Tell us how we’re doing! Post your suggestions.

Today we again ask for reader feedback on important aspects of the FM website. Tell us how to do this better. Everything is open to fix. Excerpt for one thing. We’ll continue to annoy both Left and Right, looking for a path to reform America. It’s bad for business in our increasingly tribal society, but such is life.

Listening
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Questions

  1. Daily long posts, or more short posts?
  2. Promo our successful predictions, or just more on?
  3. Add your comments

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(1)  Daily long posts, or more short posts

The FM website does long-form analysis of issues on the cutting edge of the known. They’re usually 1,000 to 2,000 words long (vs typical posts on the web of 200 -400 words). With copious citations (usually links).  Complexes of posts, each a chapter closely examining a sliver of the geopolitical world (from an American perspective). Extensively cross-indexed.

The other side of the operation is the @FabiusMaximus01 twitter feed. Pointers to articles about the themes covered here, often with brief comments on them (1,135 followers).

Short and long. Is this the best way to do this?  Most importantly, should we do more and shorter articles — or stick with the one-per-day long-form articles. Other questions appear below the fold.
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(2)  Second question: do we promote past predictions enough?

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The web is filled with applause for successful predictions, many of which are no better than those made here. Accurate predictions about our mad wars. About the great financial crisis and its aftermath. Franz Gayl’s posts about China. GI Wilson’s posts about the Marines, and the psychology of a nation using killer drones.  Marcus Ranum’s posts about cyberwar and cybersecurity. Don Vandergriff’s posts about the war in Afghanistan.  Chet Richards’ posts about many many things.

See lists of our accurate predictions here, and wrong ones here.  The latter is complete (I obsessively track mistakes, and readers work diligently to remind me of them). The former is long, and a complete list would be longer.
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(3)  Concluding note

Post your suggestions about ways we can do better. Note that the website itself comes from WordPress, and we have only slight control over its design and features.

To learn more about the FM website see the buttons on the top menu bar.

(4)  For More Information

(a)  About the website:

  1. Politics of the FM site: radical leftist reformer or right-wing iconoclast?
  2. About comments on the FM website

(b)  Reviews of and thoughts about our work so far:

  1. Lessons learned during 2012 from comments on the FM website, 30 December 2012
  2. What can we learn from visits to the FM website from interesting Internet communities, 31 December 2012
  3. A look at the record hits, and what they tell us about ourselves, 28 September 2013
  4. Confession about a failed forecast, 26 May 2013
  5. Looking at the FM website: are we helping to reform America?, 6 November 2013
  6. Sunday reflections on the FM website project, perhaps an inspiration for you!, 8 December 2013
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21 thoughts on “Tell us how we’re doing! Post your suggestions.

  1. I would like to see more of what you and others know about the Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, Council On Foreign Relations, World Banks, The Vatican and any other orgs. that try to stay out of the limelight yet have a lot more power and influence than most people realize… Thanks for your good work…Gary

  2. Fabius Maximus,

    I’m satisfied with your current mix of short-form (typically referencing links to supporting material) posts with longer posts (1000+ words) as the material dictates.

    On the subject of promoting past predictions: it makes perfect sense to highlight successful past predictions in the context of expanding that prediction and projecting some new or altered aspect of the subject. Of course throwing out an occasional, “see, I was right!” on it’s own would only make you human (and would be forgivable). And in the off-chance that you were to (ahem) make a *wrong* prediction, an after action review benefits all.

  3. I think too much on climate change. There plenty of other websites debating this subject, and it’s not like mankind can do anything about it.

    1. dashui,

      I understand your view, and you are certainly correct about the volume of material out there. But …

      I see very little out there comparing much of the Left’s writing about climate change to the statements of the IPCC and major climate agency.

      This is imo the best example today of our broken Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action loop (now that the mad wars have died down). Neither Left or Right handle this issue in anything remotely like a rational matter, and their combined din drown out the sensible voices.

      We can adapt to climate change, as we have in the past. For that matter, we’re not prepared for the past to repeat. Belief that “mankind can do nothing about it” is a natural reaction to the cacophony, but extremely dangerous.

      This is like Pearl Harbor. On 6 December 1941 General Short and Admiral Kimmel (commanders at Pearl) said that nothing more could be done to defend the islands. On December 14 they had implemented extensively measures (e.g., boats around the island with radios, spotters around the islands). Much the same will be true about climate change.

  4. Hi Fab,

    1. Drop all references to Left and Right; they are meaningless concepts. Just present your analysis and supporting links and policy recommendations (more below). I’m just as jaded and angry as you are but showing these attitudes merely demonstrates that we are grumpy old men.

    2. Lose the lists of links to past posts. I never follow them. We can search the site if we want more.

    3. Predictions are cheap. Omit predictions except as strongly implied by the analysis you’re doing.

    4. Suggest policy solutions. Avoid worsening the existing clusterf*ck by insulting everyone by saying something along the lines of, “And they’re all wrong…”.

