“‘I fell for Malcolm Gladwell’s approach”

So, basically, Malcolm Gladwell is what there was before TED Talks.

Typed out:

Gladwell is the same Gladwell as when I was his editor at The Washington Post. At first, I fell for his approach and brought him over to the science pod from the Post’s business staff. Then I realized that he cherry picks research findings to support just-so stories. Every time I sent him back to do more reporting on the rest of the story, he moaned and fumed.

When I read his proposal for “The Tipping Point,” I found it to be warmed over epidemiology. It was based on a concept and a perception so old it was already an ancient saying about straw and a camel’s back. But gussied up in Malcom’s writing style, it struct the epidemiologically naive as brilliant. Brilliant enough to win an advance of more than $1 million.

The Slipping Point

Usually I’d link this, but it’s in print, not online.

Clive Thompson on the “Uh, so, turns out…” genre of books.

It’s not hard to see why writers and publishers have pushed this conceit. It’s an easy play. there’s a lot of fascinating social-science research going on; all a writer needs to do is search out some new finding that (purportedly) cuts against the grain of conventional wisdom…I understand why writers do it. But the bigger puzzle is on the other side of the cash register. Why are readers so into it?

- Clive Thompson, “The Slipping Point,” Wired, Sep 2012

Edit: Now online

“Airline Safety Analysis Is Weak”

Remember that chapter from Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers?

Foreign countries typically don’t have the infrastructure of flight schools, private pilots, and regional airlines that we have here, so their “major airlines” will hire 23-year-olds fresh out of flight school…The 24-year-old kid in Hamburg, Germany in March 2008 nearly wrecked a Lufthansa Airbus A320 with 131 passengers in the back by attempting a landing in a 50-knot crosswind. Would an American have done better? Gladwell suggests so, but really there is no way to tell because no U.S. major airline would let a 24-year-old anywhere near the controls of an Airbus.