How good are you at predicting commercial hits?

Amazon has a new feature that shows the percentage of reviewers who "liked" a book. That's a combination of 4 and 5-star reviews divided by the total number of reviews. I decided to see how my nine original books came out on the "liked" ranking. I was curious if sales were aligned with reviews.

Liked              Title

90%     How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big
88%     Dobert's Top Secret Management Handbook
87%     The Dilbert Principle
82%     Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel
78%     The Dilbert Future
76%     The Religion War
71%     The Joy of Work
68%     God's Debris
67%     Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain

So given those user ratings, let's see how good you are at predicting hits. In this case you're predicting the past, but since you don't have complete data you still need a lot of intuition or experience to answer these questions.

1. Which two books have been read by the FEWEST people? 

2. Which two books has been read by the MOST people? 

If you can answer even one of those questions correctly, you would be the best book publisher in the world.

Scroll down for the answers.




The two books that have been read by the FEWEST people include the one that is least liked (67%) and the one that is most liked (90%).

The two books that have been read by the MOST people are The Dilbert Principle (88% - 3rd place) and God's Debris (68% - almost tied for last place).

If you ask a publisher (and I have) how well they can predict hits, they'll tell you no one has that ability. The quality and likability of a book have no correlation to sales.

I've been talking to a lot of folks who work in the venture capital field (including seed and angel) as part of the CalendarTree.com ramp-up. Start-up funding is a bizarre world in which everyone holds these two contradictory views:

1. A successful start-up must have the following elements (x,y,z...) 

2. No one can predict which start-ups will succeed. 

As far as I can tell, the only reason for the first item on the list is so folks have something to talk about in the meetings. Obviously there are some minimums, such as the ability to create an actual product, but beyond that no one can predict anything.

Publishing has the same absurdity. It goes like this.
  1. Bob, it's your job to pick our next hit book.
  2. Bob, no one can predict which books will be a hit.
I'll bet you're having the same kind of conversation at your job. It goes like this.

Boss: Add this new feature to our product even if you have to work nights and weekends.

You: Will that increase sales?

Boss: Beats me.

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com





If you could snap your fingers and magically double the wealth and income of every human on earth while somehow keeping inflation in check, would you do it?

Before you answer with some version of "Duh, yes." keep in mind that you would be severely worsening income inequality. And that, as we are often reminded by the media, will destroy civilization.

I'm not entirely clear why income inequality leads to doom, all other things being equal, but I hear it has something to do with the French. The analogy, as I understand it, is that Marie Antoinette and her historically inaccurate philosophy "Let them eat cake" is exactly like Bill Gates pledging his fortune to eradicating malaria, fixing education, and providing clean water to the poor.


You can kill that guy with a shovel. That has jury nullification written all over it. I haven't looked into it, but I'm fairly sure there are a few assholes among the middle class and poor too. Can we ignore the outliers for now?

One of the odd things about my career, and where I live, is that I meet a lot of billionaires and hundred-millionaires in the normal course of my work. Allow me to label my experience anecdotal and rare before you do. Anyway, my experience is that all the super-rich people I meet seem to have a few things in common:

-          They don't need to work.

-          They all work 60+ hours per week.

-          Every penny they make from now on will be spent by others.

-          They are trying to find the best way to give away their money.

-          No one likes higher taxes.

I don't think we want the rich to stop working. We're all lucky that Steve Jobs didn't quit before Pixar. But if the rich keep working, inequality is likely to keep getting worse. So how do you solve the problem of helping the rich give away their money in ways that help low-income folks the most while being meaningful to the givers?

Before I answer my own question, I'd like to introduce an economic concept that someone probably already thought of. I call it Predicted Personal Lifetime Consumption (PPLC). That's the amount of money that a rich person can reasonably spend on himself and his immediate family members over the course of a lifetime.

There are two big limiting factors on personal consumption. The first is decision fatigue. At some point you want to stop making choices about your personal spending so you can enjoy life. There just isn't enough time to make all the buying decisions necessary to spend a billion dollars on leisure.

The second limit on personal spending for the rich is that at some point you run out of big, expensive items worth buying. Maybe you buy a jet, an island, perhaps a pyramid or two, and soon you're running out of ideas.

My point is that there are a lot of rich people wishing they had a better and more meaningful way to get rid of excess wealth. Most of those folks have a pro-business attitude and, one imagines, a low opinion of how the government uses taxes. So what do you do?

How about a private entity creating some sort of venture capital funding program that allows the rich to leverage their experience and their cash in ways that best help the economy? Think of it as micro-loans to low-income borrowers but with the kicker that the lender can offer mentoring, contacts, and even training.

