A short post today. I spent a while writing a post on the recent SSC controversy but it’s getting long, and I don’t want to spend any more time on it today, so getting this one out quickly.

One interesting feature of the internet is that there is often little signal to get a sense of scale.

You’re reading this blog. How many other people have read this blog in the last week, do you think? It could just as easily be 10, 1k, 100k. You’d have no way of knowing. Even if there was a comment section, you’d need a calibrated sense of what percent of readers comment – and that figure could be very different across communities.

The artist Robin Sloan is in my personal canon1. He’s been developing a video game called Perils of The Overworld, and writing a weekly newsletter about the process. In a recent post about distribution mechanics he mentioned that the newsletter has 2200 subscribers, which gave me pause. I don’t know what I would have expected. Robin is not a household name, though he was an answer on Jeopardy once. But this seemed shockingly low to me. Robin’s relationship to me as a fan “scales”, to use the lingo; my experience of being his fan, though, does not.

In the physical world, the signs of other people are more obvious, harder to fake. It’s an important part of the experience for many things. But on the internet, no one knows how many dogs there are.

Update 2020/09/15: I just came across a post by, oddly enough, the same Robin Sloan, making a similar point.

  1. I intend to make a page exploring this idea and listing the members out, at some point.