Saturday, June 14, 2008

Why Do Throwaway Posts Get The Most Response? (Hint, it's all about the hate!)

One of the great mysteries of blogging is the fact that throwaway posts that take about 5 minutes to write attract as much or more attention as carefully composed essays.

Most recently, this throwaway about the sex life of Wellesley girls (which let me use one of my favorite post titles, "Geek Girls Are Easy") amazed me by landing successively in Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution and from there, the Atlantic Monthly via Matt Yglesias.

Here's the post in Marginal Revolution, and the follow-up on Matt's blog.

This isn't the first time this has happened. Here's a quick review of my most popular posts from the past year, measured by number of comments:

1) Does Racism Against Asians Count? (24 comments)
I dashed this post off quickly in about 15 minutes, in reaction to Rosie O'Donnell's hypocrisy in being willing to cry "Homophobe!" at the drop of a hat while only grudgingly apologizing for her racist "ching chong" speech.

Lesson? Apparently, Asians are heavy blog readers.

I will note that some of my comment replies actually took longer to write than the original post!

2) Hello T-Mobile Customer Support! (17 comments)
Another quickie, written in response to a problem I was having with T-Mobile customer support. The idea was to blackmail them into fixing the problem. Mission accomplished.

Lesson? When someone is pissed at T-Mobile, they like finding people who share their feelings.

3) A Modest Proposal to Solve Poverty (12 comments)
This was a well-thought-out post. The idea came to me while running on the treadmill at the gym, and I think I fleshed it out pretty well. It also tackles a pretty audacious topic.

Lesson? I really need to follow up with additional posts that solve the problems of racism, globalization, political repression, and global warming.

4) Paying Your Dues--Fact or Crap? (9 comments)
This wasn't even a post originally, just a comment on my friend Penelope's blog. Apparently it struck some kind of a nerve.

Lesson? Maybe I should piggyback on other people's blogs more often. If *I'm* compelled to comment on a topic, others probably are too.

5) The Problem With Religion (9 comments)
This was one of my longest posts. I'd been talking about writing a piece on the topic for over a year, and I'd been saving up bookmarks and thoughts for nearly that entire time. Plus, the topic of religion is incredibly hot, given the success of the aggressive atheism of Dawkins and Hitchens.

When I finally wrote the essay, I spent more time on it than any other post I'd written. Add in all the think time, and it probably consumed about 30-40 hours.

And while I got some great reactions in the comments, it really didn't catch fire.

That's especially true when you compare it to my all-time most popular post, Why I Hate San Francisco, which is still drawing comments years after it was first written (in about 10 minutes).

On the other hand, at least it did better than my humorous comparison of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall. I thought this one was a sure winner, combining a cool Photoshop job (Obama as Optimus Prime, Hillary as Megatron) with *the* hottest topic of the year, published right before Super Tuesday.

I'm still smarting over the fact that this one didn't take off (can you tell?).

Bottom line: While my carefully reasoned essays on serious topics draw a good response, my most popular posts tend to quickly written screeds against things that outrage me.

In my corner of the blogosphere, it seems like snarky venom beats serious contemplation and positivity hands down, especially when you consider the time investment. In other words, if I really want to jack up blog traffic, I should start "Stuff Yellow People Like."

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Best Solution To Sleepiness? Take A Nap!

As you know, I'm obsessed with sleep. When people ask me, "How would your life change if you suddenly became a billionaire," I always answer, "I'd build my own indoor basketball court, and I'd take a nap every day."

It turns out that science agrees. Loughborough University researchers compared three methods of fighting 3:30 PM sleepiness: Sleep in an extra 90 minutes, take a 20-minute nap at 2:30, and drink two cups of coffee at 2.

Control volunteers fell asleep in 9 minutes. Those that slept in fell asleep in 10 minutes. Caffeine users fell asleep in 12 minutes. But nappers took 18 minutes, or double the time, to fall asleep.

(Side note: the "how long to fall asleep in a dark room" is a classic test. My friend Maie underwent the test at Stanford's sleep research labs, and they said she fell asleep faster than any other research subject they'd ever studied. Maie averaged about 3 hours of sleep per night)

Alas, the researchers noted that even though napping was the most effective technique by a wide margin, caffeine is still probably the treatment of choice:

Anderson said that while napping is the clear winner in combating afternoon drowsiness, caffeine is probably a more socially acceptable alternative. "Napping is seen as some kind of laziness," she said, "or something associated with old people."

What rot. Who's up for a siesta?

(hat tip to BoingBoing)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wacky Business of the Week: De Sade Consulting

Most of the time, if you have a nasty job to do, you have to pay someone well to do it. Garbagemen are very well paid. So are plumbers.
There is, however, one exception.
As we've recently seen, plenty of wealthy professional men seem willing to pay dominatrices to humiliate them (something the men charge dearly for in their professional lives.)
Why not combine work and pleasure in a profitable way?
De Sade Consulting would tackle the most difficult and unpleasant consulting jobs. Messy reengineering project? Hideously complicated discounted cash flow analysis? Never fear, just call in DSC, and soon our harsh mistresses will have our, consultants delivering the answer at whip-point.
I can see the advertising already: "Why pay for McKinsey, when you can hire a McKinsey partner through De Sade Consulting at half the price?"
And, since DSC would be raking in the bucks from clients on both sides of the equation, it would be wildly profitable, with *negative* compensation costs.
Anyone want to try to start this?
(hat tip to Jackie Danicki for sparking this latest round of madness)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Yet Another Reason To Hate "Sex And The City": HERPES

The New York City Health Department reports that 26% of adult New Yorkers have genital herpes.

Some things are so perfect on their own, no punchline is required.