Tempo: Year One

It’s time for a roundup of all the posts in this first year of the Tempo book blog and a review of the performance/impact of the book itself. I wrote the book with the expectation that I’d evolve it through multiple editions and spin-off  activities over at least a decade, so the book blog has been especially important in my thinking and planning.

This is where I hope to test out ideas to add to future editions, maintain a sort of notebook of ongoing research, and prepare an online home for the book for when the paper book finally becomes a relic.

If the book endures, I expect editions beyond about 2015 to be purely digital, with paper copies being mostly souvenirs. Books seem to be heading inexorably towards continuously-updated-and-versioned digital entities. I predict that beyond the 2nd or 3rd edition, I’ll end up converting the book into a sort of a la carte online thing with mechanisms for readers to keep up with updates and new material.  I’ll probably still keep producing paper versions even if there is no real market, because the dead-tree finality of a paper edition serves to enforce a kind of extreme discipline on the writing process.

Anyway, here is a report on the year’s happenings, a preview of 2012, and a list of blog entries for those who want to catch up.

The Year in Review

To my rather pleasant surprise, the book has done pretty well, given that it’s not exactly accessible. Sales crossed 1000 copies (the psychological milestone below which a book is generally regarded as a failure) within six months of launch (the stealth edition launch was Feb 28 and the official launch was March 31) and are now chugging along steadily. I think I’ll finish 2011 at around 1200 copies, across all channels (paperback, Kindle, Nook).  I’ll throw a little party  around 3000 I think, at which I’ll feel comfortable calling the book a modest success.

The book has spread pretty much entirely through word of mouth (I usually have to Google to find out the reason for any sudden spike in sales), but surprisingly, the audience has not been the same as the ribbonfarm audience. I can’t really put my finger on it, but it is clear that a somewhat different audience is responding to the book and this blog. Among others, an OODA crowd, a project-management crowd and a sort of mindfulness/martial arts crowd seems to have picked up on the book/blog.

Blog-wise, I had 57 posts, not counting purely administrative/announcement posts, and 272 comments. There seem to be about 300 odd RSS subscribers at the moment, and a few thousand monthly unique visitors, which is nice, since  book blogs are generally pretty hard to establish as active, sustained-activity sites.  Having ribbonfarm as a launch booster helped of course.

Unlike Ribbonfarm, on this blog I’ve been mixing in judicious reblogging of interesting new research on decision-making, reviews of the book, builds on the ideas in it, reports of encounters/discussions with readers (especially on the road trip), pure fun stuff like pictures from the stealth edition book-passing game, and so forth. But I did achieve the goal of using this blog as a sort of public research fishbowl, with 9 posts that explored themes that I hope to fold into the next edition (the starred ones below).

I have a couple of hundred people signed up on the Tempo mailing list as well, but honestly, haven’t found time to do send out regular updates on it. That will change in 2012, since I can finally slip into a steady-state gear.

A 2012 Preview

Now that I’ve gotten the launch PR work, conversion to Kindle format, and other administrative matters behind me, 2012 is going to be a year when I devote more focused attention to developing more support material for those who want to use the book in deeper ways (I’ve nearly finished a glossary, and I have some slide decks in the works).

Several research themes emerged in 2011 that I want to explore further in structured ways and fold into the book.

  1. The connection between Tempo and OODA
  2. The connection to a loose bucket of ideas around mindfulness, deliberate practice and learning
  3. The beginnings of a treatment of adversarial decision-making
  4. Grand narratives (there was unexpected demand for a treatment of this topic)
One thing I really want to do is work on really solid end-of-chapter exercises for the next edition. Not half-assed self-reported personality test type stuff, but really challenging problems and questions for self-study or teaching.  I don’t know if the book is suitable for actual formal teaching (though I’ll be reaching out to faculty this year), but I strongly suspect it would be great for self-study if the right supporting material were available.

I’ve already workshopped some of the ideas in the few speaking gigs I did this year, but I want to do a good deal more.

