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Small-Scale Question Sunday for May 26, 2024

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

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This is the small question thread, and I have a small question.

what the fuck is this? Link is a youtube timestamp, listen for about a minute and you'll get the idea. Seems AI generated to me, I guess they were just looking to pad runtime? But why do this rather than just looping the original track?

The lyrics are from this BBC article: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-68017347

"I love and enjoy what I am doing." Mr Sastha R has benefited from a boom in India's VFX industry. Not only is India's domestic film industry demanding more special effects, companies from overseas are sending work to India. For example, the dragons in the fifth season of Game of Thrones were created in Mumbai.

Streaming entertainment firms like Netflix, animated TV and film producers, and the computer games industry are all demanding more. "The VFX industry has surged due to an infusion of visual effects in almost all the entertainment sector," says Namit Malhotra, founder of Prime Focus, a giant Indian media firm which owns...

And then loops back to "Mr Sastha".

Is the explanation for why coastal areas with ocean access are consistently richer than more inland areas really as simple as "ocean access = international trade hub = money"? E.g.,

-south India vs north India

-west Europe vs east Europe

-coastal USA vs middle USA

-Japan/Korea/Taiwan vs coastal China vs inland China

Is there more to it, like say a particular path dependence in each of these regions? Are there significant exceptions (either now or historically)?

Even ignoring them being able more easily to be hubs (that is, middlemen), because shipping over water is just so enormously cheaper than by land, they're able more easily to acquire whatever resources they need at lower cost, and export likewise.

It isn't quite only coasts. Rivers matter too (hence, Chicago).

unchartedterritories.substack.com likes talking about this kind of thing.

Moving stuff by boat is a lot more efficient than moving it by land, meaning you can support more people in one place, and easily ship raw goods in and manufactured products out. Not to mention that it's easier to reinforce and defend coastal settlements from barbaric hill people in the "interior". There's often a city near a river's mouth, and another where the river becomes impassable to ocean-going boats (and there's often a portage there, if the river is still navigable on the other side). Alternatively, bridges and fords can serve the same purpose: I think London was the site of a ford, which the Romans built a bridge across. Also, I recently ran across a video about how Lewiston in Idaho is a Pacific sea port.

For the Roman empire (pre- and post-), here's a map of travel times and an ACOUP post about grain shipments, trade, and wealth equilibria.

I think Southern India had a cool bit of luck, in that if you sailed down the Red Sea and continued east out the Gulf of Aden past the Horn of Africa, you'd end up in Thiruvananthapuram. So they got Greek travelers, and Arab traders by sea (instead of Arab conquerors by land), plus two separate colonies of Jews fleeing disasters in Judea.

For east Europe, we can notice the Baltic Sea area had a different climate, too.

For China, look at the history of the Grand Canal.

For exceptions, maybe Persia and modern Switzerland might count? West Virginia is kind of the opposite of an exception.

Switzerland controlled mountain passes between Italy and Germany. Shipping by sea might be cheaper, but sailing all the way from Genoa to the mouth of the Rhine is still more expensive that travelling across the Alps to Basel and sailing down the Rhine.

Tyranny of the wagon equation.

An ox requires a certain amount of food each day. This is true whether it’s hauling trade goods, soldiers, or that food. The further you’re planning to go, the more of your weight has to go towards feeding your transport. It’s even worse for military maneuvers, since your destination is unlikely to sell you supplies.

Boats have a much, much better rate of return, reducing the cost of doing business immensely. So ocean access is like a multiplier on state capacity. At one point, Rome was importing a ridiculous percentage of its food from across the Mediterranean. In turn, that freed up labor for metallurgy and bureaucracy and all those other structural advantages.

Some rough numbers:

Efficiency of transportation. Transport has a cost, and the farther things go, the more the buyer has to pay. This is expressed as a proportion of agricultural produce consumed per mile of transportation. For human bearers and beasts of burden, that cost is 1/30. If goods are transported by cart, it's 1/60. For transport largely by boats, it's 1/300 along rivers, or 1/1500 for transport by sea (exceptionally extensive canal and river systems may come close to this as well). Most cities fall in the range between cart and river travel.

Yes, freer movement of people and goods is highly correlated with greater economic prosperity. Probably the closest thing to an absolute "law of nature" in the field of economics.

While access to trade is the main factor, Eastern Europe and the North of India and China also share particular security vulnerabilities i.e. historical risk of being invaded and then economically exploited by nomadic tribes. That said, there aren't really any major exceptions to the trade=wealth rule that come to mind; even remote inland cities that became wealthy did so by supplying some rare resource to global markets, such as Potosi in the 16th century with silver, central Asian cities acting as intermediaries in the silk trade, etc.

The security vulnerability is a great point. I wonder to what extend this affects political leanings. I recall reading that one of the more consistent differences in conservative vs liberal psychology is that zero-sum thinking is stronger in the former while positive-sum thinking is stronger in the latter.

I would imagine that if most of your interactions with the outside world come in the form of positive sum trade, then you'd be more inclined towards liberalism/xenophilia. In contrast, if most of your interactions with the outside world come in the form of security/border disputes, you'd be much less so. (Then again, island/EEZ disputes still happen plenty so maybe not.)

It's certainly true that west Europe and coastal USA are more liberal-minded than their inland neighbors, but it's difficult to tease out if this is the main driver or more a direct economic effect. Also not really sure how this well this trend holds for north vs south India or for coastal vs inland China.

The security vulnerability is a great point.

Its also true that in many parts of the world, and many times, being on the coast was a very insecure position due to coastal raiders. Despite the economic advantages, very few ancient major cities are actually located on the coast itself. The sweet spot seems to be for the nation to have a coast, but not actually place its major cities directly on it. Even Rome is about 20 miles inland.

Aren't most large ancient cities located around or near rivers because agriculture enabled a bigger population size? I'm not sure if fishing alone and trade were sufficient to support large cities at the time. How devastating were coastal raiders? I imagine a coastal city should be able to field its own navies.

They tend to have milder weather too

I'm pretty sure that's the main reason, yes. They also tend to be more touristy and may have a better lifestyle to attract the high earners.

Why do people love to use terms like "orders of magnitude" and "exponentially" these days, even when they don't apply?

The misuse of "exponentially" in particular infuriates me. I can't count the number of times I see "'exponentially' large" as if it just means the same as "really" instead of referring to specific functional relation. It's as nonsensical as saying "linearly large" and immediately indicates to me that I should probably disregard anything else said by the writer.

STEM geeks love to use those terms when they do apply, and other people learn words by exposure without necessarily learning them correctly by exposure. You can't infer "'exponential' is for when a thing is growing proportionally to it's present amount" as easily as you can misinfer "'exponential' is for when a thing is growing and it's super duper serious".

(aside: the pedantic geek in me wants to point out that "orders of magnitude" is always applicable when comparing two positive numbers in the same units; it's just not the scaling you'd go to right away when the number of orders is less than 2...)

Of course, many STEM geeks suffer from the same failure, just not with the same words. I suspect any humanities geek could properly explain how "to 'utilize' is to use a thing for something other than its intended purpose" or "to 'utilize' is to make use of a thing that would not have previously been useful" or some such subtlety of meaning that I only discovered in late adulthood, whereas grep tells me that I've written multiple papers and proposals and a dissertation during the period when I'd misinferred that "to 'utilize' is to use a thing and it's super duper serious".