If you had a choice of paying an extra $100K in taxes, or loaning $100K to a low-income person who has a reasonable business plan and might need some mentoring and contacts, which would you prefer? Paying extra taxes feels like shitting on your own money and burying it where no one can find it. Helping someone who is struggling to create a business feels like a meaningful use of your mind and your resources. It's no contest.

The problem is one of information.

There's no way to match poor people that need some mentoring, training, and investment with rich people who might be happy to help.

Making loans to low-income people is a high-risk, low-return game. That's why no one does it. But the rich can do it without answering to shareholders and without risking a change in their own lifestyles. And while the low-income people are struggling and failing (mostly) they are also building up their skills, creating contacts, and stimulating the economy even as they fail. The economy as a whole benefits even as individual low-income ventures go under. That's how capitalism works; it's mostly a failure engine for individuals while being a benefit to the whole.

So imagine an online service that matches rich people with low-income folks who need some help. When you get a rich person as a mentor, you get his entire network of contacts by extension. That's way better than a bank.

And rich people like to keep score. So this imagined micro-loan and mentoring service needs to track the performance of each rich person's investments in the poor. You would track data to keep things competitive among the rich, to make sure the system is working, and to allow you to identify best practices among investors.

That's my idea for today. How bad is it?


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

According to Amazon.com, the best reviewed book I've ever written is this one.



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Climate change is causing drought conditions in the United States. That’s bad.

Climate change is causing giant killer icebergs to break free and eventually melt, thus raising ocean levels. That’s bad.

The crackpot in me wonders if there’s some way to float those icebergs (made of fresh water) over to where the droughts are.

You assume this idea is economically impractical. But keep in mind that your budget for getting it done is “trillions of dollars” because that’s how much the economy will lose if we do nothing. So if you think you need a million tugboats to move each giant iceberg, don’t assume that’s out of the budget.

Ideally, you’d want to get those icebergs near the head end of a giant (wait for it) canal system that snakes through the drought-riddled United States. That way much of the iceberg water can be directed to the water tables below parched land before it reaches the warmer sea and raises sea level.

What? You say that canal system would be too expensive? Remember you have trillions of dollars to work with now because the do-nothing alternative is more expensive.

Let’s see some creativity, people. How can we get the fresh water out of those icebergs and into our sinks without raising sea levels?


[Update: Thanks to HelloWorldo for this link to a plan for floating icebergs to Saudi Arabia.]


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Imagine if everyone read this book except you. How sad would you be?


I have an interesting problem.

As part of my co-founder duties for CalendarTree.com I've been on a knowledge-absorption quest in preparation for raising capital.

Your first question might be "Why does the Dilbert guy need money from other people?" The answer is twofold:

1. I have a substantial investment in the start-up already. Portfolio diversification is a standard financial discipline. 

2. Raising funds isn't just about the money. It's how you acquire a network of contacts that have an interest in your outcome. And it is a signal to the world that your business must be credible because serious people are backing it.

I've been talking to some of the smartest people in the start-up world lately and I've learned a few things that I find fascinating. First, experienced investors understand they have no crystal ball for picking winning start-up ideas. As I've often said in this blog, ideas are worthless (because everyone has one) whereas the ability to execute is priceless because it's rare. And indeed I have learned that the quality of the start-up idea only matters to the degree that it isn't obviously dumb. Once your idea reaches the level of "sounds good" you are deemed equal - at least on an idea level - to all other start-ups that also sound good. And there are a zillion of those.

The tie-breaker for attracting funding is the talent you bring to the start-up. Investors have transferred their superstition about their ability to pick winning ideas to a new superstition about their ability to pick winning teams of people. Is that really easier?

Obviously an investor can identify the truly bad entrepreneurs and avoid them. But an investor can also identify truly bad business ideas, and that doesn't help pick winners from the group that is left over. So I wonder if there is any science behind the notion that investors can pick winning start-up teams from the class of folks who are not obviously stupid or insane.

My guess is that there is a whole lot of self-fulfilling prophecy going on. Once an entrepreneur is identified as a potential winner, resources and attention flow to the start-up. The buzz starts. Optimism increases. And sure enough, that entrepreneur ends up with slightly better odds of success than others in the "good enough" group.

The next interesting thing is that you need to have extraordinary technical people on your team to attract funding. But you need funding to attract extraordinary technical people. The chicken and the egg both need to come first. The winning entrepreneurs are the ones that solve this Kobayashi Maru (i.e. impossible*) test. There are two popular ways to solve this problem.

