Every Sunday we bring you the TBB Best of Web links: We try to make sense of echo chambers, a gut wrenching read about childhood trauma from the author himself, we visit Venezuela’s plastic sheeting people, talk about the fallacies of success and an amazing story about the Toothpick King who was a marketing genius!
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Escape the Echo Chamber
Don’t you sometimes wonder why the other side just does not get it? After repeatedly confronted with facts you find so compelling? I have struggled with that to the point of just giving up. Hillary Clinton called them Deplorables or something. But by writing them completely off and not try to understand their point of view ( in spite of how offensive you may find that view) resulted, well, in the present administration of the “best people”. I have always tried to understand the other side, do not give up on it! We must live together dang it!
First you don’t hear other views. Then you can’t trust them. Your personal information network entraps you just like a cult
But there are two very different phenomena at play here, each of which subvert the flow of information in very distinct ways. Let’s call them echo chambers and epistemic bubbles. Both are social structures that systematically exclude sources of information. Both exaggerate their members’ confidence in their beliefs. But they work in entirely different ways, and they require very different modes of intervention. An epistemic bubble is when you don’t hear people from the other side. An echo chamber is what happens when you don’t trust people from the other side.
Where an epistemic bubble merely omits contrary views, an echo chamber brings its members to actively distrust outsiders.
In epistemic bubbles, other voices are not heard; in echo chambers, other voices are actively undermined. The way to break an echo chamber is not to wave “the facts” in the faces of its members. It is to attack the echo chamber at its root and repair that broken trust.
Epistemic bubbles are rather ramshackle; they go up easily, and they collapse easily, too. Echo chambers are far more pernicious and far more robust. They can start to seem almost like living things. Their belief systems provide structural integrity, resilience and active responses to outside attacks. Surely a community can be both at once, but the two phenomena can also exist independently. And of the events we’re most worried about, it’s the echo-chamber effects that are really causing most of the trouble.
Listen to what it actually sounds like when people reject the plain facts – it doesn’t sound like brute irrationality. One side points out a piece of economic data; the other side rejects that data by rejecting its source. They think that newspaper is biased, or the academic elites generating the data are corrupt. An echo chamber doesn’t destroy their members’ interest in the truth; it merely manipulates whom they trust and changes whom they accept as trustworthy sources and institutions.
Once an echo chamber starts to grip a person, its mechanisms will reinforce themselves. In an epistemically healthy life, the variety of our informational sources will put an upper limit to how much we’re willing to trust any single person. Everybody’s fallible; a healthy informational network tends to discover people’s mistakes and point them out. This puts an upper ceiling on how much you can trust even your most beloved leader. But inside an echo chamber, that upper ceiling disappears.
It provides a way out in the end, starting with an intervention. And with trust. But it is an uphill battle.
God help us. We’ll be all right. I think.
The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma
This is one of the most gut wrenching stories I have read recently. The author talks in length about his life that was marked by sexual abuse when he was a young boy.
I never got any help, any kind of therapy. I never told anyone. By Junot Díaz
I realize this is a very difficult read. And this is why people who abuse children should be severely punished, no excuse whatsoever!
Venezuela and the Plastic Sheeting People
I am not sure why today I am on to depressing stuff. Sorry about that you guys!
This is a deeply personal post by novelist and playwright Joel D. Hirst, who is from Venezuela.
It is a strange and sobering thing to see a video about these activities addressing a land I have known in wealth and opportunity. The beach, the mountains. Bird-watching in the beautiful parks, festivals like the ‘Devils of Yare’ and 11 hour traffic jams returning from a long weekend at the beach. Discos and dancing late into the night, curing a hangover in one of the many areperas with friends sophisticated and equal in every way that counts; super-malls and movies and life – a life more abundant, though they forgot that it was, or thought it could be more. Decisions that they deeply regret today.
We are now building a large body of knowledge about the collapse of civilizations, why they fail and why they fail to succeed: “Dead Aid”, “Why Nations Fail”, “The Idealist” and “The Great Escape”. We treat these things academically, but they are visceral when you see it firsthand. When you watch a country consume itself, not through droughts or natural disasters – those a unified, educated and free society can quickly recover from. No, nations fail for different reasons – stupidity and envy and greed worked out as policy tools to suppress dissent and empower a criminal elite. Corruption as cement to authority.