    My attention span has suffered because of my Internet habits. I am greedy for information on current events. I rarely read books anymore, although I look into a lot of them via reviews and articles. Music has become more important, as have video interviews on YouTube with knowledgable alternative sources like Paul Craig Roberts and alternative news (Vice News has an excellent series on Ukraine).

    Medium length essays. I rarely make it all the way through your posts. Write like it’s for the news: state your thesis in the first sentence, then back up, describe the problem, describe your solution, wrap it up.

    You are not a “doom porn” site. Accentuate the positive! Eliminate the negative! Stop calling people names! Just the facts!

    Peace, brother, it’s going to be a hell of a ride.

    benign

  5. I have two suggestions:

    1. Much of what you write about is the slumber and to be frank, the laziness of the American people to take responsibility for governing our country. I agree with your general assessment about what we are doing wrong and about our inadequate response to the ideologues who we’ve allowed to control our nation. What I think would be useful is to specify more clearly what you believe we should be doing instead. In other words, it’s not enough to tell people that they are doing the wrong things – it’s more powerful (IMO) to show them in as much detail as possible what are the right things to do. I know this suggestion would require lots of work and specificity on your part, but it’s what I believe is a necessary step.

    2. Dovetailing on the first item, I think issuing a clarion call for substantive action by the American people is required. Again, I believe most of your readers, or least the consistent commenters, are in general agreement with you about the somnolence of our people. I believe that some ongoing statement(s) or even demands for us to be fully responsible citizens is needed. All the polemics leading up to the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement had the effect of energizing enough people to act in the face of great resistance and danger. It takes more than moving people’s minds – we have to move their hearts as well. Perhaps this isn’t your area of focus or would be better left to others more skilled in this arena. Regardless, I believe strong words to galvanize the People are needed now more than ever.

    1. Thornton,

      I think you’ll find all that you’re looking for in these 4 dozen posts: Reforming America: steps to political change. There is no simple solution, so these are hunt-and-peck attempts to find a workable path.

      Here’s the text I posted so many times, in so many forms:

      We need not accept this evolution. There is a simple — if long and difficult — path to a new and better America. Learn and listen. Get angry. Talk with others and organize. The Tea Party had the formula right, although it was clear from the beginning they were mired in lies and confused thinking. For more about this see Five steps to fixing America. These are small, easy, simple steps, as a cure is not possible at this time, IMO. We have to build our strength before we can have any reasonable odds of reforming America or building a Third Republic.

      But this requires an aroused people. All paths forward require arousing the American people. How can we do this? What first steps should we take?

      Here’s my question. I’ve written aprox 50 thousand words exploring how to reform America. Different perspectives, itemized, cross-indexed. Where else do you see similar works?

      Bonus question: these posts get low traffic. People overwhelming prefer listing problems, whining about problems, blaming others for our problems. Why is that? What does this tell us?

  6. Fabs, my complaint as to why I think your irrelevant is that you have really bad aim. To quote Steven King’s, Roland of Gilead: “You’ve forgotten the face of your father”. I’d also bitch about how you never seem to have fully grasped Colonel John Boyd’s idea that wars are won on the moral level of warfare. Boyd ripped that idea off of Sun Tzu, who ripped off that idea off of Lao Tzu.

    Here’s a hint: Control fraud caused the financial crisis in 2008, that control fraud was unpunished… …so guess what?

    http://youtu.be/Rn5JclFHglc

    1. robnaardin,

      (1) “Boyd ripped that idea off of Sun Tzu, who ripped off that idea off of Lao Tzu.”

      That’s too harsh. There are few, if any, original ideas. In fact almost everybody’s ideas build on those of others. As Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants” (Letter to Robert Hooke, 15 February 1676).

      Oh wait, Newton “ripped that off” from others before him, the earliest known form attributed to Bernard of Chartres (died 1124).

      (2) “Here’s a hint: Control fraud caused the financial crisis in 2008, that control fraud was unpunished… …so guess what?”

      That’s way too simplistic. Even small disasters (e.g., sinking of the Titanic) usually result from multiple causes — not a single cause. Control fraud (Wikipedia) was a factor. It’s a virulent form of the principal-agent conflict, which was a larger factor. Regulatory failure was also a large factor. Then there were the political factors, which drove the mad deregulation of the long-successful New Deal reforms.

      Lots of factors.

  7. For many years, the motto of Rolling Stone magazine was, “All the News that Fits.” (It might still be; I don’t see it on their current web site.) They meant it as a parody of the famous motto of the New York Times, of course; but it might as well be the motto of the vast majority of journalistic outlets and web sites in existence. In an old phrase I saw again recently, they “use what they have learned like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.”

    The single most valuable thing about Fabius Maximus is that the authors consistently do their best not to fall into that trap.

    Second are the comments, and the authors’ commitment to remain engaged in the discussions. It might sometimes seem like the comments go astray, portray frustrating ignorance and repeat the same fallacies; but compare them to those on nearly any website with “political” content (unless that website moderates so heavily that the comments are limited to being a vapid cheering section). Even if it only happens a fraction of the time, the process of engaging readers and expanding the insights addressed in the original posts is worth a great deal.

