The result of my survey of economists is delayed one more day (I think). I’m timing it to run with an opinion piece I wrote for CNN.com, but the news about Lehman Brothers squeezed it off the page at the last minute.

[Insert your own joke about not having time to hear what economists say because we’re too busy with bank closures.]

I thought Hurricane Ike was going to bump my story today. There’s always something. I released my book God’s Debris in September 2001. That turned out to be a bad month for authors to get media attention. Another book, Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel was released the same month that the infamous Beltway Sniper was making national headlines. I was on my book tour, and all of my media appearances depended on how accurate the sniper was that morning.

I remember having dinner with a group of book publishers and asking them how many great undiscovered authors there are. They answered unanimously “none.” It was their view that every good author can get published because the publishing industry is scratching the dirt to find them. I think that’s mostly true. But how many books an author sells has a lot to do with what is happening in the news.

My first hardcover book, The Dilbert Principle, hit its stride in the summer, when there wasn’t much else happening in the news. The media attention was enormous. It was an easy and fun story and there wasn’t a lot of competition for people's attention. Sales were huge. But if it had launched during September of 2001, as my book God’s Debris did, it would have tanked. God's Debris was a solidly successful book, but sold maybe a tenth of its potential.

Timing is everything.

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Sep 17, 2008
"I remember having dinner with a group of book publishers and asking them how many great undiscovered authors there are. They answered unanimously “none.” It was their view that every good author can get published because the publishing industry is scratching the dirt to find them."-SA

I thought this was an interesting comment. I don't believe that it is true, not because publishers are not looking, but I do not believe that the mechanisms in place really help them find people who may be good. The real problem is in the way that they look for and select authors. To get in with publishers you need an agent, and agents require some sort of agreement, which is frankly more of a hassle than many people who are not committed to authoring multiple works are willing to get into.

I have an example of this, I have a sister who, oddly enough, was an engineer before she started to have children. But she took college level creative writing classes for fun. Her professor, who is an accomplished writer, once said she was the most gifted writer she had ever taught. My sister ended up writing a manuscript that is not bad, but so far no one has read it. Every publisher she tried to contact said that she needed an agent in order for it to be read. In my sister's case this was a barrier to entry significant enough that she has been sitting on this thing for about three years. Now it may be that my sister is not all that great a writer, or that her topic is not of broad enough interest, but it is hard to say since she can't get people to read the manuscript.
Sep 16, 2008
About Lehman:

the Dilbert Principle says that inapt employee are promoted to higher ranks in order to limit the damages they will be able to do (or something like this). So Lehman Brothers bankruptcy was foreseeable for Dilbert's fans because this corporation get recently so much prizes and recognition for their best management practices.

just too bad they tried to delay Scott's release at such a price : )
Sep 16, 2008
I understand why some may see that having Democratic economists may bias the study, but from what I gather, didn't Scott try to get a random sample? If so, doesn't the fact that the economists identify themselves as Democratic say something? I don't see why the "independents" should have any more weight than the others--they're either indecisive, non-committal, or lying.

I hear this a lot when talking politics about group biases--"oh the media is biased, oh college professors are biased." Shouldn't the fact that people who are plugged into world events (media) and people who study history, science, (and economics) seem to be biased towards Democratic politics tell you something?
Sep 16, 2008
JoshP said- The results will be posted on CNN. To be honest, I've never known CNN to post a single Repulican-favorable document on their network. I do read CNN daily and I like to think of myself as somewhat middle of the road, but they're not exactly the most neutral of mediums.

I invite you to read anything by Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Roland Martin. Beck is Rush Limbaugh reborn, Dobbs is a Republican masquerading as a populist and Roland Martin is probably the most socially conservative of the three.

I get how CNN may have gotten some flak in the past, but they've overcompensated in a big way--they've become so right-leaning that Fox news has to go crazy right just to keep up.
Sep 16, 2008
Here is why Scott might be supporting Obama:

1. Repubs under Bush have learnt to manage the media and their business. The twain don't meet in the same board room.

2. Obama still su@ks. Blows with the wind that is.

3. With Obama Scott will not work for the media. Scott hopes to beThe Media.

4. Remember how Michael Moore was escorted by the Bush admin? It worked didn't it? Scott probably is working a similar game plan

5. Scott is feigning his support to Obama. Its a rugby tackle!!!
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 16, 2008
hey man, i tried to read the old posts of your new blog but i have problems finding some "next post" buttom.
where the !$%* did you put them?

anyway, just read the Weasel Way, i really enjoyed it

keep on rocking,
Sep 16, 2008
While I agree that lack of publicity will hinder a book sale, surely you can’t seriously think that the failure of Gods Debris, in comparison to the Dilbert Principle, was down to 911?
The Dilbert Principle was a fun-to-read comedy. Gods Debris wasn’t.
I really enjoy your ‘Dilbert’ books but couldn’t even finish Gods Debris.
Simple fact
Dilbert Principle = mass appeal good book = high sales
Gods Debris = low appeal average book = low sales

PS – how about putting a bit more effort into writing your Dilbert strips and less into meaningless surveys? Can’t remember the last time I LOL at Dilbert
(but thanks for the intro to Basic Instruction)

[If you think books about engineers have more natural mass appeal than books about religion... -- Scott]
Sep 16, 2008
Why compete with yourself? You should release your blog piece the day after your CNN piece.
Sep 15, 2008
Too much foreplay! (I'm no longer in the mood.)
Sep 15, 2008
Maybe a good sequel, "God’s Debris on Wall Street", might work better this September.
Sep 15, 2008
I'm a long time reader, first time poster. :-)

If timing is everything, and your previous blog entry indicates that context is everything (http://dilbert.com/blog/entry/context_is_everything/). Then timing is the same as context.

