The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell

This example isn't in the book but might as well be: by the late 80s, glam metal bands were the rage. At the same time, a small music scene almost unknown outside of Seattle called Grunge existed. By the early 90s, with Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (the band's frontman is mentioned in a quotation, once) exploding onto the world scene, Glam Rock was passé and a dozen Grunge bands flooded the airwaves. Soon the most popular band of the world was Pearl Jam, and high-end fashion shows featured the (once) cheap, dirty--but warm--flannels, that were the mainstay of grunge fashion. According to Gladwell's book, Grunge hit the tipping point. The idea is that a number of very small factors (i.e. situational context) or individuals (e.g. those who know their stuff (Mavens) or know tons of people (Connectors)) create massive impact that shape events in the street, politics, culture, etc. The book discusses in easy to read language, saving citations for the end as to not scare off readers, numerous examples of the tipping point in action and goes step-by-step and explaining the various types of people and situations that are necessary to cause a tipping point. Here's the problem: the book gives the impression that there might actually be mathematically or perhaps culturally devised ways to make something such as an economic or social trend tip, while if such a thing were possible you would probably have an awful lot of people and companies doing just that. Additionally, a problem with the text is that it further gives the impression that if something tips in remains tipped. This is honestly absolutely ludicrous; trends come and go, empires rise and fall etc. With only one weak example as an exception, there are no trends mentioned that tipped and then eventually fell by the wayside into obscurity (or at least admitted to in the book), and the example given is of a company that undermined itself. Perhaps that is why Grunge is not discussed--it is a trend that tipped and was un-tipped or overshadowed and thus would not fit within the book's model. The work is very interesting and informative, but it is likewise misleading, filled with cherry picked examples that never become un-tipped, and thus in the end it is somewhat disappointing, despite the fact that numerous pages are dedicated to the tale of the incredible and intellectual Mark Alpert—sadly that is not me, but just another namesake pushing me farther down of Google search result list. 

Welcome New, Reader

This goes out to all my prior students (all one of you over the years) that discovered I post to this blog! Hmm, having an old student reading my random rants on even more random topics, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, its a thing. Hope you like comics!

Holiday party status check: Your place in the pecking order.

Holiday parties are a great way to remind you how replaceable you are. Take coworkers who were friendly the day before: The untenured actively ignore you, newly tenured purposely insult you, and full professors just can't be bothered talking with you. Adjuncts eventually get herded like cattle into a little circle in the corner. Who cares! There's free food.

School's Out for Summer

At least until July when I start teaching again. But for now, I'm done with my teaching job--four days before the deadline! Time to enjoy the long weekend after grading a billion papers and to get ready for the flood of angry emails from students unhappy with their grades.