A Year of Putting a Numonit

Happy birthday to Putanumonit!

Come celebrate with me next Friday (10/28) at Zach Weinersmith’s BAH Fest West. If you move fast you can grab one of the few remaining $10 tickets. I’m giving a talk on the dumbest idea ever to solve the global food crisis. For a taste, here’s my performance from last year’s BAH Fest in MIT where I talked about sleepwalking and made fun of Max Tegmark. If I win, drinks on me.

My initial plan for the blog was to quietly practice writing for a few years until I feel I can produce something that deserves to be read. Instead, Scott Alexander linked to the third post I ever wrote and brought 5,000 readers along. In late December I decided that making Scott’s blogroll would be my goal for 2016. It happened on 12/29/2015. In May, “Shopping for Happiness” was the post of the day on The Browser, one spot ahead of Scott.

Thank you Scott! And thanks to everyone who shared, reddited, tweeted, The Browsered, Metafiltered and to everyone who told their mom. Thanks to everyone who commented, emailed me, and a huge thanks to wonderful people who joined me in donating to GiveDirectly.

Whenever a post of mine is shared there are discussions of it happening in 5 places at once (Reddit, LW, Facebook..) I do my best to engage with all of them, but I would love to consolidate most of the conversation here in the comments so it’s visible next to the post.

Two things to encourage this: first, I would like to remind everyone of my $5 reward policy for comments correcting major errors in my posts, like this one.

Second, here’s a rundown of the best comments of the year, with apologies to those I missed: scholar on male porn actors, blastmeister101 on national soccer success, my greatest fan on baby hatches, StrivingForConsistency on patterns in lottery tickets, Benjamin Arthur Schwab wrote an article on the game theory of dating in response to my article on the game theory of dating, Maggie taking first steps in LessWrongianism, BAS, entirelyuseless and JulianR on inequality, Chebky on thaumatology, Alexander Stanislaw pushing back on the GDA, Peter Gerdes disbelieves beliefs, best gamer mouse on the best gaming mouse.

One thing y’all aren’t helping me with is achieving my goal for this blog: becoming a better writer. You critique my ideas six ways to Sunday but never a grammar mistake, a poor turn of phrase, a post with a confusing structure, an incoherent explanation, or a badly constructed argument. I want my writing to be first – fun to read, second – educational, third – convincing, ultimately – inspiring. Most of the time I don’t achieve that, and I need your feedback to get better.

Please share (by comment or email) which parts of my posts worked or didn’t for you as a written essay, arguments aside. The more specific the better: it’s easier to learn from a bad paragraph than from a bad post, even easier to improve on a single bad sentence or logical argument. Rewrite a section of the post with better language and flow to demonstrate your skills, I may even include it in the post. I’m still committed to ensuring that Putanumonit is a money-losing venture. I pay to keep this ad-free and I am willing to pay for a writing coach that impresses me enough. Or, you can make this effort as a kindness to me.

My next post will the revisit the best articles I wrote this year and my follow up thoughts on them, the better to start year 2 with fresh writing and fresh ideas. My folder of draft ideas is bursting at the seams, but you are very much encouraged to post topic suggestions here or on the Full Archive page (finally updated). Feel free to also post shorter questions, I’d love to have enough to do a mailbag Q&A.

At the start of year 2 I am more committed than ever to keep writing, keep improving, and keep engaging with my readers. Thank you for sticking around.

8 thoughts on “A Year of Putting a Numonit

  1. You asked for short questions so I wrote some for you. They don’t all involve numbers and they are short not in the sense that one has to give a short answer but one can give a short answer to each of these questions. Several (all?) of the questions have ambiguity to them. That was purposeful. If you don’t answer all (or even any) of these questions then I’m okay with that. I’m merely trying to fulfill a request though I suspect that I’m not understanding the request correctly. I also would be interested to see what other questions other commentators would add to this.

    1. Do you have a cute story from childhood regarding numbers?

    2. Do you have a cute story from adulthood regarding numbers?

    3. Why do you (seemingly) like Cleveland sports teams?

    4. What is your favorite sport?

    5. What is your favorite color?

    6. What is your favorite food?

    7. What is your favorite spice?

    8. Who is your favorite novelist?

    9. What is your favorite number?

    10. What is your least favorite number?

    11. What is your favorite probability distribution?

    12. What is your favorite non-Homo-Sapien non-fanciful creature?

    13. What is your favorite fanciful creature?

    14. What is your favorite Dinosaur?

    15. Do you have any pets?

    16. Are you and Randal Monroe ever going to combine forces?

    17. Dvorak or Qwerty?

    18. Radians or Degrees?

    19. Metric or Imperial?

    20. Dark Magic or Light Magic?

    21. Imperial Russia or Soviet Union?

    22. Fire or Water?

    23. Bile or Phlegm?

    24. Phlogiston or Luminiferous Aether?

    25. Inclusive Or or Exclusive Or?

    26. What are three things you would wish on your best friend?

    27. What are three things you would wish on your worst enemy?

    28. What are three things you would wish on some unknown stranger?

    29. What should my 29th question be?

    30. Do you enjoy these questions or are they tedious?

    31. Where you fooled by the Monty Hall problem?

    32. Is Theseus’ Ship still the same ship after every plank has been replaced at-least once?

    33. Do you take the Axiom of Choice and if you do, do you have qualms about it?

    34. If you could visit one place on Earth, where would you visit?

    35. Would you travel backwards or forwards in time (at a rate faster than the ordinary progress of time, that is)?

    36. What is the cognitive bias you would most want to magically have disappear in your own mind?

    37. What is the cognitive bias that you find most valuable?

    38. What is one thing that you would say most people want that would really be a nightmare if they got it?

    39. If you could describe your life in one word, what word would that be?

    40. If you were offered a million dollars on the condition that each one would scream at you constantly until you spent it, would you take it?

    41. Which pill would you take?

    42. Would you steal or split?

    43. Are there any questions you are hoping that someone asks you?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. > I want my writing to be first – fun to read, second – educational, third – convincing, ultimately – inspiring.

    I normally would never be so nitpicky but since you asked so explicitly in the sentence just previous to that one, I just made up a rule about em dashes that I’m pretty sure is right: A sentence may contain either 0, 1, or 2 em dashes – never 3 or more. A lone em dash is like an extra pausey comma or a more flowy semicolon or something. Maybe other things — I’m not sure. But if a sentence has 2 em dashes — like this one does — then they are like parentheses except that they’re emphasizing the parenthetical instead of deemphasizing it.

    I’m pretty sure you can’t do the thing you did in that sentence. Or it confused me anyway.


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