Complete 2011 Roundup

This entry is part 5 of 17 in the series Annual Roundups
Time for another roundup. It’s been, ahem, an interesting year, to say the least.  I’ll do a numbers portrait and some narrative highlights for those of you who have been reading long enough to be interested in the meta-story of this blog as a piece of ongoing performance art. For those who don’t care, skip to the end for the complete list of links to 2011 posts. Should make for some good marathon reading for those of you who like to do that sort of thing.

Here we go.

The Numbers

It was a bit of a slump year in terms of number of posts. I had 35 posts, where I had 47 posts in 201059 in 200993 in 2008 and 50 in 2007 (which was a half year, since I started in July).

But the apparent steady decline in number of posts is misleading because the average word count, as well as the frequency of ultra-long epic posts, has been increasing. In fact, I set a personal record this year with an 8000+ word epic post (A Brief History of the Corporation). In a way, ribbonfarm is turning into a series of long posts (2500-4000 words, about the length of a New Yorker feature) punctuated by ridiculously long epic-length posts (6000+ words).

Commenting activity has also been steadily increasing, and along with it, my own comment word-count in response. Of the all-time top 10 posts in terms of number of comments, 7 have been from this year. I am actually starting to do some of my best writing in the comments sections of fertile posts rather than in the posts themselves.

I think what’s happening is that hidden themes (illegible even, or perhaps especially, to me) that have been developing for 4 years have started cohering, leading to longer, fewer posts. There is also significantly more coupling among posts now, so the body of writing is getting more integrated, though it will never cohere into something like a book. I have some thoughts on making this spaghetti bowl more navigable that I’ll be trying out next year.

This trend can’t continue indefinitely of course, otherwise I’ll be at an average of 10,000 words and an epic-peak length of 20,000 words by 2015. I am quite curious about when and how the pattern will change. Probably wrapping up the Gervais Principle series early next year, and putting it out in eBook form, will be the cathartic event necessary for me to switch into a new writing gear, with a frequency and length reset.  We’ll find out.

There was also a lot of other action in 2011. I put out my first book, Tempo and booted up the associated tempobook blog (which is beginning to acquire a recognizable personality, distinct from ribbonfarm), rebooted my E 2.0 blogging at Information Week, started a new blog on Forbes and continued the Be Slightly Evil newsletter.

Narrative Highlights

In terms of narrative highlights, I got Slashdotted for the third time in my blogging career (for my Forbes post The Rise of Developeronomics). That sort of milestone is always nice.

There was also that major road-trip across the country in the summer (6 weeks, 8000 miles) during which I ended up meeting a lot of you guys in person, in all sorts of unexpected places like Nashville and Omaha.

There was some boundary expansion too. I did non-academic/non-trade speaking gigs for the first time, and pulled together three in-person events (two field trips and an improv session). So I seem to be diversifying cautiously off the blogging base. I suspect this kind of activity will increase in 2012.

Between the road-trip and the in-person events, I think I met something like a hundred regulars in 2011. That’s up from maybe 1-2 in previous years. I quite enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll start keeping count and shoot for 200 in 2012.

And of course, the big event for me personally was jumping ship from a paycheck job to full-time writing and consulting and navigating a tricky course between successful lifestyle retrenching and noble, writer-ly destitution.

The List

So here’s the list, in reverse-chronological order. My personal favorites are starred (*), and crowd-favorites are double-starred (**).

