Man is a fraction of the animal world. Our history is an afterthought, no more, tacked to an infinite calendar. We are not so unique as we should like to believe. And if man in a time of need seeks keeper knowledge concerning himself, then he must explore those animal horizons from which we have made our quick little march.

Dear CMO:

For all our smart phones, digital music players and social networking sites, we’re still just primates in suits. We’re animals. We run with the pack, go with the herd, and jump lemming-like into whatever our collective mob jumps into. Monkey see, monkey do.

We often decide what is good by observing what others think is good. Robert Cialdini talks extensively about social proof in his work on the science of influence — case studies, recommendations, lines out in front of restaurants, etc.

I’d venture to say that end caps at retail stores are examples of social proof. We see more stuff on display, infer that it’s there because lots of people like it, and poof! our individualism disappears in an anthropological ball of smoke.

Have you noticed that the vast majority of positive reviews are judged “helpful” on Amazon? The vast majority of negative reviews are judged “unhelpful”. If you are critical, you are criticized.

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I’m re-reading Robert Ardrey again after many years — African Genesis and The Territorial Imperative. His thesis is simple. Our primary drive, older than procreation, is the acquisition and control of territory. Our social grouping — still the source of all ethnic tension, religious intolerance, and racial hatred — has evolved to support our innate need. Social harmony — the rule of law, social breeding, cultural mores — has evolved to best manage territory control and defense. Thus, we reward those who agree with us and shun those who don’t.

What does this have to do with blogging? I have a pet theory that all things being equal, more posts – which manifest themselves as more lines in an RSS feed aggregator – create more readership. Like lines out front of a club or products on an end cap, more is better. An even more important trigger is the number of comments. We comment on blogs — all things being equal — that already have comments on them. We pause — all things being equal — when we don’t see enough posts frequently enough. An unhealthy gene pool?

What’s the right frequency? Do you find yourself holding back when commenting on a blog that never has any comments? Is is phenomenon good, bad, or utterly irrelevant?

Or is it just your suppressed animal instinct pushing you away?


Copyright (c) 2007 Stephen Denny