Many of you have asked for a post revealing the story behind this post. (Warning: Don’t click if you’re easily angered. And please don’t read any further if you hate inside baseball stories).
This morning Mike wrote something called “Obligations To Dead Sources” in which he refers to a tweet from New York Times correspondent Micheline Maynard. Maynard’s tweet about not breaking a promise to protect a source actually broke her promise to protect a source. It’s mind blowing, I know.
Jerry York told others of us details about Steve Jobs' illness.
To me, a promise is a promise.—
Micheline Maynard (@MickiMaynard) January 18, 2011
While Maynard’s tweet is more of a paradox (two mutually exclusive assertions in one concept) than recursive (the application of a definition repeatedly) it reminded me of another tweet that pushed the logical boundaries of 140 characters.
Techmeme founder Gabe Rivera (who also happens to be my boyfriend) tweeted out this ouroboros-inspired tweet back in 2009 and it resonated with people who love recursive humor. But what Rivera was riffing on then and what we were playing with today is anything but original, from Fibonacci to Comp Sci 101, from Stephen Hawking to Yo Dawg, meta-references are everywhere.
The idea of an infinite loop is so integral to the way we conceive of the world that linguist Noam Chomsky at some point thought that understanding and being able to proliferate recursive concepts was what separated us from the animals. Just Google “recursion” if you want more proof (and to be delighted).
News writing, because of the nature of aggregation and content farming, is trending toward blog posts with provactive headlines, little actual content and endless arguments in the comments section. Business Insider has even made whole posts out of MG’s tweets.
So when Mike suggested we try to figure out how to make a post that linked to itself, not only did I see a chance to be meta, but also an opportunity for a subtle critique of the news cycle and business. And yes, I went into this knowing exactly how many people it would piss off. And no, I don’t take my readers for granted, but I often hope that they have a sense of humor. Or patience.
Granted I wasn’t necessarily planning on doing a followup post, and some of you seemed to get it (“This article really was a transcendent experience. Astounding, the subject didn’t lie.”) but comments like this one “I clicked the link 3 times, then I realised and then I was sad. :'(“ made me feel like I owed it to my readers to drop some science on this. After all, you guys do pay my bills and no one likes to be made to feel stupid. Trust me.
So here are the final analytics numbers: At the end of the today, “This Article Is A Must Read” garnered 38,888 onsite pageviews, 30,467 RSS reader views, 204 comments, 566 tweets, 92 Facebook Likes and 17 Diggs (don’t know if anyone pays attention to the Buzz button anymore). It was the top trafficking post on TechCrunch in this 24 hour time period, though I think there were many others deserving of that title (but especially “The Top 20 VC Power Bloggers Of 2010“).
It also made our “Most Commented” section with one comment hitting every 30 seconds at some point, even though the topic of discussion was just a link to itself. What the hell guys?
While the post’s title definitely being click bait on purpose might explain the high traffic, it’s hard to wrap my head around the 204 comments (I half-expected an iPhone vs. Android fight to break out down there).
Maybe this ultimately proves that TechCrunch is more about the commentary (and community) than the content? After all this similar post and this similar post both received similar levels of discussion.
If that is indeed the case, thank you.
Obligatory Quora reference.