Can you do "leverage" as well? It also now seems to mean "use a thing and it's super duper serious".

"Leverage" seems like a straightforward metaphor to me: "to use a thing to obtain an effect disproportionate to the input effort" (yes, yes, work is conserved; in this metaphor effort is force).

But often someone using that metaphor correctly has reason to be proud, so I can see how the popular meaning might indeed have shifted to "and we’re damn clever for having done so."

I think what it means now is “we’ve used a thing and we’re damn clever for having done so.”

Science-like, math adjacent techno-babble is currently in vogue. I have the suspicion that you may have seen this to some extent during the Moon race in the 1960s.

I distinctly remember some horrible fluff piece by, I think, Business Insider (which is the smoothest brain "professional" publication on earth) fawning over Elon Musk and his "management technique known as 'First Principles'"

It gets more cringe when you have two worlds intersect. I have a limited background in defense contracting and there's now a bunch of silicon valley types flooding into that market. I keep hearing dudes who have zero military experience talking about "accelerating the killchain." It makes me laugh, cry, and drink.

If you enjoy being pedantic, you can simply reply, "what's the exponent?".

"-0.69"

That was the best SIGBOVIK keynote.

Because they make things sound big while making the speaker sound smart.

A recent headline here was:

Government delayed [COVID] lockdowns even though it knew the virus was spreading "exponentially"

No shit, that's what viruses do. What's the doubling time? What are the current conditions? What do those data points say about the near-term future?

It's the upper class equivalent to Trump's "yuge!" or "bigly!"/"big league!"

While reading a book, do you feel emotions similar to those felt by the characters in the book? If yes, how strongly?

Not often, unless the character has a very similar outlook to mine.

Probably closer to that of the narrator?

Sometimes, it definitely depends on the authors skill and the characters situations. I think more often I remember feeling a similar way. If an author describes a character feeling cold I'll probably remember the night I slept in an uninsulated cabin with a nonfunctional stove on a cold spring night in the mountains. Probably the coldest I've ever been.

Yes, but only coincidentally. Some narratives make me feel certain emotions which the characters may or may not also be experiencing.

Yes, as a factor of relatability / maturity / descriptive ability. But if I think the narrative is immature I will consciously refuse to relate to it. Or if I just don’t want to relate to it (I think it’s harmful to feel too much emotion when it’s not beneficial to your own life). The proper use of narrative art, IMO, is to consume something which mirrors your own current problem/interest, so the art acts like an extended metaphor for you to draw from. (Hypothetically: watch 12 angry men if you are about to be on a jury or work in HR manager; watch Free Solo if you want to model a spirit for doing something daunting; watch Up to remember significance of love or to humanize your older relatives). Anything else is probably more harmful than good because it’s wasting your attention and emotions.

Maybe a modest amount if the narrative presentation and my sympathies line up with the characters' experiences. If something happens in the book that is surprising to me and the characters then I suppose we're similarly surprised, but not if it's clumsily foreshadowed but still took the characters unaware. Similarly something might happen that makes the characters angry or sad, and I could either feel sad for them, contemptuous of them, curious how they'll adjust, or bored by the whole situation.

Two questions about The Motte;

  • Is the site growing or stagnant?
  • If it is stagnant or decaying in popularity, do we have any tool or method to attract new people?

Communities like this have the problem of attracting fresh meat.

Stagnant rather than growing. Fairly sure about that one.

Feels like decay rather than stagnation, but I may be wrong.

I've been worried about the fresh-meat-pipeline since we migrated, and AFAIK so far we don't really have one beyond word of mouth. But I don't have any good proposals on how to fix it either.

But I don't havy any good proposals on how to fix it either.

Do not get me started...

We have no less than 3 posters that broke out to a wider audience, I'm already quietly seething that none of them decided on their own to promote us on any of the platforms they have access to. But it's ok, they made it big on their own, not like they owe anything to us, or anything.

So then I'm seething even more that no one whosl's running the site decided to outright bribe them to promote us. With this amount of recgniziable names hailing from here, you could easily market the place as a dojo for Substack starlets. Yeah, yeah, so it would cost some money, give me your Paypal, and I'll be happy to chip in.

And then you realize that we don't have to stop at people who came from here. You can advertise at the scores upon scores of politics / debate youtubers and streamers. These dudes are still shilling Raid Shadow Legends tier shit for chump change. We already have "invite" functionality, so you can attribute registration to specific people, and literally pay them per new user.

Man, we're not even trying.

Yeah, yeah, so it would cost some money, give me your Paypal, and I'll be happy to chip in.

Patreon link is right here. Currently it pulls in $212 / month.

Man, we're not even trying.

I think you overestimate the degree to which most of us "care" that The Motte becomes A Thing in the zeitgeist, and underestimating the level of effort it takes just to get volunteers to keep things running.

Zorba does a heroic amount of work behind the scenes with coding and feature requests and the like. On top of that, you want him to be out there hustling for new members, trying to schmooze social media darlings into promoting us, etc.? Even in a best case scenario, none of this is going to earn enough money for him to do more than pay his expenses.

As for us mods, we got lives, man. Yeah, I care about the Motte and now and then drop a link to it elsewhere, but I am not going to go try to evangelize it (not like I even have a social media following) because that is not in my skillset.

Yes, I find it sad that in a few years the Motte will probably be just another dead, has-been forum, but that is the way of the Internet. Nothing lasts forever, there is always a new thing.

I think you overestimate the degree to which most of us "care" that The Motte becomes A Thing in the zeitgeist, and underestimating the level of effort it takes just to get volunteers to keep things running.

Sorry, this did end up sounding like I'm criticizing you guys for not working enough. I know it's hard to get volunteers (source: me, promising myself every week I'll start contributeing to the ccodebase). I also don't want the Motte to become "a thing" at all. I kind of dread the idea of reddit-tier newcomers swarming in here. But I would like it to keep chugging along.

I think it would be quite interesting to map out everyone who's become a semi-public figure after starting out here (depending on size being examined, it's rather more than 3 by my count), but that's not a project I'd want to undertake without acquiescence of others and many prefer to avoid too strong of links between different parts of their online identities. As for me, I'm always happy to share posts from wherever to wherever if I see something interesting that seems worth pointing others towards, but haven't had too much time to read this site lately so am unlikely to come across the Good Posts organically. My relationship with the site as a whole has been and remains marked by years of messy Lore which I neither want to ignore nor unduly focus others on, making generic promotion a bit complicated as things go. I am working in stages on an article outlining basically the process of being useful as a writer (which will include a section discussing the role of the motte in my own path and spaces like it for others) but "when will I actually finish an article I have in the works" is always a complicated question.

It's all fair enough, I did mean it when I said you guys don't really owe us promotion, though in a similarly complicated manner, I can't stop feeling salty about it.

If it helps, you're not even the first person that comes to mind when I seethe. I can't forget listening to some DR podcast, and seeing Kulak on one of the episodes. As they chat away he mentions ymeshkout: "and my friend at The Bailey podcast..." - and there I go screaming at the monitor "have you thought about name dropping the other part of that medieval fortification, you selfish bastard!"

