Complete 2015 Roundup

This entry is part 9 of 17 in the series Annual Roundups

Here’s the complete roundup for 2015 in chronological order. New readers this year might want to check out the 2014 roundup and 2013 roundup. If you want to do some binge reading further back into the archives, there is a page for the Rust Age (2007-12) with both curated selections and complete roundups. This year we released an update to the ribbonfarm map (post 39 below), which is a decent representation (though biased towards my personal interests) of the themes we’ve been exploring through the year.


Let’s dive in and take a look at the year’s refactoring.

This year ribbonfarm featured 61 posts, the highest number since 2008 I think, and a 33% increase over last year (45 posts) .  We had 2 posts each from Ryan Tanaka and Artem Litvinovich, 5 each from Haley Thurston and Brian Skinner, 12 from contributing editor Sarah Perry, 5 collaborative comic strips by Grace Witherell and me, and 30 posts by me. So for  the first year ever, I had fewer solo posts than resident posts and collaborations. I haven’t dived into the traffic stats, but I suspect there were more resident posts than mine in the top 5 (update, this is now confirmed, here is a readlist of the top 20 posts by traffic, with a couple of judicious curatorial substitutions; you can download as epub or pdf or send to your Kindle/phone). I am starting to get the hang of this editing game. The key is to pick people who don’t need editing, and then get out of the way.

In aggregate terms, we saw a substantial increase in traffic in 2015, over 2013.

Screenshot 2015-12-23 11.46.23

More to the point, the increase came after a year of traffic decline (2014 over 2013). Screenshot 2015-12-23 11.49.11

I haven’t done a full retrospective, but I think we’re past a transitional period finding our feet as a multi-author site, and both quality and quantity are now settling slowly into a new pattern. The significant design upgrade this year also helped. As startup people like to say, scaling is about solving every problem again for the new scale. Scaling long form writing is particularly hard.

In terms of themes, I’m starting to think of my editorial strategy for ribbonfarm as an “intellectual hedge fund/laboratory” strategy. Brian and Artem bring very different refactoring lenses to scientific topics. Sarah and I often disagree on cultural questions. Haley explored the topic of aesthetics this year in a way that’s pretty different from my own perspective (to the extent that I have one) on the subject. Seems natural to me that if you’re going to have multiple voices anyway, you learn more if what they’re collectively saying is in a state of foxy tension bordering on mild schizophrenia at least. Not exactly a great way to build a coherent brand, but screw that. Here, we’re in the business of being intelligently engaged in poking at the universe with a stick (and occasionally beating it with a stick), and collecting underpants.

In other news, I launched Breaking Smart this year, along with a newsletter in tweetstorm format that now has almost 3000 subscribers. The Breaking Smart workshop had me doing some fun travel through the year. So all in all, an eventful year.

Of my own posts, my favorites this year were #7, #10, #11-13, #41, #57 and #61. As a couple of readers have pointed out, #61 (We Are All Architects Now), might be the best thing I’ve written. I’m pretty pleased with it. The rest of my posts were kinda meh, in part because I was posting a lot of stuff that really belong backstage, and in part because I was distracted getting Breaking Smart off the ground.

And finally, here’s the full list of posts. Hope you find some good pickings you might have missed earlier in the year. Happy holidays, and happy new year!

  1. Black Mirror as Hell-Is-Other-People Futurism (Venkat)
  2. Ritual and the Consciousness Monoculture (Sarah)
  3. On the Design of Escaped Realities (Venkat)
  4. Let’s Play! Narrative Discovery vs. Expert Guides (Ryan)
  5. The Heroine’s Journey (Haley)
  6. What Is Ritual? (Sarah)
  7. A Dent in the Universe (Venkat)
  8. The Mother of All 2x2s (Venkat)
  9. Gardens Need Walls: On Boundaries, Ritual, and Beauty (Sarah)
  10. The Art of Agile Leadership (Venkat)
  11. The Art of Gig (Venkat)
  12. The Art of Gig II (Venkat)
  13. The Art of Gig III (Venkat)
  14. The Essence of Peopling (Sarah)
  15. The Capitalist’s Zombie (Venkat)
  16. A Better Art Vocabulary, Part 1 (Haley)
  17. Weaponized Sacredness (Sarah)
  18. Technopaganism and the Newer Age (Ryan)
  19. Pretending to Care, Pretending to Agree (Venkat)
  20. The Amazing, Shrinking Org Chart (Venkat)
  21. Puzzle Theory (Sarah)
  22. The Things You Carry (Venkat)
  23. The Boydian Dialectic (Venkat)
  24. Where do Electric Forces Come From? (Brian)
  25. A Neptune Kid, Waiting to Always-Already Know Pluto (Venkat)
  26. A Better Art Vocabulary, Part 2 (Haley)
  27. New Horizons (Venkat)
  28. Cooperative Ignorance (Sarah)
  29. Inbox Zero versus Flow Laminar (Venkat)
  30. The Chinese Compressibility Parable (Venkat)
  31. The Four Forces for Sociology (Venkat)
  32. Frontierland (Sarah)
  33. Low Humanity Orbit (Venkat)
  34. Executive Engagement (Venkat)
  35. Extraordinary Laboratories (Venkat)
  36. A Children’s Picture-book Introduction to Quantum Field Theory (Brian)
  37. Learning is the Opposite of Healing (Venkat)
  38. Cartographic Compression (Sarah)
  39. The Greater Ribbonfarm Cultural Region 2015 (Venkat)
  40. Why Nerds Have Bad Taste (Haley)
  41. How to be a Precious Snowflake (Venkat)
  42. Significance Appreciation (Venkat)
  43. Samuel Beckett’s Guide to Particles and Antiparticles (Brian)
  44. What is the Largest Collective Action, Ever? (Venkat)
  45. Meaning and Pointing (Sarah)
  46. Alice and Bob Discover Capitalism (Venkat)
  47. LCD Curtains (Artem)
  48. The Berliners #1 (Grace and Venkat)
  49. The Berliners #2: This is Important (Grace and Venkat)
  50. Distinctions and Differences (Venkat)
  51. The Berliners #3: Sparring Session (Grace and Venkat)
  52. Quasiparticles and the Miracle of Emergence (Brian)
  53. Ritual Epistemology (Sarah)
  54. The Awe Delusion (Haley)
  55. Berliners #4: Cactus and Weasel (Grace and Venkat)
  56. Artisanal Hand-Crafted Electrons (Artem)
  57. Can You Hear Me Now? (Venkat)
  58. An Ecology of Beauty and Strong Drink (Sarah)
  59. Berliners #5: Grandparents (Grace and Venkat)
  60. Field Theory of Swords (Brian)
  61. We Are All Architects Now (Venkat)
Series Navigation<< Complete 2014 RoundupComplete 2016 Roundup >>

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About Venkatesh Rao

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