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Letter: "I've been pleasantly surprised how happy people are to move on to better ideas; when doing so doesn't involve loss of face."

Another brilliant reply to "Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People" - this time from a civil servant, who has granted me permission to share this, but asked not to receive credit for obvious reasons :)

Hello Sebastian,

Just read your post on Defecting by Accident. I think there's some valuable insight there which fits with my own experience (I'm a junior civil servant in ---).

One tactic I've acquired/developed for the 'someone proposes something unworkable' situation is to: a) agree pleasantly and b) propose something different. People who have practised assuming an air of authority can come across as being more certain/committed to plans than they actually are. I've been pleasantly surprised how happy people are to move on to better ideas; when doing so doesn't involve loss of face. Doesn't work all the time, but it helps. Forgoing the temptation to nitpick requires a bit of willpower but it gets easier, like a diet.

There's a potential Nash equilibrium where you have a better idea, but think 'They seem to believe this strongly, so I'll just accept it and avoid conflict.'

On Astroturfing

On Tenureless_Prof

One of the things that I do when I am bored is read the comments sections of news websites. I am especially interested in the comments sections of news articles that have been linked through the Drudge Report (www.drudgereport.com).

I got in the habit of reading Drudge when I was working for my US Senator. It was 2003, and every morning, we would read Drudge to prepare ourselves for the barrage of phone calls from Drudge-reading conspiracy theorists.

What I find particularly distressing about online political discourse today is its absolute vapidity, and there is no stronger evidence of this than the posted comments on Drudge-linked articles. For instance, today, the AP published this completely dispassionate item:

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/house-gop-white-house-seeking-end-budget-fight

The comments section was closed after about 2 hours, but before that, the top-ranked comment--which garnered something like 2000 thumbs ups, was along the lines of:

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