Friday, November 25, 2005

The dream-like quality of ... reading!

Novels make you change your emotions -- mental states -- perhaps every ten minutes (or more). Movies do it perhaps every two minutes. It is safe to say that these changes would be gentle.

If a movie or a book produces these effects (a) fast, (b) in an unpredictable, seemingly random way and (c) in big swings taking you to great heights and depths, we would be apt to call it a roller coaster ride. In the hands of a terrible director or novelist, this could produce an equally terrible bodily malfunction in your body (nausea or headache). If it is done well, however, it could also produce a strangely satisfying experience -- dream-like and almost addictive. This might explain the cult following of some movies (Rocky Horror Picture Show!), and cartoon shows (Spiderman!).

Over 70 percent of the people who visit my blog spend less than 30 seconds here, and probably do the same at other blogs that they come across in their blog-reading journey. They probably cover some 60 posts within half an hour, and go through an emotional roller coaster, while doing that.

If you use a blog aggregator, such as bloglines, you will also find that blog reading has this dream-like quality. Two caveats: (a) in an aggregator, you choose the blogs, and (b) the aggregator cues you about what you are going to read, so it is not all totally unexpected.

Here is what I 'saw' in my dream this morning :

  • Charu on Project Why and how even one rupee a day can make a big difference.
  • Dilip on the use of GPI, 'Genuine Progress Indicator' (instead of GDP) to measure the state of health of a nation.
  • Neelakantan on the curious case of who runs the graveyard shift in a 24-hour pharmacy.
  • Selva on what it takes to become a world-class expert (in anything); the figure is -- hold your breath -- 20,000 hours of deliberate practice.
  • Brad DeLong points to Charlie Stross's post on why this is possibly the best time to live.
  • DeLong, again, with some pointers to what makes us happy in our jobs.
  • Eszter Hargittai suggests some key strategies that graduate students -- particularly in humanities and social sciences -- might use for successfully completing their dissertation. Good luck!
  • Tyler Cowen on the use of randomized trials using controls in economics research, with a specific pointer to the Poverty Action Lab.

I have given a list of only those that are worthy of highlighting here. There were at least four times as many posts that I covered in a half-hour period. Is it any wonder, then, that blog reading is so dream-like, charming, and addictive?


  1. Anonymous said...

    heres something i had captured, but i guess you did it better.

  2. Abi said...

    Thanks, Neelakantan, for your kind words.

    There is quite a bit of stuff about why people blog; I guess our posts are about how and why reading blogs becomes a habit.

  3. Anonymous said...

    what a lovely post! made me smile :)
    btw, have you checked out project why? any 'marketing' ideas?