At the end of the day it's not a big deal, there's other ways of marketing, and like I said, we're not even trying.

in a similarly complicated manner, I can't stop feeling salty about it.

I do get that, yeah. I don't know whether it would alleviate that saltiness or intensify it to mention that I can't help but wonder, when I think of things like this, if the same specific people who made ugly allegations against me during prior tense moments here are the ones who now wonder why I'm conflicted about recommending others spend time around them. No shade to you personally—I have no idea if you were one of the ones who piled on in the least pleasant moments—but in some cases, "nothing at all" is the kindest thing I can say, and it's less selfishness than a desire to let bygones be bygones that keeps me from saying all that much. It's unfair in some ways, since the great majority of people here have always been receptive to the great majority of what I say and I made a ton of meaningful connections here, but negative experiences retain a lot of salience and some bridges remain, if not wholly burnt, certainly badly singed from all of that.

My understanding is that Kulak is one who explicitly wants to keep the different parts of his online identity more siloed, which is fair enough as it goes, I suppose.

No shade to you personally—I have no idea if you were one of the ones who piled on in the least pleasant moments

If you're referring to the Libs Of TikTok affair, I didn't pile on, but if I'm honest this is mostly due to having nuked my Reddit account by that point. I was also quite salty at that (and I believe I disclosed that). Otherwise I believe our interactions were always respectful, including on subjects we disagree vehemently about, like surrogacy (or at least I hope you recall them in a similar positive way).

In any case if part the reason you don't feel particularly inclined to promote this place is because you feel bitter after things got a bit hot, and hit too close to home one time too many, that's perfectly understandable.

On the other hand, maybe we could alleviate that with some sweet, sweet cash! Eh... eh? ;)

That was one of the moments that holds the most salience for me, yeah, alongside this from @FCfromSSC. This forum was very much the place I came into my own as a writer, which made it much more painful for me to hear how people saw me when I strayed from the anti-prog line. It's no small thing to watch a large crowd in your digital hometown, so to speak, cheer someone on as he emphasizes he wants nothing to do with you or yours, and no small thing to watch many of that same crowd go on to cheer others as they frame you as a lying agent of the Cathedral who should be banned from the space and whatnot. Many people I respect took issue with my LoTT prank; I remain uniquely disgusted with the reaction I got from this forum in a way that's not easy to shake. The shift from "my online home turf" to "just another forum I visit and post in sometimes" was a gradual one, but that settled it pretty unambiguously. And I'd be lying if I didn't look with grim satisfaction at the place others said would turn into a progressive monoculture and see that it has, despite being quiet, remained precisely the thoughtful discussion space I hoped it would be.

I have always been exactly who I claim to be, and always aimed to do exactly what I claim to be doing. Part of aiming to be honest and open in my self-presentation, though, is that it stings quite a bit when people I think should know better treat me as something I'm not, or reject me for who I am. Things get heated, yes; people don't mean quite that by it, sure; but I do remember.

You mentioned previously a concern about an attitude of "I'm going to cash in on a post from my niche hangout, and not give credit, because I'm afraid I'll get cancelled." I do think my behavior demonstrates pretty clearly that I'm not afraid of controversial associations, not even of attaching my name and career to them. I talk about rDrama in public regularly, where I'm a known regular; I go on podcasts with Richard Hanania and Alex Kaschuta and Walt Bismarck and anyone I think I can have a good chat with; I cover stories and topics sensitive enough that most won't touch them with ten-foot poles. I'll talk with anyone who will talk with me, and build alongside anyone who wants to build alongside me. But I also take very careful note of how people act when the chips are down and my back is against the wall, and when I see people place me on the enemy side of the friend/enemy distinction, I take that seriously.

It's funny, because in many senses I get along well with FC personally inasmuch as we interact; I've appreciated my interactions with you personally; I get on well with many people here and have a lot in common with many of them. In a sense, though, that's what makes it tricky: if my own experience here left me feeling burned, despite making many friendships, usually being well-received, and having a great deal in common with many here, how could I possibly recommend this place as a good conversation spot to anyone who doesn't share the dominant viewpoints here? If, every time someone gets frustrated and leaves this forum, the collective local mind sees it as an issue with that person, not crediting their critiques, what am I to think?

Unsurprisingly, I stand by my long-held critical analysis of this forum. I think it is torn between two purposes, one implicit and one explicit, and the implicit one has been winning for a very long time. Explicitly, it wants to be a respectful meeting place for people who don't share the same biases. Implicitly, it is a place for people who don't like progressives to chat about politics and culture. It works great if you want to be criticized from your right, or if you have an anti-progressive or a more niche idea to share, but people are doomed to disappointment at the gap between its implicit and its explicit purposes unless they share its biases, and if they share its biases they will only entrench those biases further.

I'm sorry to watch this forum stagnate, because after everything it still holds a special place in my heart, and out of respect to it and recognition that I already struck a blow against it once, I've refrained from encouraging people to join the space I think has broadly succeeded in the culture-building project this place envisioned (the postrat oasis on Twitter). If posts from here strike me, I'm more than happy to share them with attribution. When it's relevant, I'm more than happy to talk about this place and the role it's played in my own journey. I personally like, get on with, and respect a great many people here. And yes, of course if the users or mods explicitly want me to promote it in some form, I'm happy to take a look. But yeah, my memories of the Motte have been bittersweet for years now.

which made it much more painful for me to hear how people saw me when I strayed from the anti-prog line.

At its core this is a debate forum more than anything else, and most of the stuff you guys are talking about looks like fairly typical even-handed debate to me. I quite enjoy a lot of your more pro-prog takes, as do many people here. If how people reacted to your more liberal posts upset you, well, that's understandable. There can definitely be pile-ons here that make continued participation in the forum feel unpleasant.

That said, I think you're more partisan than you realize. Despite your very frequent throat-clearing about being an honest genuine seeker of truth, you (like the rest of us) have a very hard time truly criticizing your ingroup, or seeing it be criticized. I don't bring this up to score points or speak to the wider audience--I genuinely think you have a blind spot and am trying to convince you of this.

If your framing (essentially, If Only Buttigieg Knew) was a deliberate attempt to make your FAA post more palatable to your audience, I suppose I'll eat my words.

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That was one of the moments that holds the most salience for me, yeah, alongside this from @FCfromSSC. This forum was very much the place I came into my own as a writer, which made it much more painful for me to hear how people saw me when I strayed from the anti-prog line. It's no small thing to watch a large crowd in your digital hometown, so to speak, cheer someone on as he emphasizes he wants nothing to do with you or yours

You know, sometimes I think this place was doomed from the start, and it's very existence is a fluke stemming from the zeitgeist of a particular time and space (which itself was a fluke). The idea of getting people with fundamentally different values to sit down and talk is nice and theory, and interesting things can come out of it, but it seems sooner or later it runs into an obvious issue of the values being, in fact, fundamentally different. We naively believed that this is just a bump in the road. Some differences make us angry and it's just a question getting past the anger, other things are just a misunderstanding, and it's a question of explaining yourself better. But with fundamental differences we understand each other perfectly, and still think the other side is wrong. Any anger is a result of understanding, rather than misunderstanding, but quite often it doesn't even enter the picture. In fact, to the extent it did, I think it's the fault of the rationalist ethos.