Venezuela is well advanced into what will probably be known as its own “special period”. The dictatorship, like that of Cuba a quarter-century ago, has plunged its country into a darkness unseen in her history, a well of misery so profound it is as vicious as it is unprecedented. Motorcyclists stealing bags of pasta from old ladies; mothers deciding which child will live and which will die – bonfires of human flesh beside a bread line. The stunting, infants wasting away in the full light of the Caribbean sun. Sacking of stores unlucky enough to be caught with bread or milk or a sausage. The looting of trucks that now have to traverse Venezuela’s perilous roadways with armed escorts – protection for the poultry. And the response of the government to their misrule? They have refused foreign aid. National pride is more important – pride in a revolution which long ago failed, leaving the people with real need this time as an accompaniment to the envy; manure with which the revolution fertilized its tumoric growth, for a time. Until the tumor killed the host.
Casualties of Your Own Success
Morgan Housel is a great writer. I have been recommending him along with other personal finance writers HERE.
Body size in biology is like leverage in investing: It accentuates the gains but amplifies the losses. It works well for a while and then backfires spectacularly at the point where the benefits are nice but the losses are lethal.
The most dominant creatures tend to be huge, but the most enduring tend to be smaller. T-Rex < cockroach < bacteria.
There are two takeaways, neither of which is “don’t get big.”
One is that everything moves in cycles. You can’t extrapolate the benefits of growth because growth comes attached with downsides that go from annoying at one size to catastrophic at another. Rising valuations that come with investment growth is the clearest example, but it’s everywhere: Headcount, media attention, AUM, and influence have downsides that can eventually grow faster than their benefits. Remembering that volatility is attracted to outlier growth puts many things about business and investing in context.
The second is size is associated with success, success is associated with hubris, and hubris is the beginning of the end of success. Some of the most enduring animals aren’t apex predators, but they’re very good at evasion, camouflage, and armour. They’re paranoid. I always come back to the time Charlie Rose asked Michael Moritz how Sequoia Capital has thrived for three decades, and he said, “We’ve always been afraid of going out of business.” Paranoia in the face of success is extremely hard but in hindsight it’s the closest thing to a secret weapon that exists.
The Marketing Genius of the Toothpick King
I need to admit that, as I was reading this, I thought of the recently retired from blogging Daraius of Million Mile Secrets. Brilliant marketer like the toothpick guy. What? You never heard of the toothpick king? Me neither! But this story is amazing and I am glad to bring it to you!
In the 1950’s, 90% of the world’s toothpicks were manufactured out of Strong, Maine. 75 billion toothpicks per year were manufactured out of this small little town (~1,000 people). [Note: One good sized white birch tree can produce 4 million toothpicks] A majority of this output came from Forster Manufacturing, founded by Charles Forster. Let me tell you his incredible story and how he created the market for toothpicks.
Charles Forster was born in 1826 in Charlestown, MA. His uncle ran an import-export business and sent young Charles to Brazil. While in Brazil (1850) he noticed that the natives had beautiful teeth, which he believed were the result of the handmade toothpicks they used. He couldn’t get the toothpick idea out of his mind. At this time in history, gentlemen would carry big goose-quills in their coat pockets that were used as “toothpicks”. But the quills would constantly break in a person’s teeth. These handmade wooden toothpicks seemed like a much better idea.
Charles Forster sent a sample box of toothpicks from Brazil to his wife back home. She then gave it to a hotel. They liked them and ordered another box. Soon he was fulfilling orders of handmade toothpicks in different parts of the country. But he had visions of mass production.
Charles Forster was a genius in marketing. The demand for toothpicks was growing but not fast enough now that he could mass produce toothpicks. A majority of people and establishments didn’t want to give up quill toothpicks. How would Forster combat the status quo?
He hired young, personable, and presentable people to go into stores asking for wood toothpicks. Most establishments would turn the young people away because they didn’t carry wooden toothpicks. Then Forster would enter these stores and easily sell them a box or two of toothpicks. He would then have the same young people go back into the stores and buy the toothpicks. When Forster would enter again the establishment would buy twice as many boxes, and fully believing in the product, the owner would market them to real customers.
Forster used a similar strategy to get wooden toothpicks into restaurants. He would hire Harvard men to demand wooden toothpicks at the end of their meal. When the Harvard men were told the restaurant didn’t have any wooden toothpicks the men would get angry and loud and tell the owner they would never return to a restaurant that didn’t have wooden toothpicks. When Forster would enter the restaurant the next day the restaurant owner would not only buy boxes of toothpicks but also hand them out to each table.
