Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Supplemental Lesson

Yesterday, I offered a brief story worth $145,000 for its deep revelation about consumer behavior. Today's story is a companion piece, probably worth at least a few hundred bucks. But first a bit of history.

When I was three years old, I looked up at my parents and said "Smart people have no common sense". So I'm not exactly someone who's been overestimating human intelligence, having been thoroughly disillusioned around the time I'd learned to stop making poopy in my diapers. Yet every few years I need to lower my assessment even further. I constantly discover I've been overestimating.

(Fortunately, it didn't take long for me to make a much more important observation - one managed by very few people who recognize human lunacy: I myself am plenty bad and dumb and slow and deluded in my way. Spotting idiocy doesn't mean you're smart; it just means you're observant.)

We invited people to sign up for Chowhound's mailing list, but, as always, had no tech. So we asked users to send a blank email to with their email address in the subject line. We set it up this way so they could sign up addresses other than the one they were mailing from (at the time, circa 1998, many people were locked into their work addresses when emailing from work). And it would be easy for us to cull the intended addresses this way.

Question: What percentage of our users (triple filtered for smarts being computer users, early Internet adapters, and appreciators of a niche all-text web site) would you think managed to follow these directions?

I obviously can't account for those who put their sign-up address in the "To" field. But way more than 50% of the remainder put their address in the body, or didn't add it at all. Most arrived with a subject of "Sign Me Up!"

The fact that many people tend to respond to this story by saying "Duh, you made it super-complicated!" does *NOT* invalidate my point!

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