Such is the case here. I think I understand where you're coming from, but I think you're just wrong. It is a small thing to watch a large crowd cheer someone on as he emphasizes he wants nothing to do with me and mine. I get that it's more Impactful for you, but I can't muster up more than "sorry to hear that, bro".

it stings quite a bit when people I think should know better treat me as something I'm not,

Yes. I think that sort of behavior is out of line. It can stem from a mistake, so it's possible it happened in good faith, but it should be promptly corrected when it comes out.

or reject me for who I am.

But this I don't get. It feels like a very luxurious belief to me, and I think it contradicts the very mission of this forum.

Or more than that it might even be literally impossible to avoid. My impression is that you, Chris Pratt, and whole bunch of other progs routinely practice rejecting people for who they are, except you do it in a roundabout way that comes off as insincere to people like me.

You mentioned previously a concern about an attitude of "I'm going to cash in on a post from my niche hangout, and not give credit, because I'm afraid I'll get cancelled." I do think my behavior demonstrates pretty clearly that I'm not afraid of controversial associations, not even of attaching my name and career to them.

I can explain what happened here. I wasn't trying to ascribe any motivation to you, I was just putting myself in your shoes. I am afraid of cancellation, so that's why I would try to hide my associations with this place. I'd probably have no chance to guess your actual motivations, even if I knew / remembered how you feel about this place, because that isn't how I'd react, and I don't know you well enough to guess how you parse the world.

And yes, of course if the users or mods explicitly want me to promote it in some form, I'm happy to take a look. But yeah, my memories of the Motte have been bittersweet for years now.

That's great to hear! Though I don't know if I'll ever be appointed the Director of Marketing for this place.

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messy Lore ... making generic promotion a bit complicated as things go.

Well, to be fair, you have to temper the promotion with a bit of realism about the mess, and you can't let yourself be too disappointed when people thereby dismiss any positive conclusions as Pollyanna, "must be a pony in there somewhere" optimism.

haven't had too much time to read this site lately so am unlikely to come across the Good Posts organically

This is exactly what the Quality Contributions Report is for, no? Often they're not all winners, and usually not all the winners are there, but reading those alone probably gets you at least 25% of the best posts for at most 1% of the effort.

In theory, yeah, and every time I've stopped by to read it it remains quite good, but in practice I don't actually exert that much conscious control over where I go online. I got out of the habit of reading the forum regularly and never got into the habit of reading the QC report in lieu of it. There's a lot of good when I see it, I just don't usually see it organically these days.

My impression is that Zorba et. al would rather the project die than have its mission compromised. The move was a full commitment to make it work or death. A concern beginning back at reddit where the lowest common denominator wandering in and ruining everything was a genuine one that required active management. The project is always in some precarious, delicate state of balance that requires a velvet glove.

I recall a year or two ago there was some shout outs from @ymeskhout and @TracingWoodgrains. They both have larger audiences and could do the same. Maybe they didn't see much effect. Mods are likely older and busier now which makes the idea of managing problems that come with a boom from widescale advertising unappealing.

Putting the vault on substack and having people blast that out seems like a good (safer) idea to filter out some of the troublemakers and attract more wordcels. Entropy, a bitch, etc. Before death, Kulak should put the site on blast to his Twitter followers for maximum going-out-with-a-bang witch gathering.

I recall a year or two ago there was some shout outs from @ymeskhout and @TracingWoodgrains. They both have larger audiences and could do the same. Maybe they didn't see much effect.

I reference the motte, its role in my development, and my continued participation here as appropriate and will always have a soft spot for it, but my experience here has long been a complicated one and promotion is similarly complicated. In some ways, it often threatens to stir up drama best left in the past.

Yassine has similarly complex feelings about it all, but I won't speak for him.

I don't have the opportunity to read it as regularly as I did in the past, but I think the best, most honest, and most natural way for me to shout it out is "Here's something cool I read; here's the source." Since I'm unlikely to see every post or comment here these days, I'm always happy to be tagged into things that seem particularly worth seeing.

Well, aside from me not seeing how that would compromise the mission, from what I can tell neither does Zorba.

If there's too many newcomers you can just stop advertising until things calm down.

Putting the vault on substack and having people blast that out

Yeah, that's a pretty good idea too!

I don't know what if any restrictions exist but it seems like it could be fairly straight forward to cross post the AAQCs to a Substack instead of a subdomain (vault.themotte) that isn't even linked from TheMotte or the AAQC threads.

Because (idr who, but a mod) has the insistence that the "aims" of the project can't be compromised ever in the name of anything ever. Even if it means the community dies out in the medium term. Signs of which are already evident.

And yes, opening a pipeline or advertising in any way shape or form is compromising whatsoever that "aim" is.

I think the "leadership" lucked into significantly more success from the Culture War thread offshoot that they thought they would and is under the impression that the conditions must be kept EXACTLY the same lest that delicate balance of a high quality yet high engagement community is ruined.

Its selfish, shortsighted and overly risk averse, but that's just my 2c.

Stagnant is fine; decaying is bad. The Motte is decaying. My suggestion was to stop banning good quality longtime posters just because the Nazi contingent starts diligently reporting their every plausibly inflammatory statement, but the mods seem to disagree.

Which longtime posters were banned recently? I don't even know, there used to be a weekly thread about who got banned in the last week.

All I can think of was Hiynka and he's a far-out third (fourth?) positionist calling 80% of the political spectrum progressives.

FarNearEverywhere (sort of).

Ymeskhout doesn’t really count either.

You can filter the mod log like so and look for your favorites!

he's a far-out third (fourth?) positionist calling 80% of the political spectrum progressives.

Not a bannable offense. In fact, plausibly true, given some conceptual understanding of those words and the concepts underlying many people's positions. Kinda funny that this is what comes top-of-mind when thinking about why he was banned. Really bolsters jkf's claim.

He perpetually misrepresented his opponent and refused to engage with points actuality made, and he was snotty while doing it.

His average quality of engagement was low.

He perpetually misrepresented his opponent

I read through the various comments cited for the ban, and I didn't really see much of this. I saw a more direct, "I think you're 'hiding your power level'." I don't think I've seen any clarity from the mods on whether stating such beliefs are against the rules.

refused to engage with points actuality made

Here, I think he did so in a way that was actually kind of reasonable. He openly and clearly stated that he rejected the underlying framework that led to the point being made. He gave reasons why he rejected it. This is good comment behavior, even if it really pisses off some of the people who have their entire underlying framework rejected.

he was snotty while doing it.

This is probably the most accurate claim. Poor aesthetics. Oof for a permaban.

His average quality of engagement was low.

I think any commenter that continues to engage in discussion is going to end up with a low average, depending upon how "engagement" is defined. All long comment threads, for the sake of not-taking-infinite-time result in some amount of paring down, dropping some things that feel incidental, etc. I've had plenty of experience of times when I've repeated a point that I thought was significantly not incidental, calling out that it was dropped, perhaps on grounds that they thought it was incidental, but that I thought it was not. It is only after a couple/few repeated refusals (without explanation) that you can essentially build a pattern that they're simply ignoring a point because it's inconvenient, rather than due to believing that it's incidental or because they reject the underlying framework of the point.

