Glib beats insightful

Paul Graham’s essay, Hackers and Painters, is very popular with some programmers. I just found a hilarious refutation of it, called Dabblers and Blowhards.

The interesting thing for me is that Paul Graham’s audience are just as enthusiastic (if not more so) when he writes rubbish about things he knows nothing about, as when he writes insightfully about things he is an expert on.

I have noticed a related phenomenon when taking part in discussions on Slashdot. I have a better chance of getting a high rating for comments on software related topics (about which I know no more than anyone else taking part, possibly less), than for comments on investment related topics.

Similarly by attempt at an investment research website was a complete failure. The last version before I gave up is not as high quality as earlier attempts (older stuff is better, if you want to look at it), but is still a lot better than tip sheets that people are willing to pay a lot of good money for.

People prefer simplistic material that they do not need to think about, to anything they might actually learn from. They prefer the glib and simplistic to the insightful and do not care at all about accuracy. If you doubt it consider what is most popular on television, what books sell best, and what newspapers have the largest circulation. The only amendment to my conclusion that would lead to might be to add that people like to have their prejudices reinforced, their pre-conceived ideas unchallenged, and for everything that goes wrong to be someone else’s fault.

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