are heading from here…