The USS Quad Damage

Why I'll never be a good businessman

When inviting people to a party you generally start by ringing up a single person, then ringing more. People are generally antithetic to the idea of a party — They don’t want to turn up, but even more than that, they don’t want to miss out. Therefore, the first person you ring is going to ask a dumb-arse question: "Who else is coming?"

It’s easy to see how the question is silly. If everyone asks the question, and they do, then the answer depends on itself. Everyone will come if everyone else is coming. However, given the predicate that people don’t want to make the effort to turn up unless they’re missing out, the question is a direct way to answer that. The question “Who else is coming” is really asking “am I missing out?”. Clearly, if you want to hold a party, the answer is “yes, you are missing out”.

I usually answer with “You're the first person I'm ringing”. The reply is equally dumb-arse, if not more so: “Ring other people and find out if they're turning up, then ask me again.” With a lot of wrangling I can get people turning up by making two phone calls per person. Email lists end up.. kinda worse.

The worst thing is, what I’ve figured out above has come from reasoning which has been hard for me to reach. For others it seems almost intuitive: When someone asks “Who else is coming?”, they answer, apparently instinctively, "why, everyone of course!"

There’s one of two reasons here: One is that they’re lying through their teeth. Maybe they’re used to that, maybe they’re completely selfish. However, there’s a fair chance that they know intuitively the silliness of the question and the only way to give the answer.

I’m an engineer. I live in a world of truths. Treading on those truths is a very bad thing, because you have to keep track of so many truths, and manipulate them with logic in such complex ways that messing with that is completely unmanageable. At least, that’s my excuse. If it didn’t make sense it’s probably because it’s a very bad one.

In any case, I find these things very hard to understand, and I’ve only recently been able to draw the line between this and being a businessman – being able to promise something when nothing exists.

I’ve been completely unable to get people to contribute to this site, and the hits it gets is meandering at similar levels to a year ago. Many blogs and many bloggers can gain and keep a pretty hefty readership, and their content is no better than here, but I still don’t get the hits. Perhaps it’s because I’m not promising enough.

Eww.. whiny ending. I guess I’d better eat my pipe now.