Kind of hilarious that even Darwin came to his defense on this topic of dropping some points in the interest of time and trying to get to the crux, considering that he was a prime example of someone who would do the precise thing I'm contrasting - repeatedly refuse to engage at all with a repeatedly-stated point that was simply inconvenient (among other bad commenter things that he did).

He would not accept that many of us are color-blind meritocracy fans and recognize the factual reality of HBD. That combo just broke his brain. Perpetually misrepresenting the views of one’s opponents when explicitly corrected is shitty and intolerable behavior.

He would avoid dealing with the concrete evidence provided for the reality and utility of IQ, and its correlation to racial groups. He would make deluded attacks on academia—where IQ is not so popular a metric—and fail to acknowledge the contradiction. This is not denying the underlying framework. It’s being retarded and illogical. Several people who don’t like HBD pointed this out at the time.

If he had been consistently retarded but polite on the IQ issue, he wouldn’t have caught the ban and his average comment quality would have been good. Civility and order break down when those with status consistently and flagrantly violate rules and norms and the mods’ hands were forced.

Personally, I don’t care whether he caught a forever ban or just a really long one. Redemption is nice when you can get it.

To be completely honest, as someone who doesn't really participate in the IQ/HBD wars, this mostly sounds like regular petty whining that all sorts of people have lists of for their pet issues. When I've looked at the actual comments people cite for their similar claims, my statements hold.

Well lots of people, including the mods, saw it differently.

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I don't think I've seen any clarity from the mods on whether stating such beliefs are against the rules.

Implying someone is "hiding their power level" (i.e. concealing their true beliefs) is not in itself cause for a ban. It is, once again, more about tone (how you say it) than about the specific accusation. Are you trying to engage someone or are you just trying to "call them out" or bait them into flaming back?

Once more: Hlynka's ban wasn't any one post (even if it was one post to which his permaban was eventually attached). It was a pattern of behavior going back years in which he would continually behave in an antagonistic manner, we would tell him to please stop doing that, and he would (sometimes explicitly) tell us that he was not going to stop doing that because he thought his principles and how he thought the Motte should be run were more important than Zorba's policies or our wishes. And you know, fair enough. In a sense I respect that he stood on his principles. But he did so knowing we were going to ban him, because we told him we were going to ban him if he didn't stop flagrantly violating the rules and all but thumbing his nose at us. In his calmer moments he would even tell us that he understood why we kept modding him (but that he wasn't going to stop doing what he was doing).

A long term good poster and someone with a lot of respect in the community absolutely refused to abide by the rules. Eventually, after many, many bans of escalating severity and pleading with him to knock it off or go touch grass, he got banned for good because we were tired of this dance (and of people asking us why Hlynka got to get away with so much).

Hlynka committed "Suicide by janny."

Not a bannable offense.

Indeed not, but deciding that rules are beneath you and that Charity requires too much effort, and then acting on that belief, is. My understanding is that Hlynka was neither surprised by nor in disagreement with his ban.

Hlynka was neither surprised by nor in disagreement with his ban.

That doesn't mean that it was good for the state of the community.

It's not clear how not banning him would be good for the community either. I'm not sure "good for the community" is on the table.

I miss him badly, and it's absurd to me that he's gone and I'm a mod. I originally wrote the above when I was expecting to be banned myself in relatively short order, and conversations with Hlynka fundamentally changed my perspective for the better.

It's usually pretty clear which users are heading for a ban, and I've been trying for a while now to find ways to engage with them constructively to try to stop that from happening, on the theory that the right conversation might be able to turn things around for them the way it did for me. Sometimes it sorta-kinda works. Sometimes it doesn't; I'm still frustrated that I never got to finish my arguments with fuckduck9000. In any case, the universal constant is that no one is happy with the results.

It's usually pretty clear which users are heading for a ban

Indeed -- and if nobody on the mod team is prepared to consider the reason that long-time users are ending up in this downward spiral, it will pick up steam until the place is of no interest to anyone.

I think it's a separate issue at work, but on the other side of the aisle it might be worth considering that the new scene seems to have driven off darwin -- so attracting new posters of diverse viewpoints is probably a non-starter without some serious changes made.

So what do you think we should have done about Hylnka? Honest question, because we warned (and warned and warned and warned and warned and warned and warned and warned and warned and warned ....) him, going back to the old subreddit, giving him far more chances after multiple bans than almost anyone else in the history of the Motte has ever been given. And we took a lot of flack for that (because as much as you may like and miss him, and like @FCfromSSC, I really liked him and really, really wanted him to stop doing things requiring us to ban him also), he was equally hated by many, and a lot of people thought (with some justification) that he was getting away with way too much that no one else would get away with. So should we have just let him keep going forever after telling him, explicitly, multiple times, "If you keep doing this, we are going to have to ban you, we don't want to do that, stop doing this pretty please?"

Yes, banning Hylnka was (IMO) a loss for the community. I also don't see what other choice we had.

Indeed -- and if nobody on the mod team is prepared to consider the reason that long-time users are ending up in this downward spiral, it will pick up steam until the place is of no interest to anyone.

I just linked my best assessment of the reason. What's yours? What's wrong and what should we do about it?

I think it's a separate issue at work, but on the other side of the aisle it might be worth considering that the new scene seems to have driven off darwin -- so attracting new posters of diverse viewpoints is probably a non-starter without some serious changes made.

I'm on record arguing at length that Darwin was one of the worst bad actors this community has ever had, and one of the conditions I gave for joining the mod team was that I'd never be asked to mod him or to be involved in mod decisions about him in any way. Why do you think he left? More generally, what are the serious changes you think should be made?

How has your perspectrve changed for the better?

He forced me to confront the hate in my heart, and reminded me that it is my own responsibility to reject it rather than embracing it. He did this in a way that probably no one else, here or in real life, could have done. That's about the best, shortest description I can provide across the inferential gap.

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Really bolsters jkf's claim.

Particularly considering the source...

The mods have always had the problem that their number one overarching goal is to minimize shade, never to maximize light. Thus the steady stream of bans for many of the best contributors starting from the old reddit days.

Depends what you consider "best contributors." A lot of the best contributors are also the spiciest ones - i.e., the ones who write long polemics about how their outgroup absolutely sucks donkey balls. And people who share their feelings about that outgroup stand up and cheer, and get very upset that someone who writes so eloquently about how their hated outgroup sucks donkey balls gets banned. But the thing about those people is that it's usually not the essays about their outgroup sucking donkey balls that gets them banned (because they take great care to write those in a Motte-appropriate fashion). It's the fact that their seething hatred of their outgroup and anyone who would defend them leaks everywhere, so while the sucking-donkey-balls essays get AAQCs, their snippy, condescending, and antagonistic posts directed at people who disagree with them eventually get them banned.

Now if you think we should just let people who write really good donkey-ball-sucking polemics get a pass for insulting everyone they disagree with right and left, that would be one way to "maximize light." But it would also maximize heat.

As discussion of controversial issues has been increasingly allowed on Twitter, and as Reddit has started to very quietly pull back on moderation (a lot of stuff on RedScarePod would have gotten the sub’s mods harangued by admins years ago) while trying to make itself profitable, the need for a separate forum has diminished.