1. One of the founders can be the technical talent. 

2. A founder can have a start-up track record so strong that technical talent can be attracted based on the high likelihood of funding. 

The technical team for CalendarTree is BlueChilli, our equity partners out of Australia. Their business model involves helping founders with the technology end of things (and lots more) then assisting in the transition to funding and building an in-house team of talent for the start-up. That's the phase we're in now. We're looking to build out our local team.

So here's my interesting problem: Can the creator of Dilbert find great hackers (of the code, UX and growth variety) in the San Francisco Bay Area? It's going to be a lot harder than you might think.

First, some background. CalendarTree solves a universal problem in the world of scheduling. Briefly, we turn your schedule into a link that allows anyone to add the entire series of events to an existing calendar without manually typing it. We think that's a strong business opportunity on its own, and it's up and running to rave reviews, but our long term plans are far bigger. I've shared the stealth part of the plan with some top investors who didn't blink when I called it a billion-dollar opportunity. And there seems to be general agreement that the only known obstacle is attracting the talent to execute the plan.

In the interest of full-disclosure, we stumbled on the billion-dollar opportunity while building out the medium-sized business I briefly described. The huge-sized opportunity is sort of invisible until you hear it for the first time.

I'll share the billion-dollar plan with qualified job applicants. If you live in the SF Bay area, and you want to be part of something big, and you're an exceptional hacker (code, UX, or growth) email me at scott@calendartree.com. My co-founder and I would love to meet you.

We're looking for a fast, smart hacker or two with the following skills.

CAL/DAV experience (ideally)

C# .NET specialist. We use .NET 4.5 MVC4 and EF6

Front-end Javascript (Jquery) and HTML5, CSS/LESS

Understanding of GITHUB with NUGET desired

And if you can play with iOS, that's highly desirable

As a bonus, experience with IIS8, Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server 2012 desirable

I hope my regular blog readers don't mind a glimpse into the start-up process in return for enduring this job posting. Let me know in the comments if you'd like ongoing updates on CalendarTree when things seem interesting.

*Yes, I know Kobayashi Maru is a no-win situation, which is slightly different from an impossible situation. But I like the sound of it anyway.


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book



Pundits are saying it makes no sense for Apple to buy Beats because the Beats headphones are expensive and technically inferior compared to the competition. All Beats does is successfully make millions of consumers lust for its product by using extraordinarily clever design and marketing. It's almost as if the Beats co-founders have some sort of reality distortion field.

Wait, why does that sound familiar?

To my ears, Beats plus Apple sounds like the most perfect match of all time.

Apple can improve the Beats sound quality if it chooses to do so. So that's not a problem so much as a business choice. And buying Beats is a good way to get into the streaming music business quickly, which had to happen because iTunes is a dinosaur with arthritis. And when you buy Beats you get Jimmy and Dre in the deal, and that team might be worth more than all the other Beats assets combined.

Apple's biggest problem lately is that it is charisma-challenged, which makes investors distrust their future vision. That just changed. They just bought a shitload of charisma.

No one can predict how the Beats deal will go. Any deal of this scale and complexity can go bad for any number of reasons. But if you have a strong and unwavering opinion that Apple buying Beats is definitely a mistake, you're either a genius or an idiot who thinks he's a genius. Good luck sorting that out.

I own Apple stock. I also own several Apple products, half of which are overpriced and inferior compared to the competition. The only reason I don't own any inferior and overpriced Beats headphones is because for some reason they don't make it easy to buy an adapter that will work with my Windows computer. Yes, I've tried to purchase Beats headphones for irrational reasons and failed. That makes me sort of a double-idiot. But I take pride in being aware of it.

[Update: In my defense, two separate employees of Best Buy assured me I would have to search online to find an adapter because  Beats wouldn't work on my Windows computer. Apparently the common problem is the employees at Best Buy because, as some of you noted, my Apple earbuds do work on my Windows computer. -- Scott]


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of How to Fail...



Ever wonder what a cartoonist does all day?

The Wall Street Journal published my diary.


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com 

WWJR? Maybe this book. You can't prove otherwise.

Scientists recently discovered that the blood of young mice rejuvenates the muscles and brains of old mice. One expert optimistically speculated that someday scientists might figure out how to make a supplement for humans that has the same benefits.

Sure, that's one possible future.

The other possibility is that this young blood transfusion trick works in humans too but we never isolate what part of the blood is doing the magic.

My guess is that Rupert Murdoch has already built a secret bleed room that will make him immortal. I can't imagine him waiting for a "supplement."

Now imagine Rupert hanging out on his yacht with one of his top 1% friends after the young blood starts working.