  1. How the World Works: Part II
  2. Acting Dead, Trading Up and Leaving the Middle Class**
  3. How the World Works
  4. The Towers of Priority
  5. The Evolution of the American Dream
  6. Technology and the Baroque Unconscious*
  7. Ribbonfarm Field Trip #3: Computer History Museum, 11/19/2011
  8. Three Deep Videos and a Roundup
  9. The Quest for Immortality (guest post by Greg Linster)
  10. The Gervais Principle V: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose* (not **, did I jump the shark with GP?)
  11. The Stream Map of the World**
  12. Ubiquity Illusions and the Chicken-Egg Problem
  13. The Milo Criterion**
  14. Fixing the Game by Roger L. Martin
  15. The Scientific Sensibility
  16. The Calculus of Grit**
  17. The August Reading List Freeze
  18. On Being an Illegible Person**, *
  19. Houseboats, Containers, Guns and Garbage: the 2011 Ribbonfarm Field Trip
  20. Diamonds versus Gold
  21. The Las Vegas Rules II: Stuff Science
  22. A Brief History of the Corporation: 1600 to 2100**
  23. The Las Vegas Rules I: The Slightly Malevolent Universe
  24. Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia (guest post by Stefan King)
  25. My Experiments with Introductions*
  26. The Russian Fox and the Evolution of Intelligence (guest post by Brian Potter)
  27. Extroverts, Introverts, Aspies and Codies**
  28. Cognitive Archeology of the West (guest post by Paula Hay)
  29. The Return of the Barbarian**
  30. Where the Wild Thoughts Are (my “going free agent” post)*
  31. Waiting versus Idleness*
  32. The Disruption of Bronze*
  33. Boundary Condition Thinking*
  34. The Gollum Effect**
  35. How Leveraged are Your Resolutions?

If you are new to Ribbonfarm and want to go further back, here are the201020092008 and 2007 roundups.

Anyway, a “Welcome aboard, Ahoy!” to the new 2011 readers, and a sincere thank-you to long-time readers who decided to keep me company for yet another year. It’s starting to feel a bit surreal, now that I’ve known some of you for nearly 5 years. Maybe I’ll do some sort of 5-year anniversary event in July.

I’ll be off the grid starting Friday, until the new year, so here’s wishing everybody a good break.

Series Navigation<< Ribbonfarm Complete 2010 RoundupComplete 2012 Roundup >>

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter


  1. I first found you only about ten days ago on Forbes. I loved your article about Amazon and made a few of my friends read it.

    Now, I’m hooked on Ribbonfarm. I can’t wait for the Gervais Principle e-book!

  2. You didn’t jump the shark with the Gervais Principle — we are just awaiting the chilling conclusion of the sociopaths. The HIWTYL was good, but we’re all starving for the secrets of the sociopaths… tis time for the chilling conclusion!

    • Well, the show itself jumped the shark with the Pam-Jim wedding, so I have a bit of an excuse even if I did, being derivative and all.

      But yup, I really need to finish the damn thing and put it behind me.

      • I for one, would buy the Gervais Principle ebook as well. The whole series great, and it touches on so man psychological and sociological arguments that explain modern corporate environments better than anything else out there today.

        Also agree that the show, in an almost meta cognition of the will he or won’t he sociopath, Jim, they choose not to. There are far less direct sociological commentary to date. The startup episode was fun, though more satire than an inspection on entrepreneurship. Your comments on Gabe as a line sociopath and the rent seekers was spot on. However instead of seeing the show explore that, we see Gabe playing Lincoln and getting angry at Andy. Maybe there’s something n there about sociopath cusp of insanity, but too many gimmicks to wade through.

        Long story short, it is clear across the series that there are a series of deductions and reasoning that you have left to impart on us, analyzing why the sociopaths do what they do and why you see them in tattered, insane states after all the looting and acquisitions are complete.

  3. Skimming the links from this post, I am once again amazed by your ability to think and write both horisontal and vertical.
    Just as I thought that the amount of information on any subject was largely prohibiting qualified renaissance style cross-discipline thinking, along comes Venkat…thank you!

  4. Hi venkat,

    Happy new year to you.

    Check out this link. it totally goes with one of the mini-themes of the blog on encouraging sociopathy among the working class.

    This site directly connects consumers with ex-employees of big firms to dish out real dirt, when the companies are not answering direct questions, directly.

    Hat Tip. Marginal revolution.