2007 Review, 2008 Preview

This entry is part 1 of 17 in the series Annual Roundups

I launched ribbonfarm on July 4, 2007, which means it’s 6 months old as of the New Year. Here is a comprehensive review, with a full list of articles to-date, as well as selected highlights, including guesstimates of the “most popular” and “least popular” articles, and thoughts on what I am likely to write about in 2008. I hope you take this opportunity to look at some of the pieces you may have missed (especially those who came in late). I have a request — please forward this heavy-duty review post to your colleagues, friends and family, with specific recommendations on the articles you personally enjoyed. I am hoping to snare a lot of new readers with this review.

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Complete 2008 Roundup

This entry is part 2 of 17 in the series Annual Roundups

I wrote 80 articles in 2008, and this post contains an annotated list of links to all of them.  Ribbonfarm.com still doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up. Here is a picture of how my focus has shifted, drifted and meandered since I started in July 2007 (here’s the 2007 omnibus review). Red arrows point to the blog’s ‘soul’ at various points. Yellow ‘scope’ wedges show the changing ADD levels. [Read more…]

2009 Roundup, 2010 Preview

This entry is part 3 of 17 in the series Annual Roundups

Time for the third annual ribbonfarm review/preview post. For you old-timers who haven’t been keeping up, and the newbies who discovered this blog late in the year, this should be a useful post. I summarize 19 notable posts, review the numbers, point out the trends and highlights, and provide a preview of 2010. So here goes. Let’s start by noting that in 2009, ribbonfarm acquired a mascot: Skeletor the junkyard cat.

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Ribbonfarm Complete 2010 Roundup

This entry is part 4 of 17 in the series Annual Roundups

It’s been a weird year. I think I did some of my best writing this year, and also some of the worst. I wrote some great anchor posts, but I also posted several pieces that I now regard as being far too hasty, fluffy and/or self-indulgent. A high-variance year in short.  Mostly a result of this being a very busy year on multiple other fronts: a lot of blogging for work (including a lot of guest posting), a product launch, a lot of work on my book, and the launch of the Be Slightly Evil mailing list (about 20 newsletters mailed out so far). The year has been an exercise in portfolio management.

So overall, I am pleased, but definitely not satisfied.  I am going to set more brutal quality standards for myself next year. Here’s the full list of posts for 2010 in chronological order. The ones in bold are either popular or personal favorites.  Here are 2009, 2008 and 2007 roundups for new-in-2010 readers who want to make this a ribbonfarm holiday marathon and catch up on previous seasons (you may want to print out a dozen or two posts to take with you on any vacation travels). This will be the last post of the year, so see you in 2011!

  1. On the Deathly Cold
  2. Drive by Dan Pink
  3. “Up in the Air” and the Future of Work
  4. Impro by Keith Johnstone
  5. The Misanthrope’s Guide to the End of the World
  6. The Genealogy of the Gervais Principle
  7. Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich
  8. Safar aur Musafir: The Hero’s Journey in Bollywood
  9. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor
  10. The Inquisition of the Entrepreneur
  11. The Expedient, Desirable Product
  12. An Infrastructure Pilgrimage
  13. Linchpin by Seth Godin, and 8 Other Short Book Reviews
  14. The Turpentine Effect
  15. Amy Lin and the Ancient Eye
  16. An Elephant, Some Batteries and Julianne Moore
  17. Against the Gods by Peter Bernstein
  18. The Gervais Principle III: The Curse of Development
  19. The Lords of Strategy by Walter Kiechel
  20. Intellectual Gluttony
  21. In the Real World…
  22. Digital Security, the Red Queen, and Sexual Computing
  23. The Missing Folkways of Globalization
  24. WOM, Broadcast and the Classical Marketing Contract
  25. The Philosopher’s Abacus
  26. Becalmed in the Summer Doldrums
  27. The Eight Metaphors of Organization
  28. The Happy Company
  29. A Big Little Idea Called Legibility
  30. Down with Innovation, Up with Imitation!
  31. How to Take a Walk
  32. Cultural Learnings of Blogosphere for Make Benefit Glorious Blog of Ribbonfarm.
  33. The Greasy, Fix-It ‘Web of Intent’ Vision
  34. Morning is Wiser Than Evening
  35. King Gustavus’ Folly: The Story of the Vasa
  36. Cricket as Metaphor
  37. The Seven Dimensions of Positioning
  38. Learning from One Data Point
  39. How Good Becomes the Enemy of Great
  40. The Gervais Principle IV: Wonderful Human Beings
  41. Coloring the Whole Egg: Fixing Integrated Marketing
  42. Warrens, Plazas and the Edge of Legibility
  43. Ancient Rivers of Money
  44. The World of Garbage
  45. What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the Poor
  46. What Does it Mean to Work Hard?
  47. Socratic Fishing in Lake Quora

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.

Complete 2012 Roundup

This entry is part 6 of 17 in the series Annual Roundups

Time for another annual roundup and post-game analysis session. Here are the roundups from 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007 for new readers who want to go dumpster diving in the archives. I don’t recommend it since there is now a set of curated lists of the best posts on the “for new users” page (which are also gathered into convenient PDF/ePub compilations).

2012 has been a special year in multiple ways. Among other things, I celebrated my five-year anniversary, crossed 5000 RSS subscribers, and hit a record $3900 in sponsorships, nearly twice last year’s total (thank you, sponsors).  But perhaps the most important development was that I finally got the sense that I know what I am doing here. Every post performed pretty much exactly as I wanted it to, and the few surprises were pleasant ones. I was able to match intent to output, and predict responses pretty well. While putting together this roundup, I did some analysis of my blogging history that I think will interest other long form bloggers, as well as anyone growing any sort of business.