Friend: Why does your skin look so good?

Rupert: Moisturizer. You have to do it twice a day. And make sure you get one with a high SPH value.

Friend: Really? I moisturize but I'm not getting that kind of...

Rupert: HAHAHA!!! Just kidding. I have a bleed room now. Young blood is awesome. Watch this.

Rupert rips off his shirt to reveal his new Wolverine-like physique. Then he runs to the rail and starts scanning the water around the yacht as if he has some sort of super vision, because he does. At just the right time he leaps over the railing and lands on a great white shark as it breaches the surface. Rupert holds on like a rodeo star and rides the shark in circles around the yacht while yelling YEEHAAA!!! Then Rupert stands to ride the shark like a surfer before re-boarding the yacht with one mighty leap. He lands like a gymnast on the deck and shakes off the water like a lion, roar and all.

Friend: WOW! Can I have some of that young blood?

Rupert: You asked at the right time, my friend. I just got some new interns.

An aide brings Rupert a towel and behind its cover of modesty he removes his wet trousers. Rupert and his billionaire friend head down to the bleed room. Rupert is wearing nothing but the towel around his waist, all the better to show off his new physique.

The billionaires enter the bleed room and we see a row of interns on bleed tables. They have transfusion tubes in their arms but they aren't restrained. One sees Rupert and hops off the table, tube still attached.

Intern: Would you like some coffee, sir?

Rupert: I told you not to call me sir.

Intern: Yes, your majesty. (He kneels.)

Rupert (to his friend): Do you remember when we had to PAY interns? It seems so long ago.

Rupert (to the intern): Here. Take my towel and bring me dry clothes.

The intern heads off with the towel. Rupert is completely naked and looking magnificent, like a gladiator. His friend can't resist sneaking a peak below the waist.

Friend: HOLY HELL! Did the young blood do that too?

Rupert: This? Ha ha! No. Remind me to show you my 3D printer with the stem cell upgrade.

You might be thinking this scenario is unlikely because mouse studies often don't apply to humans. But just to be on the safe side I'm starting the paperwork for adoption. I know that sounds awful, but so are wrinkles. And I'd pay those kids a market-rate allowance because I'm not some kind of monster. At least not until I get a 3D printer with the stem cell upgrade. I'm planning to go full-centaur.

Stop judging me.


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

How would you feel if everyone except you read this book on success?


Did you see the story about the Brazilian soccer fan that threw a toilet from the stands and killed another fan? As the article says, there are "many questions to be answered." I'd like to get the ball rolling with a few questions of my own.

For starters, did the perpetrator bring his own toilet to the game or did he run into the restroom and rip a toilet out of the floor when the situation called for it? If it's the former, I have a lot of respect for his time management. If it's the latter, I'd like to know what herbal supplements he's taking. Some mornings I can barely dislodge a few sheets of toilet paper from the mother roll. If that guy ripped a toilet out of the floor with his bare hands, I need to start eating whatever he's eating. I'm thinking spinach and quinoa, but that's just a guess.

I wonder if the perpetrator considered and rejected other ideas before settling on throwing the toilet. I only ask because one of my rules of thumb is that whenever my best idea is murder-by-toilet, I take that as a sign that I should keep thinking of options. For example, before I created Dilbert, the only idea I could come up with involved killing a stranger with a toilet. Now I'm glad I stuck with my brainstorming a little longer.

The news report didn't include details, so we don't know if anyone was on the toilet when it was thrown. You might be thinking that no one could throw a toilet with a person on it. But you probably thought no one could rip a toilet out of the floor or carry one to a game and get it through security? Maybe it's time to admit that you don't know as much about toilet throwing as you think you do.

This toilet murder hits close to home for me because my greatest fear as a cartoonist is dying in a way that makes it easy to write an ironic headline. For example, I don't want to be stabbed to death by a clown. And when I see a banana peel on the sidewalk I cross the street. But that's a risky strategy too because if I get hit by a car the headlines will be "Why did the cartoonist cross the street?"

I don't think I'm alone in this fear. I'll bet Prince William worries about being killed by a toilet. The tabloid headlines would be:  "Royal Flush!" Or "Harry, You're in!" or "Future Monarch Killed by Poop and Circumstance." I could go on, but I think you'll agree there's a downside to being killed by a toilet.


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book.




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Every famous person has an idiot picture. That's the picture that the news trots out to illustrate any story in which they want to make you look like an idiot. And when you are famous, that story always happens. I was reminded of that by seeing Jack Welch's idiot picture on Business Insider.