Timing = everything
Context = everything, thus
Timing = Context

As aftermath mentioned; "I think a person raised by chimps on an island should qualify as a genius for inventing the wheel, but brought to our context that accomplishment wouldn't really mean so much." The resultant of your success isn't just the timing of your articles, books, etc... but the context with which they're published/sold.

One could also determine that if time = money, and substitute money for time as a variable in the original equation; money = everything?!?! :-)
Sep 15, 2008

You should post an on-line poll with the same question asked the economists so you can compare how closely the public matches economists. If the public matches pretty well, then there is no real need to continue these polls. If the public doesn't match at all (which is what I would expect) then this is seriously valuable information.

I'd also like to see annual follow-ups to see how closely the most commonly held opinions match what actually happens.

Economists really ought to do this themselves in order to have an objective gauge of what economic theories are more likely to produce useful information.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 15, 2008
I have to say I disagree with the claim that "God's Debris" was unsucessful because of the events of September 2003. I have read the book, and it was a very different style to Scott's usual writing, even of the usual thought experiments. I read the book in the spirit the book was intended, and still did not enjoy it. That may be my own personal preference, but it seems clear that God's Debris was primarily unsuccessful because it wasn't as good as Scott's usual output.

[80% of the public dislikes Dilbert. The best way to judge the quality of a book is by the number of 5-star ratings, even if there are lots of 1-star ratings too. -- Scott]
Sep 15, 2008
Timing? I haven't posted here forever............

Now they want to do TWO surgeries at the same time.................

I retired in May because I am so tired.................

Maybe Muppet or someone else on this blog cares, so thought I would post today.

Haven't read anything here, so don't know what I missed. All I know is that all the kids keep coming over a lot and yesterday they all came with food and all the grandkids kept coming up and kissing me goodbye and they weren't leaving................hmmm. What does that mean?

By the way,,,,,,,Bobby says "Hi" --- that's for the posting buddies that go back a year or so.

Remember Who Loves You............it's me...............

Rita Mae
Sep 15, 2008
I must agree that timing is very important in relation to a certain context.

I think a person raised by chimps on an island should qualify as a genius for inventing the wheel, but brought to our context that accomplishment wouldn't really mean so much.

Also, success is a very subjective concept. For some people success is not about how much they're selling but rather who's buying it. Sometimes "success" can be just accomplishing something.

Problem is that we move in a world of numbers because most of us believe they're more reliable than, say, religion or imagination, so we base our success in certain ratings. It's hardly that simple, I think.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 15, 2008
I think Dave Barry has the best timing ever. He released "Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway" about a month before 9/11. The book bashes the government for being so incompetent (just what people want to hear after their country gets attacked).

Oh, and the book is subtitled: A Vicious and Unprovoked Attack on Our Most Cherished Political Institutions.

0 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 15, 2008
I voted your comment up smcgraw because you have some good points...

It's been several months since I've really reviewed Obama's tax plan and I know he has scaled back - and even if he didn't, I know it depends on where someone's income comes from. Beyond that, I don't think the remaining Republicans in congress would let him pass such an agressive tax plan without an uproar.

Still, the uninvested middle class will still be hit harder under Obama than McCain. And I don't exactly agree with "wealth redistribution" for the upper class.

On other economic points I think McCain does do more poorly than Obama, so we'll just have to see what happens. The point I was trying to make earlier is that despite the great intentions and the true value of Scott's results, I suspect that what appears to be clear partisan bias will skew results.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 15, 2008
I firmly believe, due to decades of experience at all levels of management, that I am qualified to comment on certain economic things. However, decades of experience has also taught me that there's a big difference between answering a question like "Should I buy Company X", vs. "Should I revise the federal income tax structure, and if so, how?" Do I have strong opinions on the latter? Of course! But as Scott has said, it would be foolish of me to draw any conclusions without as much data as I could get my hands on [before the time came when I had to (or should) make a decision].

I myself plan to be significantly influenced by Scott's results, and I have been lobbying hard among my colleagues and friends for them to be similarly influenced. Scott's survey may or may not be partisan, but it's certainly the most non-partisan attempt I've seen attempted to-date. Furthermore, Scott seems to parse data in a way that balances analytics with pragmatism, an elusive combination that I personally value highly.

Lastly, in a meaningless show of solidarity, I will purchase _God's Debris_ the day the survey comes out.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 15, 2008
Like JoshP, I'm an undecided moderate eagerly (maybe not mentally "peeing" like JoshP) awaiting the results of Scott's survey.

But JoshP, you need to get your facts straight and not repeat inaccurate statements made by the candidates. Obama's tax plan increases income and cap gain taxes on the top 2% of the population (earning >$250,000) and social security taxes on those making more than $100,000. But his plan reduces taxes for others. Where do you get that taxes on someone making $30k will go up $4k?? McCain's plan also reduces taxes, but for everyone, especially the rich and is likely to cause the deficit to increase. Look at the following link for a report on an analysis of the two candidate's plans:


As a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, both candidates are not good options. Where are the true moderate politicians in the country? While not a fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger at first, I do like his "maverick" approach -- he pisses off both the Democrats and the Republicans in California -- he's not beholden to his party.

I want my President to be smarter than me, to make smart people his advisors, and to base decisions on science not religion (Palin scares the bejeezers out of me!)

Scott - when you decide to run for President, you'll have my vote.

0 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 15, 2008
Hi Scott,

I read CNN daily. I did not know you had on opinion piece coming up. Thanks for ruining what would have been a pleasant surprise. Oh well, I will read it tomorrow, hopefully.

I do suggest that regardless of what may or may not happen that you release your findings before the election.

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