Now, the methods above were very smart, but the genius was he knew that if he could get higher end restaurants to carry his toothpicks (used by their wealthy patrons) it would only be a matter of time until it filtered down to the masses. He was right. Wealthy people were seen leaving the restaurants or standing on the streets with toothpicks in their mouths. The toothpick was a sign of social status. Soon younger people were seen with wooden toothpicks in their mouths and women were seen with them in their mouths. An article from the time said that half the people in the city streets could be seen with toothpicks.
So much for full disclosure hey? 🙁
And I leave you with this…
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Very interesting reading, Buzz. Thanks for a Sunday treat.
I don’t know if Daraius was/is a genius, but he certainly played his cards well, if by that you mean setting up a big net, catching a lot of minnows and making a ton of money, I bet. Everyone knocked his circles and arrows but that brought in the newbies like a magnet.
Off for a Sunday picnic in the park, proudly wearing yet another First badge from TBB comments.
Yes this is what I meant.
Enjoy the picnic.I am recovering from driving to/from Chicago for yet another dance competitions of my daughter. I crashed as soon as I got home only to wake up at 4.45 am, go to Starbucks and knock off the non miles/points TBB material for Monday and Wednesday this coming week! I was so inspired by the $3.15 my blog earned yesterday lol.
Sunday treat! Thank you.
No, thank you for the support!
I was at the Post Office yesterday picking up a package and I’m pretty sure I saw a wanted poster with what looked like Daraius on it… or was it a book from a Love Guru at Barnes and Noble…
I am not fond of beards…I let one grow many years ago, looked at the mirror and you can’t believe how shocked I was!
No fan of bow ties in general too!
I am waiting for the rebirth of D…I can see it now “Tantra sex coach”…Or, how to succeed online marketing course. Or whatever.
I wish him the best too.
1.4 million points burned ytd! (Thanks in large part to 540k Marriott points burned for hotel + air packages…)
Wow, VERY impressive! Maybe you should have a blog showing friends and family how to travel for freeeeee 🙂
I just crossed 200k year to date. Slacking big time!
The Toothpick story another Home Run by TBB. You learn interesting life stuff here as well as great CC Game (not hobby) information.
As for MMS, I always felt what people never got with his circles and arrows is that many people are visual learners and he was smart enough to realize that information.
As for those that made fun of him, my feeling has been if you have a child and other kids make fun at him because he learns differently, do not be upset because YOU are that same person!
Ok, off the box time for my Sunday paper rituals…
I don’t agree with your learning analogy. I think (at the time) that every other blogger was sharing the same information in a way that was more vague in order to protect the methods from the idiot that would get the cash register and say “I read on the internet that this is supposed to work.” So many of the things a lot of us have done have died prematurely because of increased visibility to whoever was getting the short end of the stick. MS methods, award chart sweet spots, etc… I miss the world of no 5/24, no 2/3/4, and successful app-o-ramas…
RIP amazon payments
I know it is easy to blame the “newbies” but I think the reason for shutdowns are as much a cause of the pigs who MS but the problem there is the “pigs” are friends of many bloggers and others so no one ever calls them out. It is the go along to get along philosophy of friendship.
I agree with Brenton!
John: Read this old post: http://saverocity.com/pfdigest/i-am-become-death-the-destroyer-of-deals/
The damage to the “Hobby” (ok, I don’t like that term either but stick with me for a little bit) by the big commercial blogs is, in my own humble opinion, much worse than the few pig Ms’ers! Are they a problem? Of course…But they are not that many and were always considered a cost of doing business in this “game” (huh? another one of these misguided terms lol). Do any google search and you will find these big commercial blogs reeling the newbies in, enlighten them with easy visual posts written in super simple language spelling everything out how they can travel for free like them…and you have huge commercial successes while we are actively looking for a new hobby.
I have said it again and again. It is one thing to know almost everyone from dark FT thread corners than have MMS and TPG SELLING HARD TO THE MASSES!
I miss the mother in law rule you guys #notreally
My wife will get freed up for yet another 5/24 slot soon, so sad 🙁
I do not disagree with your comment about the damage of commercial bloggers and new people doing stupid things. However, I am of the belief that it is not the newbies that caused Chase and others to institute draconian CC rules but the pigs who sign up for 5 or more of the same card then put 100k or more MS on a card, Ms’ing at that level monthly or those that endlessly churned cards.