    I wish that could go even further… that it could evolve from having regular commenters into a true Fabius Maximus community. (Among other difficulties, WordPress.com hosting is probably not flexible enough to support that well; a self-hosted WordPress site probably could, but that’s a whole additional level of work and expense.) I would like someday to think of Fabius Maximus as a We and not (just) a You.

    I appreciate the long-form posts. To be frank, they could sometimes use a bit more careful editing. Also, there is something in the layout or formatting—I cannot seem to identify it—that makes this site a bit difficult to read. I know you are constrained by WordPress.com. Try reading, say, this, from Fabius Maximus, and this 2700-word article from The Atlantic. Why is the Atlantic article so much easier on my eyes? I wish I could say… but it is. I can say with confidence that what is more difficult to read is more difficult to comprehend.

    Two things I would like to read more about from Fabius Maximus are:

    * Our system of criminal law and enforcement: e.g., militarization of police departments; ALEC; the war on poor and dark-skinned people drugs; our general disposition to ignore social science and criminology in favor of our gut feelings about “justice.”

    * Internet issues: e.g., the NSA’s duplicitous, intentional weakening of security protocols to be established by standards bodies—that should have been far more of a scandal than it was; the net neutrality problem described in the Atlantic article linked above; the battle between free culture and IP maximalists.

    (There is plenty of material to be found on those topics. The difficulty, as always, is finding insightful analysis that pursues illumination, not just support.)

    Thank you for all the work you do (far more than we realize, I’m sure) to make this site what it is.

    1. Coises,

      I agree with all your points. Here’s some background.

      “I appreciate the long-form posts. To be frank, they could sometimes use a bit more careful editing. A”

      Consider the time to do 5-6 articles per week, 8-9,000 words total, most of which involve considerable research. Just the typing, editing, and inserting graphics takes several hours per article. It’s a policy decision to provide the stream of content at lower level of editing.

      Daily posts generate more consistent traffic (no point talking to ourselves) — and the message is the priority. I have files with scores of potentially great articles, which I have not written because they require too much time. What you see here are the low-hanging fruit.

      This project already takes too much of my time by any rational calculation.

      (2) WordPress

      The development of wordpress ‘themes” has evolved rapidly. This is an old theme, far inferior to newer ones. Our tech expert has retired and gone onto other (more fun) activities. I have neither the time or knowledge to convert the website to a better theme.

      And, as you note, WordPress does not have good commenting functionality.

  8. FM, in response to your earlier comments, I appreciate what you are attempting to do. My comments were meant more as enhancements to what you are doing, not as criticisms.

    I was not aware of the full extent of your historic commentary to rouse people to action. I personally do most of the five items you list for fixing our country except for attending local political events. Personal history has shown me that many attendees to those programs are there to complain about the “gobermint’s” evil nature while demanding the same “gobermint” to do something for them. The cognitive dissonance and immaturity is too overwhelming to deal with sometimes.

    Do I see other sites focusing on same issues with rigor as this one does? No….although there are plenty that touch on the periphery. Reading those sites is like following the proverbial group of blind men touching the elephant. They individually believe they know the full answer when they in reality only touch the surface. This site is the one that comes closest to the real issue – the death of the current political regime aka the Second Republic.

    As to why the traffic on your site is so low and why most commentary is people only talking about problems – IMO, it’s the very thing you’re trying to combat.

    I have opinions about why this happens but I will keep them to myself for the time being. Let’s just say that given my personal experience, I don’t believe most people have the heart or guts to be brutally honest with themselves and take full responsibility for being a citizen. People would rather criticize the government is a cheap way to complain and look like they are doing something substantive without actually doing something substantive.

    What’s required instead is doing the hard internal, psychological analysis of complaining at the expense of owning the responsibility of being a full citizen AND doing the hard, external political work. Many people are just too lazy and asleep to do either one of these let alone both.

    I’m off my soap box now. I look forward to seeing the ongoing thread to this post. Keep up the good work – you may have more allies than you realize.

    1. Thornton,

      “I was not aware of the full extent of your historic commentary to rouse people to action.”

      No reason you should be. Yours was a logical question. I keep the reference pages for this very purpose!

      “I personally do most of the five items you list for fixing our country except for attending local political events.”

      That’s great to hear. We can retake America, getting people involved one by one!

  9. I also think FM is doing a great job. I appreciate the extra time taken to put in all the links and references. Regarding word count- the current “format” seems good to me. I personally am not into twitter, although that might be a way to attract readers. Cheers!

    1. Pete,

      As it turns out, Twitter is not a effective way to attract traffic. 1,140 followers have had no visible effect on traffic.

      I just started using Reddit. Looks far more complex to use — as a community. But with the potential to drive traffic. If anyone has tips, I’d appreciate hearing them.

    2. I have read your website for years. Actually, I like it best when you debate in the comments. Your incisive criticisms of other posts is my favorite thing.

      I read reddit often. Switch sub-reddit are you posting in?

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