As a relatively new user I made the jump to start frequenting the motte because the discussion at my former haunts had become increasingly shrill and monocultural. Moderation might be a little more hands off, but I see no such trend towards deeper and thoughtful discussion on the wider web.

I notice that Scott isn't including it on his list of affiliated sites.

I would be surprised if he did, given what he said here about how having any official ties to the culture war thread upended his whole life https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/02/22/rip-culture-war-thread/

Weird timing, because while it's not as major as listing it as an affiliated site, Scott actually just included a link to a motte post in his May links post (#38, second link)... except it's a link to an old motte post back on reddit, so I suspect not much traffic will end up here as a result.

Fascinating rereading that post (I think that post was my introduction to the sub) and seeing all the people quoted who are still posting here semi-frequently.

My impression of TheMotte is that drive-by and flippant dismissive comments are discouraged. This comment, I thought, was an example of that, because it dismisses someone's personal report as "made up", without offering any substantial commentary. The commenter could have as well as written in a non-sophisticated fashion saying "This guy is lying, and I don't believe him [and so I can evade commenting on the content of the post]" - which is about as flippant as a comment to belong on TheMotte.

I reported that comment 2 days ago, but it didn't seem to have caught any moderator's attention, which is making me think that my appraisal of the quality of discussion here is probably off the mark? Mods, what do you think?

The only point I can think of is this:

Moderation is very much driven by user sentiment. Feel free to report comments or message the mods with your thoughts.

That comment had 7 upvotes as of this writing, so obvious a substantial amount of users feel that such flippant dismissal is warranted. The real question is: are such flippant sentiments encouraged in this community? Or are they to be discouraged, thus encouraging members to be more thoughtful?

  • -19

Whether the initial comment is warranted or not, this kind of petty call out shit flinging never is.

I personally think it's fine to be flatly dismissive of something a third party (who isn't even part of the discussion) said.

The commenter could have as well as written in a non-sophisticated fashion saying "This guy is lying, and I don't believe him [and so I can evade commenting on the content of the post]"

"This guy is lying and I don't believe him" isn't ideal. Better to say why you think they're lying and you don't believe them. On the other hand, the post you linked to did in fact communicate why they found the quote unbelievable: it's a completely unverifiable anecdote written in a style very similar to an /r/thathappened post. Now, one could argue that this is still not ideal, because some people might not understand what /r/thathappened is or what it means for a text to have the /r/thathappened nature, but at some point demanding effort and rigor grows counterproductive to our purpose of enabling good conversation.

So, what's the actual disagreement here? Are you unfamiliar with /r/thathappened, and so don't understand the reference? If so, why not ask for clarification? Are you familiar with the /r/thathappened nature, but think it doesn't apply here? If so, why not offer an argument as to why you think the quote is plausible, or what you're drawing from it that others are missing?

It takes two to tango. You offered a link with a low-effort one-sentence description, something we generally frown on here. The replies you got were people who were unimpressed and uninterested, stating that they think the text lacks credibility and explaining succinctly why. You responded with specific quotes, again posted with a minimum of effort, and again, people were unimpressed, because the quotes in question seem even more incredulous than the text as a whole. You reported them for antagonism, but my understanding as a mod is that our standards for charity mainly apply to the people you're actually talking to here, and less so to people somewhere else that we are talking about. We ask that people not be dismissive of the arguments presented to them here, but you have yet to actually present an argument in that thread, just a link to some random other guy's argument, presented with what appears to be a shrug. The comments you've received, even pre-edit, were more effortful than what you offered, and your response was to report them and then start a new thread complaining about the lack of moderation.

All this to say, the comment you reported was by no means AAQC material, but did in fact appear to be a reasonable comment, containing both an opinion and an explanation for the reasoning behind that opinion. It could have been better (and now certainly is), but it doesn't seem to me that your complaint is well-founded. That's my opinion, anyway. I'm happy to discuss it further if you like.

(modhatted to verify that I am, in fact, a mod, since a response from the mods seems to be what you were looking for.)

That quote is more than a little silly. I doubt its factual accuracy. Dismissing it as fiction is just the right call here.

I absolutely second the "that happened" comment. The quote was just strange

Sure; the point of me writing the above, however, is not to "seek support in numbers" of that specific post. After all most people can still be wrong -- indeed, the person from which that quote comes says that everybody has got it "180 degrees wrong"! -- thus if 10 more SteveKirk's or TIRM's were to reply writing the same corroborating an opinion thus creating this "user sentiment", it wouldn't change the essence of what is being asked, which is: what to expect (from moderators) about post quality here, with clarification on how exactly they are appraising my specific report of that comment (if they allowed it without warning, what were they thinking?).

Put simplistically (for maximum effect): is poor post quality allowed/ encouraged if more people agree with (upvote) it?

I normally wouldn't jump in here but ... I'm literally that guy.

Almost all of my comments are effortful. Look at my post history. I've had two 1-day bans which I literally pre-called and 100% agree with (I got personal, which was wrong).

If you're looking for 100% adherence to only effort posts, you're inviting mods to over police everything. It's interesting, there was another top level post not too long ago bemoaing how everything here is turning into essay-length screeds. Balance matters.


EDIT: I updated the target comment. And now I'm updating this one. Effort posts all around.

EDIT: I updated the target comment. And now I'm updating this one. Effort posts all around.

Thank you for putting in the effort to expand on your comment. However, while it may now qualify to be an "effort post," nothing fundamentally has changed in regards to the post quality itself. Your new comment simply has used more words to express the same sentiment. Not only are you passing your intuitive opinion as fact, but you also clearly state that you cannot--and will not--support it with any cogent arguments that does not fallback to intuitive feelings, as your own words reveal ("The fact of the matter (that I can't prove is fact but is, yet, still obvious and factual) is that [..]").

And so my question to the mods in the OP still remains: are such drive-by and flippant dismissive comments (no matter how many words they are adorned with) encouraged or discouraged regardless of "user sentiment"?

In my updated comment I also wrote:

People don't need another snake oil salesman to sell them on bullshit like mindfulness and detachment. The unavoidable truth is that much of life is either boring, or frustrating, or unfair, or just random, or sort of unsatisfying. Trying to change those basics facts is foolhardy. Dealing with them is the mission of religion, philosophy, psychedelics, what have you. But the one guaranteed thing not to work is "just ... let go."

Yes, this is an editorial argument that isn't about parsing facts but my own opinions about certain topics.

Does this not qualify as effortful under your rubric?

Does this not qualify as effortful under your rubric?

Your edited comment indeed took effort (as in, mental exertion, by virtue of the words used alone) to write, but it still does not meet the quality bar, because it does not at all address the comment (supermarket anecdote by the author) you were responding to nor does it explain why you intuitively feel that the author's personal anecdote in the supermarket is a lie or that it never happened (else, why suggest it be coming from /r/thathappened?).

And so my question to the mods in the OP still remains: are such drive-by and flippant dismissive comments (no matter how many words they are effortfully adorned with) encouraged or discouraged regardless of "user sentiment"?

  • -10

Cool. Seems like we agree.

In case you have not noticed, we've been disagreeing all along.

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Ok what is the adjusted risk of opening a business? Adjusted for competence that is.

It's more or less a truism that most businesses fail (to break even, forget survive). But most people would probably fail at getting STEM degree as well.