If you have other interesting suggestions for things I could be doing, I am all ears. This is an interesting time to be a book author, and nobody really knows how to do it right anymore thanks to the eBook disruption, so there’s plenty of room for creativity.

The List

  1. What Really Happened Aboard Air France 447
  2. The Pomodoro Technique
  3. Ancora Imparo: Warsaw, Poland.
  4. Quandary: Seattle WA
  5. A Pilgrimage through Stagnation and Acceleration
  6. Thrust, Drag and the 10x Effect*
  7. Tempo Review on BoingBoing by Cory Doctorow
  8.  Mental Models and Archetypes Explained
  9.  Forgivable Sloppiness: The Art of Epoch-Driven Time Management*
  10.  Tempo goes to Burning Man
  11. Bandwagon Timing verus Biding Your Time*
  12.  New Research on Decision Fatigue
  13.  Daemons and the Mindful Learning Curve*
  14.  A Proposed Grand Narrative for the History of Debt
  15. Chet Richards’ Review of Tempo on Fabius Maximus
  16.  Tempo and OODA: The Backstory*
  17.  Storytelling for Problem-Solving
  18.  The End of the Parade*
  19. Never Stop Marketing, Silver Spring, MD
  20. H.M.S. Cock-Robin, Cambridge, UK
  21. Bardic Mystique: Maastricht, Netherlands
  22. Towards Thick Strategy Narratives*
  23. Review at Zenpundit.com
  24. Dulce Domum
  25. IARPA Starts Metaphor-Based Decision-Making Research
  26. Timepass and Boredom
  27. “Ready, Fire, Aim,” with Wild Bill
  28. How Clock Time Replaced Narrative Time
  29. Smalltalk with Gary and Harpreet
  30. On Rest Stops 2.0
  31. The Best Chips in the World
  32. Mississippi Flooding
  33. Startup Deathwatch in Memphis
  34. The Memphis Drum Shop
  35. Rabble Rouser: Seattle WA
  36. Lame name: Belmont, CA
  37. Week 3: Memphis, St. Louis, Omaha, Carhenge, Deadwood, Yellowstone
  38. Strategies, Counter-examples and the UnAha! Experience*
  39. On Ritual Time
  40. The Author’s Journey and the Blogger’s Journey
  41. Functional Fixedness and Kata Learning*
  42. Freytag Staircases in Nashville
  43. The Car/Truck Ratio
  44. Week 2: Ann Arbor, Nashville, Atlanta, New Orleans
  45. Time Travel for Ghosts
  46. Darwin, Some Rationalists and the Joker
  47. Peak Oil and the Tempo of the Earth
  48. Talking Temporal Illegibility in Montreal
  49. Why Some Drives are Fun
  50. The One Way of the Beginner
  51. Haircuts and the Guy Clock
  52. An Evening of Pace, Pace, Lead with Chuck
  53. Island Time vs. Mainland Time
  54. The Tempo of Food
  55. A Moment of Silence with John Boyd
  56. Week 1: DC, Wilmington, Albany, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto
  57. The Tempo Road Trip


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  1. I really liked your post, “Thrust, Drag and the 10x Effect” and its corollaries (Daemons and the Mindful Learning Curve and The Calculus of Grit), and think it’s worth further exploration.

    1. You say in the post that the 10x effect is the anecdotal observation. Is there any solid research about this?

    2. I am really time-poor and trying to outsource, but it’s not that easy. I find most tasks easier done myself – *if* I can sit down to do them — than explained to others. If you can say more about outsourcing with empirics of how people actually do it well, I’m sure that would be helpful.

    3. I also have a question about how to ensure that Thrusts are in the desired *direction.* I’m always ready to explode with one thrust engine or another, but almost inevitably it’s doing something other than the work I have set out for myself, and more often than not, I have to restrain it, rather than let it propel. Any thoughts on directing and controlling one’s thrust engines?