Sunday, November 18

don't blow up the spot

A couple days ago I read this essay about reviewing a local burger joint on the internet and killing it as a result, by Kevin Alexander:

Five months later, in a story in The Oregonian, restaurant critic Michael Russell detailed how Stanich’s had been forced to shut down. In the article, Steve Stanich called my burger award a curse, “the worst thing that’s ever happened to us.” He told a story about the country music singer Tim McGraw showing up one day, and not being able to serve him because there was a five hour wait for a burger. On January 2, 2018, Stanich shut down the restaurant for what he called a “two week deep cleaning.” Ten months later, Stanich’s is still closed. Now when I look at the Stanich’s mug in my office, I no longer feel light and happy. I feel like I’ve done a bad thing.

For the past year, the story of Stanich’s has haunted me. For most of that time, I’d been away from Thrillist, as I worked on a book that frequently took me to Portland. Each time I was there, my story would somehow find a way into conversation, like the one with my Lyft driver who asked if I liked burgers. Yes, I said tentatively. “Well, we had a great one here,” he said, as we drove over the Burnside Bridge. “But then some asshole from California ruined it.” Or the time, while sitting at the bar at Clyde Common, the bartender came up to me and in a soft, friendly voice inquired if I’d planned on closing any more burger restaurants while I was in town.

I found it by way of a MetaFilter thread, and then I read this comment over there by Frowner:

Lo these many years ago, a wise person told me, when I was enthusing about something, “the first rule is ‘don’t blow up the spot’”.

And shit, that sure did resonate.

Then there’s this from @nolan@toot.cafe:

In a weird way, you can put “became the #1 rated restaurant, had to close because of vast hordes of foodies” on the same list as:

  • becoming a meme and getting random marriage proposals from strangers
  • getting doxxed/SWATed/brigaded/etc
  • your kickstarter campaign goes viral and now you have 10x the funds you expected, so you have to build something even grander

The internet is like a gravity distortion beam that momentarily focuses everyoneʼs attention on one thing.

Uh huh. It’s 2018 and I’m working on this ever-expanding and frankly sort of absurd, hopeless list of restrictions about information sharing.

  • Don’t put people’s faces on the internet.
  • Don’t put location data on the internet.
  • Don’t exist on social media.
  • Don’t have enough of an observable public personality to attract any form of judgment or attention.
  • Don’t make your town or neighborhood look cool on the internet.
  • Absolutely do not put hiking trails, campsites, parks, etc., on the internet. In fact, don’t tell anyone outside of friends who know better than to spread the word about those things either.
  • Don’t make visible art or have visible opinions or affiliations.
  • Don’t have an audience, don’t perpetuate an audience, don’t boost signals in any way likely to distort or refocus the lens of network attention.
  • Don’t do anything to improve the network’s model of you.

I break these rules - some of them pretty frequently (for example by still having this blog), but it’s sure the direction I’m trending. Don’t blow up the spot, sure, but more generally don’t risk the attention of the hive mind at all, for yourself or anyone else or any place or thing you care about.

This tendency probably can’t really be made consistent with other views I hold, but it sure is a Mood.