What is the risk for someone like me with a relatively high IQ, high conscientiousness, lack of emotion or lack of any retarded world models, fairly trustable person like me?

I've been thinking this because having met some unsuccessful entrepreneurs, I wouldn't trust them to manage a microwave, if that is my competition, then I might actually not be as doomed to the wage slave life as I think.

The successful ones I met are a better group on average, but not the entire group!

Of course ik ik it depends on a thousand factors, but let's just focus on this now. The average business owner is.... Average!

I was a single digit employee number at my current gig, now very successful by any stretch of the imagination.

Competence is critical. Like you, most failed entrepreneurs I've met are idiots. I've also seen some semi-successful ones that aren't super hard-working but compensate with some light grift and charisma.

I think if you have:

  • A true runway to spend what you need on supplies/marketing/living for a whole year
  • Some sort of revenue lined up to start
  • A comprehensive plan and/or are doing something through a franchise
  • The qualities to manage the number of people you want to have the business grow to (EX: You want to run a 7 person coffee shop, you should have the EQ to manage that many people)

You can be successful. Securing funding and taking advantage of luck are the keys, IMO.

Are you considering any business plan?

There's no such category of thing as "opening a business." That description contains stuff that runs the gamet from Buying A Job like opening a real estate agency or a plumbing company, to startup entrepreneurship like trying to start a company around a new innovation, to entering a competitive field like opening a restaurant. Those are all going to have different expectations and definitions for success and failure.

I think a smart person can be fairly certain of success running a low end business if they can acquire the capital on terms that aren't crippling. But even an extremely intelligent person isn't going to be guaranteed to set the world on fire running a hedge fund or opening a nightclub in NYC.

Most successful (as in "able to make a living", not in "super-rich") businessmen I know personally started a business because they were forced to by the circumstances. In one case a classmate of mine lost both his parents soon after graduating high school and it was literally a choice between risking everything and literal poverty.

On the other hand, I know several people who tried to start a business carefully and without taking unnecessary risks and it never took off.

GROUP 1: ALL OF THE BUSINESS ACTIVITIES.

You have to realize that you're going to be doing EVERY job in the business for at least a while. That means:

  1. Sales and marketing
  2. Product building or service delivery (depending on if you are a product or service company)
  3. Operations (finance, accounting, paperwork etc.)

If you are one person company, you can do all of these things as you gradually get better and, eventually, probably have the cashflow to outsource number 3. If you add true partners (think in the law firm sense) you can scale a little better than linearly this way and eventually have specializations across partners (one is the Rainmaker, the other is the genius Dev etc.)

So, that leads to the first big questions: are you any good at ALL of these? If the answer is "I think so," you're probably going to have a rude awakening. If the answer is "I don't like to do X" you're going to fail. If the answer is "I have some experience in all of these things, and I believe I am basically competent" - congratulations, you probably are at about at 50/50 shot.

GROUP 2: TIMELINES AND CASH CONVERSION

How long can you afford to not make any money?

You answer needs to be "at least six months" If you don't have six months of your living expenses ON HAND RIGHT NOW LITERALLY WHILE READING THIS SENTENCE, you won't necessarily fail, but you're risking a big part of your financial health. To be fair - lots of people have done that at succeeded, I would just say you need to know that going in in order to be able to handle the stress.

Metrics you need to understand and track:

What's the full length of your sales cycle from prospect identification to close? (If you don't know what those terms are ... you aren't ready)

What payment terms are you offering? Net 30,60,90?

Are you spending money upfront on inventory? Digital marketing? Business trips to meet clients or customers? If so, when, and how much?

Those are the basic components of your cash conversion cycle. So now, big question number 2:

Do you have enough money to survive your first full cash conversion cycle and will the revenue be large enough to support yourself?

If the answer to that is "No" ... you're not necessarily sunk. You just have to raise outside capital. A good way to do that is to build a deck that gives the impression you are at least aware of the idea above. But, decks should primarily focus on product-market fit and theory of the product first.


Smart people aren't any better at business than dumb people. There is no skill called "business." Business School (MBAs) are accounting, fundraising, and basic systems thinking courses. They don't teach any business at business schools because it's impossible to teach business all you can do is do business (to be a little less trite: Business school lacks something very important: customers or clients...Every "market analysis" or "strategy development" is done with a rational agent stand-in for a customer segment. This is like war-gamming against an adversary who does ONLY the basics of infantry maneuver).

So, what's going to happen is, you're going to spend 6 - 12 months of your money or someone else's money to see if you're any good at business-ing. If you this post is full of things you don't understand, you'll probably fail. If you totally already get everything i'm writing, you'll still probably fail. If you've already raised $3m in pre-seed funding - you've already failed because you probably won't be able to keep your valuation increasing in later rounds and your VCs are going to push you to capture market at unsustainable customer acquisition costs, you'll begin to fudge some numbers, and end up bunkies with SBF.

They don't teach any business at business schools because it's impossible to teach business all you can do is do business

They do teach you business at business schools, but they don't teach you to start one literally from scratch, since a business that you start from scratch is in 99% of the cases either a lifestyle business or a startup; the former is irrelevant (since most MBA graduates expect to be paradropped into a management position in an existing company) and no one has a teachable theory of how the latter works.

Don't make the mistake of thinking management == business.

I'm actually fan of disciplined and standardized management. I like that a lot of MBA grads are kind of robots like that - it creates more standardization and predictability across public markets.

But I've seen some awful-hilarious situations in which a McKinsey style cyborg thinks they can "Start a Business" because of all of their wonderful management experience and quickly realizes (or doesn't) that .... they always already had an organization to manage. Operating without that org was impossible.

These people are systems operators. Again, it's a skill I greatly admire (especially at scale and complexity. I've often wondered what it would be like to be a shipping executive, for instance) --- But it isn't "business" in the sense of determining what to bring to a market, what market need your offering solves, how to price it, how to sell it, how to appeal to customers etc. etc.

I can meet you half way and maybe rephrase "business" to "entrepreneurship" -- but that just risks making my point even more obvious. Very few schools even attempt to "teach" entrepreneurship and those that do are often the butt of jokes - deservedly so.

But I've seen some awful-hilarious situations in which a McKinsey style cyborg thinks they can "Start a Business" because of all of their wonderful management experience and quickly realizes (or doesn't) that .... they always already had an organization to manage. Operating without that org was impossible.

In truth though, and I say this as someone with no love for management consultants, a lot of very successful businesses are started by ex-MBB. Is that because they’re typically smart, ambitious and well-connected, or because they’re successful MBB consultants? That’s harder to say.

Definitely a chicken and the egg problem. Winners are gonna win, and they often do winner stuff (i.e. McKinsey, Harvard MBA) even when they don't necessarily need it.

A lot of my dyspeptic feedback here is derived from a deep hatred for the PMC types who come out of these kind of backgrounds. It's not that everyone from McKinsey is bad. In fact, I'd say that most aren't. But there is an often over-represented few who collect all the merit badges (Ivy education, McKinsey, maybe a stint in government) and sort of skip-level-up to real positions of influence ... to totally shit the bed when it matters. My current poster child for this is one Tony Blinken.

