Saturday, July 19, 2008

Visualizing Why I Hate San Francisco

You've probably already run across Wordle, the new service for generating text clouds...I figured I ought to apply it to my famous "Why I Hate San Francisco" post. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why Are We So Self-absorbed?

(image credit: Malingering)

My buddy Ben Casnocha has a post up where he speculates about whether or not today's youth are more self-absorbed than in the past. He argues that both technology and today's therapy culture may be responsible.

Here's my response:

In general, I am always suspicious of anyone who argues that human nature has changed from the good old days. Human nature doesn't change, at least on the human lifespan timescale.

The old always think the young are self-absorbed because they forget just how self-absorbed they were during their own salad days. I don't believe for a second that the Yalies of the 1800s were smaller assholes than the Yalies of the 2000s.

The main difference today is that we have enough material wealth and prosperity to allow the luxury of self-absorbtion.

Any behavior that is maladapted to survival or reproductive success is apt to be bitchslapped out of existence by Mother Nature, pronto.

Because we have such a greater margin of safety in 21st Century America than at any other time in history, more of us have the opportunity to luxuriate in the soothing balm of our own vooices.

If you want to see this principle at work, just look at the relative morality and cultural contributions of the European royal families over the past 1,000 years.

Power and material wealth don't necessarily make you a self-absorbed asshole, but without them, an asshole isn't likely to live long enough to reproduce.

Tip of the Day: To Persuade, Focus on Deviations from the Norm

If you want to change someone's behavior, should you emphasize that the desired behavior conforms to a societal norm, or that their current (undesirable) behavior deviates from a societal norm?

Fortunately, this isn't idle speculation...scientists have already uncovered the answer.

Because people often seek to define themselves based on what makes them unique, they are more attentive to the costs and benefits of associating themselves with behaviors that deviate from, rather than conform to, the perceived norm. This means that attempts to influence other people’s actions should be more successful when the message is framed in terms of diverging from, rather than conforming to, the perceived norm.

In other words, people pay more attention to deviation than conformity.

If you need someone to conform to a norm, emphasize the negatives of not conforming, not the benefits of conforming.

If you need someone to defy a norm, emphasize the postives of not conforming, not the negatives of conforming.

To wit: The majority of my readers do not send me gifts of books and money. But if you do so, you will stand out as unique and earn both my friendship and gratitude.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What is the right measure of blog engagement?

I've written a couple of posts recently on how throwaway posts often draw the greatest response, and how serious posts do not.

Several of the comments on these posts have pointed out that comments alone aren't the best measure of blog engagement.

The redoubtable Devin Reams wrote:

"Some of your deeper stuff may be more thought provoking, though. Using comments isn't the best judge. In other words, what if you said EVERYTHING there is to say and it was so great I couldn't possibly add to it (or don't want to risk embarrassment leaving a comment). Do you track number of incoming links / page views and other variables?

I doubt the "most popular" would be the same across all variables (which may or may not be obvious)."

Alex added:

"I think another problem is that people gauge the attention a post is getting by the number of reader comments. Obviously that isn't a good metric - shorter posts are easier and less intimidating to respond to.

If I read a long well written post, I either agree or disagree (to some part or the whole). If I agree I probably won't say anything, and there it is unlikely I'll spent the time on a well written rebuttal, opting to say nothing at all instead."

So I'll put it to you? What is the right measure of blog engagement?
  • Comments
  • Pageviews
  • Inbound links
  • Social bookmarks (

And it it is all of the above, is there an easy way to measure it? Seems to me that there's a business opportunity in this!