I'm not picking on Jack. Every famous person has an idiot picture. Here's my idiot picture that appears all over the Internet whenever I am quoted out of context to look like an idiot or a douchebag.

The story behind my idiot picture is that years ago a photographer for Playboy told me to "act" as if I were talking to someone in an animated way. They needed four pictures of that sort to put in series at the bottom of the first page of my interview. I was still a rookie at the publicity game and I played along, making exaggerated faces while gesticulating wildly. Little did I know I was inadvertently posing for my idiot picture that would live on the Internet until the end of time.

Eventually I got smarter about how I allow myself to be photographed. Now when I'm asked to do something that will make me look playful in the right context but a douche bag in the wrong context, I decline the offer.

The key to picking a good idiot picture to accompany a celebrity hit piece is that you need to mismatch the photo to the content. In the Jack Welch photo he was obviously having a good laugh about something, and if you imagine that to be the context he just looks like a fun guy who enjoys people. But if you pair that picture with a story of how he made a probably-wrong-but-not-ridiculous assumption about some job statistics, the same picture makes him look like a wild-eyed loon.

My idiot picture usually gets paired with manufactured stories that use my words out of context to show that I must be a secret creationist, a secret holocaust denier, or a secret hater of all women. I say secret because most of those stories can be summarized this way:

"He didn't say anything we disagree with. But the way he says the things that we totally agree with leads us to believe he has bad thoughts in his head."

On its own, that sort of argument would fall flat. But humans are visual animals, so pairing my idiot picture with a report that I must be thinking idiot thoughts is quite compelling. There can't be that much smoke without fire! If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck!

I worry that when I complain about the news industry manufacturing celebrity news that you think I am imagining it. You might not realize how systematic it is. The idiot picture is one of the most important elements of manufactured celebrity news. Start looking for it and you'll find yourself laughing at those stories from now on instead of believing them at face value.

I'm a big fan of Business Insider and I don't think they got the story wrong about Jack Welch. The story was worth reporting. But was that the fairest picture to accompany it?


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of the second-best graduation gift ever.




It's never a good idea to get investment ideas from cartoonists. Nothing you hear from me should be construed as advice. And more generally, it's a bad idea for small investors to buy individual stocks or to attempt timing the market.

You have been warned.

I started testing an investment strategy a few years ago that is producing positive results. Yes, I am aware that my small sample is meaningless. And the numbers I present aren't annualized or compared to their same-industry cousins that did even better. But I want you to hear the strategy just so you can keep an eye on it going forward.

The investment idea is that the news always exaggerates risks. This is an extension of the Adams Law of Slow Moving Disasters that says humans generally figure out how to avoid big disasters when they see them coming.

So, for example, when BP stock was in the toilet, and the news media kept telling us the Gulf would be ruined for decades, I loaded up on BP stock because I predicted the opposite: a better-than-expected clean-up. That prediction turned out right. So far, that investment has paid about a 5% dividend in recent years and the stock itself is up 19%. (You should interpret that as just "up" because I haven't compared the performance to the market in general that is also up.)

When the news was reporting that Iranian leaders were on a suicide mission to develop a nuclear bomb to destroy Israel and their own country, I assumed it would all work out peacefully and I invested heavily in a beaten-down EFT of Israeli stocks. It's the biggest single investment I've ever made. That's up 26%.

When the news indicated that the government of Turkey was circling the drain and disaster was near, Turkish stocks crashed. I predicted that Turkey would work things out and get back to business in due time. So I loaded up on the biggest cell phone company in Turkey. As bad luck would have it, that company also has a big position in Ukraine, so it took a hit after I bought it, but now it's up 10%.

To reiterate, I'm not annualizing the gains or comparing them to anything relevant that would tell you how those investments did compared to other investments over the same period. The market in general is up over this same period so it makes almost any strategy look like a winner.

And one must compare investments that have similar risks. Some of you will say I got a meager return betting on high risk stocks. An economist would call that losing. But no one can accurately assign risks for the stocks I mentioned. My investments looked high-risk to the world and low-risk to me. So when I look at the returns for the three investments I mentioned, I compare them to low-risk alternatives and they look fairly good. I would expect most of you to compare them to high-risk alternatives and conclude that they underperformed that class. That difference in risk-assessment is what makes my investment strategy a strategy.

I don't recommend that you invest your own money this way. History is littered with crackpot investment ideas of this type. And my best investment gains over that period were in a diversified ETF. But keep an eye on the strategy just for fun.

I wonder if anyone has ever lost money betting against the news industry's predictions of doom.


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of the best graduation gift ever.


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