I don't care if a bunch of McKinsey dudes get together, raise capital, and then set that cash on fire trying to do Uber for Cats or whatever. I do care when they somehow get hired at an already growing company (or an established one) and then try to continue to coast on buzzwords and handshakeful-ness while failing to lead and make decisions. They'll probably end up failing upwards to do it all again. This is the true curse of the PMC. They are parasites who often face little to no consequences while those they "manage" can experience real career setback and failure.

Private Equity types have, at least, a very cut and dry success rubric. They often are also more transparent with who they are and what they're trying to do. PE as a career is much more results oriented and its hard to coast by with just the right merit badges.

Somewhere at McKinsey, however, the person who was flying high on the DEI accounts for the past several years is now "strategically pivoting" to a role as an "expert" in AI ... or AI ethics / alignment / effective altru-shitism. And that is a $500k / yr parasite.

One of the biggest factors is clearly going to be the type of business you want to start. Setting up a McDonald’s franchise is going to require a significant amount of work and dedication but is likely to have a reasonably high chance of making you rich.

A traditional VC backed software startup might have higher potential upside but its sharpe ratio is pretty likely to be considerably lower.

I would like to share essays I write to "move past [my potentially] shady thinking and test [my] ideas in a court of people who don't all share the same biases". I don't think they merit a standalone post because they're not that good.

Is there a best, catch-all thread to post these in? SSQS would be the best imo, with the simple questions "thoughts on my writing?". Most of the essays don't fit in any of the other threads.

I wonder if this merits another weekly thread ("Scribes' Sharing Saturday"—thanks, ChatGPT!) to allow people to share their writings/more-refined thoughts that don't belong in any of the other threads?

I think any long form writing like that is fine to post in the Culture War thread, and that's probably where you'll get the most serious responses if you want some critical analysis of your reasoning skills. I think this community is tight enough we don't need to be rigid about "ONLY culture war in the culture war thread!!"

I've actually had similar thoughts as well. I wish there was a way to post a "here's an interesting topic/piece of news" without spamming up the forum.

If it’s a non-culture-war essay post the best place is as a top level thread!

So Morgan Spurlock has died of cancer. I don't mean to "speak ill of the dead" but is it not widely known that his biggest splash, namely the documentary Supersize Me, was based on fudged data and is considered fraudulent? Probably some obits include this, but the few articles I read were all just praise. I certainly didn't wish the man ill and I am sorry for his family.

I guess it's bad form to criticize people when they've died relatively young of a horrible disease. I just think of the legions of people who continue buy into popular pseudo-smarties like Spurlock and Malcolm Gladwell and whoever is currently big on TED, and it seems wrong to just ignore the shoddy thinking.

I've seen similar sentiment elsewhere, and I think a lot of it is misplaced.

When it comes to non-fiction, there is a gamut running from purely informational/educational to purely entertainment, with everything falling somewhere between the two. If your goal is to simply spread knowledge, you will submit a paper to a journal; if your goal is to entertain, then you are probably making a video. Spurlock did the latter - Supersize Me is primarily an entertainment product, and I would say it succeeds. He takes quite a dry prospect - eating Mcdonalds for every meal - and turns it into an entertaining documentary. Who cares if it isn't all true? It's not really designed for that. If Spurlock wanted to prove something about Mcdonalds, he would have done nutritional studies and submitted articles.

Someone like Gladwell is deserving of scorn, because he positions himself on the educate/inform side, while also spreading a ton of bs.

Who cares if it isn't true?

Arguably anyone with half a working brain.

Entertainment sure, be entertaining. Are you not entertained? I get it But that's pap for amusement. Don't call it science and be bullshit. That's falsity. That's bullshit. That's lying to be edgy. Fuck that.

I think anyone with half a working brain could already work out that eating Mcdonalds everyday for a month won't prove anything about the food. I'm not sure Spurlock ever called it science either

You may be right, of course. And maybe he didn't use the word science. That plus my reply was probably unduly aggressive, mainly because I was in a state of disarray for reasons unrelated. Here a day later I apologize for my rudeness, but I stand by the suggestion that Spurlock's docko was deceptively portrayed as at least a type of empirical analysis, similar to the Mythbusters show where a question is asked, things happen that are entertaining and seem to address the question, and the question is answered--except with Spurlock the question was only asked to provide buildup to his already-decided conclusion.

If the rest of the world assumed as you do that Spurlock was just an entertainer and should not have been taken to have really proven or even set out to have proven anything, I might be fine. But his documentary is shown in schools, by the same teachers who show TED talks about power poses and preach Fake it till ya Make it. It doesn't sit well with me.

Can you give evidence for fudged data? The linked article's grievances seem minor, and mostly related to his book.

I obviously don't have his data sets, but essentially he was drinking while in the McDonald's diet (he admitted this later) and far exaggerating what would be a legitimate experiment. Here is an article posted after his death that is critical. There are apparently many more critiques coming out than when I originally posted.

Even putting aside fudged data, I struggle to see what the point of Supersize Me was, other than being an anti-corporate applause light. Trying to prove that you can't live healthily on McDonalds alone is arguing against a point pretty much no one made (I know, the documentary grasps at straw to try to show otherwise, but come on). And even if someone makes it, it would have been a lot better an argument if he wasn't making up rules or making decisions during his "experiment" to guarantee he got the result he wanted. McDonalds had salads already at that time, but of course he had to get burgers all the time. Yes, sure, people don't go to McDonalds for salad, but what was his point again? Him proving that people often don't make great decisions when it comes to their nutrition wouldn't please his audience as much as "proving" giant corporations are making it impossible to eat healthy.

The point wasn’t just anti-corporate, it was anti-marketing. It’s in the name. McDonalds cashiers would ask, “Would you like to supersize that?” to upsell. People who can’t say no and people with weak personal boundaries were (perceived as) getting fatter than they would have anyway. It appealed to defending less able people against attacks.

Remember the viral scissor question from a while back, “In front of you appears red and blue button. If more than 50% of the people presses the red button, everybody who pressed the blue button dies.” A lot of people defended pressing the blue button because even if they themselves thought it smarter to press the red button, they’d press blue in case other people, possibly within their circle of friends, were tricked into pressing blue. They were trying to be heroes.

And it “worked”: one effect of the film was the end of the supersizing upselling, and eventually the end of the supersize option.

end of the supersizing upselling, and eventually the end of the supersize option.

In name only. Every fast food place that offered one (off the top of my head, I think Burger King had "King" Size, Wendy's had "Biggie" size) simply shifted their size names up one, so what was once the "Supersize" was now just called a "large", the old "large" became "medium", and so on. You'll notice now when you order a meal from McDonalds without specifying size (the posted prices/images/calories are all for medium) they usually ask if you want "Medium or Large"; with the default medium being the old large, this is essentially asking the same thing as "do you want to supersize".

The Lotteria five patty burger is certainly a thing to behold.

People who can’t say no and people with weak personal boundaries were (perceived as) getting fatter than they would have anyway

Yeah, but... Is that proven by the main stunt of the movie?

"Eating nothing but McDonalds for a month" is just for grabbing attention and doesn't contribute to any of the serious points that could be made regarding the fast food industry.

It wasn't meant to prove, it was made to convince.

And when I find out that someone attempted to deceive me to attempt to convince me, it prejudices me against what they're trying to convince me of.