I have been reading on Reddit about Chase shutdowns and some guys have applied for 40 cards in last 24 months!
I care less about new people doing stupid things than than I do about stupid people doing new things within “the hobby”.
I agree that people signing up for 5+ of the exact same card in a single day are completely to blame for the BOA rules, and probably the Citi rules also. MMS was by far the worst about pushing that. But aside from avoiding risk, I don’t think the banks care that much about any level of MS, so long as they get paid…
I think you are right 🙂
Nick @ Personal Finance Digest says
WTF? Why is a Russian website copying my blog?
Dang!!! Sorry, taking it down. Please send your link. I go for a bike ride, freeze my buns off and I come back to this!
Well said, Buzz. And you’re right.
But you know the bloggers’ financial interest runs 180 degrees contrary to the kind of stewardship you write about. It shouldn’t have surprised anyone when Ingy took card churning onto Nightline, then sold his blog a short time later. And while we have poked him about that (and will continue to do so), he was just tryng to increase the YTB (Yield To Blogger) like just about every other blogger out there.
Of course Ingy compounded the whole charade with his claims of just wanting to help people travel at ‘prices you can afford’. Last week we were talking down in the basement about maybe having the horse wear a flag with an image of Mother Teresa holding up a bunch of credit cards, à la Emily.
What irks me most is when these snake oil salesmen (and saleswomen) slant their articles, ignoring or giving faint praise to non-affiliate alternatives. And, gee, you don’t read much about how tough it is to find awards. Just a link every once in a while to ‘our parter in the booking business’.
What I can’t figure out is how the banks are making money in this game. I’m sure they are but the number of cards that run a balance must be pretty big to support the card benefits, plus the commissions to bloggers on the front end.
YTB=Yield To Blogger
I like it. You know, like YTM Yield to Maturity lol!
I have no doubt the banks make money because ENOUGH people fall for the easy sells in the commercial blogs and, you know, fall behind for whatever reason and pay for OUR free travel! It’s not like American consumers are the most responsible out there, sad!
The interchange fees are coming down but it is a looooooong way down.
I never quite figured out how they pay all these sales commissions and still do it…Only explanation: Bloggers MOVE product out the door better than any other channel.
One day I should look closer into that YTB metric lol.
I think that more knowledge is better. Look at the collaborative spirit of Reddit/FT/DoC/etc. I regularly host meetups and encourage newbies to attend. I’d rather have 1000 people kill a deal straightaway vs 10 people milk it for years. We were all newbs at one time and it isn’t fair to shut the door behind us.
I agree. I am always nice to newbies and have coached several who went on to have a nice travel hacking career. But I am VERY careful of who I help. This is NOT for most people. Which is unlike ANY commercial blog out there that gets measured by, please sit down, CONVERSIONS!
We were all newbies once #neverforget
Woman Sprints Down Aisle, Dumps Coffee on Passengers, and Assaults an Air Marshal – View From The Wing
But no video!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Anyway, this guy never checks on the blog metrics I am sure. It can not be explained in any other way that he keeps posting clickbait crap. At the same time, watch how many other bloggers will link to him to be noticed…
Life is not fair. Deal with it.
The Junot Diaz story is stunning in it’s description of the depths that he has been plunged into. I will never read anything by him again without having this nagging awareness in the back of my mind of what a child rapist did to him, then, and forever afterwards.
One of my kids was a student of his at MIT. I just sent her the story and will be interested to see what she has to say.
When I started reading that…I could not stop. I felt my stomach turn several times.
Uh the far left ideology REQUIRES the shutting down of alternative views. It doesn’t want to listen or entertain freedom of thought as freedom of thought is a danger to their power, similar to religious fanatics who think in belive in our way or your a heretic. It’s a core part of their ideology, and your asking them to reject that. Lol good luck.
Oh the far right ideology REQUIRES the shutting down of alternative views. It doesn’t want to listen or entertain freedom of thought as freedom of thought is a danger to their power, similar to religious fanatics who think in belive in our way of your a heretic. It’s a core part of their ideology, and your asking them to reject that. Lol good luck
See what I did there?
We are in our own echo chamber.
I am trying to work on it. Not seeing much from the other side. And in the far right side there are a whole lot more religious fanatics!!!