But first, the roundup of posts, in chronological order.

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Complete 2013 Roundup

This entry is part 7 of 17 in the series Annual Roundups

It’s time again for our annual roundup.  In many ways, 2013 was a year of endings and beginnings for this blog. So, since I like marking boundaries and naming things, I am going to name the relatively self-contained 2007-2012 period The Rust Age and notionally classify it as history. Starting with 2013, we are in the as-yet-unnamed post-Gervais-Principle second age of Ribbonfarm.

New readers interested in history can dive into the past via that link, which has past annual roundups, curated selections and a map of historical interest. Those uninterested in the past can safely join the party starting with this 2013 roundup. I’ll be making a serious effort to limit my use of back-linked references to pre-2013 material, going forward. The past will of course, continue to haunt the present in unexpected ways, but I’ll try to let sleeping ghosts lie.

Now for the roundup, starting with the 21 resident/guest posts, followed by the 24 posts by me, and some commentary.

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Complete 2014 Roundup

This entry is part 8 of 17 in the series Annual Roundups

Here’s the complete roundup of the year’s posts, in chronological order. New readers this year might want to check out the 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.

We had 45 posts this year, of which 16 were by residents or guest bloggers and 29 were by me.  I wrapped up one favorite bunny trail from previous years (7) continued some favorite old themes (1, 2, 25, 30, 40) and started what looks like several new ones. There’s a saints-vs-traders bunny trail (19, 20, 21, 22?), three major Grand Unified Theory type posts (15, 29 and 32) and a bunny trail involving crash-only thinking (39, 42, 45). Very appropriately, and entirely coincidentally, post #42 was heavily Douglas Adams inspired. I can’t help but think that means something. There was an ongoing series of what I can only call a series of reflective mid-life-crisis type posts (8, 9, 14, 22, 42, 44). Finally, there were two fiction experiments (27, 28). All in all, a very creepy-crawly, divergent year.

Happy holidays!

  1. Free, as in Agent
  2. Consent of the Surveilled
  3. The Poor Usability Tell (Jordan)
  4. Technical Debt of the West (Kevin)
  5. An Information Age Glossary
  6. From Cognitive Biases to Institutional Decay (Kartik)
  7. The Cactus and the Weasel
  8. Demons by Candelight
  9. Immortality in the Ocean of Infinite Memories
  10. Authors and Directors (Sam)
  11. Love Your Parasites (Jordan)
  12. Ritual and the Productive Community (Ryan)
  13. The Legibility Tradeoff (Kartik)
  14. A Life with a View
  15. Product-Driven versus Customer-Driven
  16. Replaceability and the Economics of Disequilibrium (Sam)
  17. Science! and Other Off-the-Wall Études
  18. Power Gradients and Spherical Cows (Jordan)
  19. The Logic of Uberreaction
  20. Saints and Traders: The John Henry Fable Reconsidered
  21. The Deliberate Practice of Disruption
  22. The Physics of Stamp Collecting
  23. Portals and Flags
  24. A Koan is not a Riddle (Jordan)
  25. Close Encounters of the Missing Kind
  26. Structure Follows Context
  27. The Heirloom Lounge (short story)
  28. Seoul Station (part 1 of a longer story, yet to be continued)
  29. The Economics of Pricelessness
  30. The Veil of Scale
  31. The Creation and Destruction of Habits
  32. How to Fall Off the Wagon
  33. Geopolitics for Individuals (Kartik)
  34. We Have Them Surrounded in Their Tanks (Jordan)
  35. The Rhythms of Information: Flow-Pacing and Spacetime (Ryan)
  36. The Political Hangover of Prohibition (Craig Roche)
  37. The Adjacency Fallacy
  38. Playing Games to Leave Games (Sam)
  39. Crash-Only Thinking
  40. Don’t Surround Yourself With Smarter People
  41. The Design of Crash-Only Societies (Ryan)
  42. Learning to Fly by Missing the Ground
  43. The Future of Tipping
  44. Striving, Surviving, Suffering and Slacking
  45. Learning from Crashes

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.

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Complete 2016 Roundup

This entry is part 10 of 17 in the series Annual Roundups

Here’s the complete roundup for 2016. I’ve changed the format this year and have grouped the roundup by author and medium, to help you discover some of our new contributors and experimental content more easily. We had 8 new contributors, 3 returning contributors, and 2 regulars (Sarah and me) all together contributing 57 posts, of which 42 were longform, and 15 were  other media: audio (1), video (4), cartoons (6) and slide decks (4). It was a satisfying growth year, topping half a million visitors for the first time, and growing by between 25-33% depending on which metric you like.


Other highlights this year: a new high-watermark viral hit post that beat the Gervais Principle in single-day traffic, Artem vs. Predator, the first ever ribbonfarm longform blogging course (you’ll see the output in the next 2 months), and the first year when I was not the biggest longform contributor on the site (Sarah Perry had 12 posts, I had 11, not counting my experimental non-longform posts). I did, however, set a new ribbonfarm record for length: King Ruinous and the City of Darkness weighed in at over 14,000 words, nearly twice the previous record of around 8000.

The ribbonfarm map also evolved this year, and acquired a video tour, in Trace of the Weirding. If you’re new to ribbonfarm, this video and map might be helpful as a general overview of what we’re about.

New readers (here is the new readers start page) this year might also want to check out the 2015 roundup2014 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 for 2007-12.

Anyhow, click on with the roundup.

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