As many of you have already noted, the last installment was an experiment with a much shorter format: a thought to consider presented in under 500 words.
In a brief concluding note and borrowing the jargon of the comedy circuit, I asked “Is this anything?” That’s the title Jerry Seinfeld gave to his recent book, and he tells us it is a way comedians have of asking each other whether there was any promise in an early iteration of a joke or routine.
Well, the results are in, and they are pretty conclusive: apparently it was something.
I was actually surprised by the volume of emails that started coming in almost immediately. I’d say 97/100 were quite enthusiastic about the prospect of seeing some of these brief posts a bit more frequently.
In fact, I was more convinced after reading some of the rationale a number of you offered for their value! The gist being that there is a place for brief, unpolished, and open-ended ideas that would serve as inducements to thought, reflection, and conversation. And, indeed, the feedback I’ve gotten to the content of the post definitely bears this out.
So, I like this development and will begin to play with the form. As I suggested, “Is this anything?” is actually a great heading for this subset of posts … only not for jokes but for ideas. The Post-it note has been my default medium for such things, and occasionally Twitter, but I’ll begin to occasionally use the newsletter in this way. I’ll use “Is this anything?” as the subtitle whenever I post in this format so that you can tell what to expect when it lands in your inbox.
These will not, to be clear, replace the usual longer essays that have been the norm for me. Rather, I’ll sprinkle these around those longer posts. And I will sprinkle them sparingly. I still don’t want to generate too much noise in your feeds.
Also, I’ve tried to respond, even if just briefly, to everyone who sent in their feedback. It’s been great to hear from so many of you for the first time. Thanks to all for taking the time to send in your thoughts. That said, there were a lot of emails all stacked into the same thread in the inbox, so forgive me if I’ve missed a reply here and there.
Finally, it occurs to me that, judging from other newsletters I read, my use of the “Subscribe” button has been remarkably restrained. So, if I may, the Convivial Society operates on a patronage model: no paywall, just the confidence that those who are able and find value in the work will find it worth supporting. If that’s you and you’ve been on the fence, I will say this would be a great time to consider a paid subscription:
I feel compelled these days to assure everyone that, unlike some others apparently, I’m not exactly getting rich on here, just getting by. Also, if you have reservations about this platform and would be interested in other ways of supporting the work, one possibility might be picking up a copy of an e-book of collected essays from the old blog and choosing your price as you saw fit. You’re of course more than welcome to download a copy for free, too. Okay, I promise that will be the last bit of subscription-talk for a while!
Regular programming resumes next week with (finally) the second part of a two-part reconsideration of how I’ve thought about the problem of attention and digital media. Here’s the first part, in case you missed it.
As always, my hope is that this finds you well.