Some have asked about my goal in producing Robots Read News on this blog.

I don't have a goal. Goals are limiting. I prefer systems (as I describe more fully in my latest book.)

A system is something you do on a regular basis to improve your odds of success - usually by making yourself more valuable - without a specific idea of where it all ends up.

For example, when I started blogging, my ex-wife asked why I was spending 50% of my time on something that produced about 5% of my income. What was my goal?

I tried, and largely failed, to explain that blogging was a system. I was practicing my writing every day. I was seeing what topics worked best. I was writing in different voices to see what people responded to. Every time I blogged I was getting more knowledge about what readers wanted and I was improving my writing skill. An important part of the system is that I was practicing publicly, which allowed whatever luck was swirling around in the universe to find me, figuratively speaking.

Blogging also helped me survive three-and-a-half years of not being able to speak. And blogging kept my energy up because I enjoyed the audience reaction. High energy has a good spillover effect on my other activities.

My blogging led to a publishing deal for a blog post compilation book titled "Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain." That book didn't work because I got the psychology wrong. I figured that if the writing was getting a terrific response on the Internet, there was a market for it in book form. Instead, my blog readers were repulsed that someone would try to package and sell what had once been freely available on the Internet. It was like I had pissed on a baby. Worse yet, my publisher asked, as part of the contract, for me to remove the original posts from the Internet. That seemed like no big deal to me because almost no one reads the blog archive. But removing free stuff from the Internet was perceived by readers as something similar to strangling a puppy. Lesson learned.

An editor at the Wall Street Journal saw some of my blog posts and asked me to expand on them for their readers. And I did. That improved my perceived market value.

After a few more years of blogging I discovered, quite unexpectedly, that people enjoyed reading my thoughts about systems for success. That insight turned into my latest book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. It's currently the top-selling general career guide in the world.

When I was looking for technology partners for a startup idea, I blogged about it and several people emailed to say they would be interested. My business partner and I joined forces with BlueChilli out of Australia and launched CalendarTree.com. It's the simplest way to create a schedule of upcoming events and share a link so people can add the entire schedule to their personal calendars with a few clicks. That has gotten a great response so far. But what satisfies me more is that it solved an annoying real-world problem.

Then there was the incident about doctor-assisted suicide. As my father suffered in his death bed, I angrily blogged about my feelings on the topic and - I believe - forever changed the debate. I say that because my blogging on the topic got a lot of attention. In a follow-up post I demonstrated that there really is no one on the side the debate that says government should have the right to overrule the wishes of you, your family, and your doctor when it comes to end-of-life medical decisions. The alleged divided opinion on the subject was nothing but clever bullshit from creationist nut jobs. The reality is that almost no one thinks the government should have a veto over their own end-of-life medical decisions. That becomes clear when the polls ask the question correctly. So perhaps I helped that cause a bit. And that feels good.

That brings us to Robots Read the News. I have no idea where it is heading or what "voice" it might take. I've tried writing it with some harmless family humor, some political humor, and some R-rated humor. And I've watched the reactions. Patterns are starting to emerge.

I was drawn to the idea by wondering what sort of comic would be most popular in 2014 and beyond. We're probably five years away from the day when advances in robot technology will dominate the news, so it would be useful to have a branded character in that space. The media likes to put a face on the news, and robots don't have a high-profile representative. (By analogy, Dilbert's popularity was helped a great deal by the fact that the media put Dilbert's face and name to every story about the office workplace.)

I also hypothesized that in the age of Twitter, social media sharing, and short attention-spans that the perfect product would be topical, provocative, quotable, and brief. I wondered if anyone would care that the art was the same in every panel. (So far it doesn't seem to be an issue and in a weird way seems to be a plus.)

So I don't have a goal with the new comic. Nor is it an experiment. It's part of a system for improving my odds of success in a general way. If I learn something useful in the process that can be applied to future projects, I come out ahead. And if any of what you see is entertaining, we both win. I hope that's the case.

Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +70
  • Print
  • Share


Sort By:
Feb 24, 2014
I like the robot strips. Not as much as Dilbert, but hey they're new and an experiment. Oh, and you're drawing the wrong conclusion about the end of life problem. Because you chose to set terms under which some people didn't want to argue doesn't mean no one except creationist nut jobs disagreed with you. It just meant you limited the possible participants.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 23, 2014
I find them funny. Lets just hope the robot revolution happens before you run out of ideas so that you can transition from creating them yourself to simply adding drawings to the reader contributions like you have with Dilbert.

Feb 23, 2014
Every cloud has a silver lining. At least I won't have to worry about your bad-word catcher in this blog covering up the name of your ex-wife. Then again, perhaps this software is actually a robot who could see the future, and covered up the now-unspeakable name because it knew what the outcome would be!!! Stranger things have happened.

But at least I now understand your cryptic comment concerning your Cintiq video hot-tub scene, where you said something like, "It wasn't an issue." Obviously, now.

Seriously, my condolences. As one who has been through a divorce, I know that no matter how amicable (mine wasn't), it still takes its emotional toll. Just remember that it will feel better the more time passes. The old saw, "Time heals all wounds" has a lot of validity.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 22, 2014
The artwork has never been as issue for Dilbert, so it's unsurprising that no one on the blog is complaining about it. But to me the robot news strips just aren't funny. I keep reading them, hoping to chuckle at one eventually, but it hasn't happened.

But I'm usually an out-lier, so maybe that explains it.
Feb 21, 2014
I enjoy the Robot thing but here is my feedback:

It feels like the mashups and not like you actually make them. I am not sure how to fix that. It took you writing this blog for me to go "ooooh this isn't fanart he is just posting while he finds a new blog"

Why did you choose "Robots Read News"?

It sounds very "I can has cheeseburger?" to me. Its awkward and my mind automatically changes it to "Robot Reads The News"

If you consider a new blog option please use a comment system that allows you to sign in with your facebook or twitter. Having a separate username and password for just this blog is tedious and limits drive-by comments. Which may be positive or negative.
Feb 20, 2014
Hi Scott,
Your blogging has always kept an interesting and stimulating value. There were of course the time where you trolled yourself but you've always kept it fresh. You always made us feel part of your life more like friends then just a public. With your telling of your dads illness recently and some time ago the passing of your cat.
Sorry to hear about your marriage, I hope you got to keep the designed home. Thanks for all the sharing over the years.
PS: I curious to see which of your new projects (calendar tree, robot news and others) will stick. Keep mentally active.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 20, 2014
[And if any of what you see is entertaining, we both win. I hope that's the case.]

Yes, grateful as always.

Feb 19, 2014
Did you have an opportunity to do good for another human during the transition?
Feb 19, 2014
Hmmmm, after giving it a bit of thought I couldn't help but wonder if the ex wife's concern about you spending way to much time on an activity that does very little in her mind to enhance your/her income been a bit of insight into why her status in now ex wife. Did she only see your work as strictly existing to produce income?
+17 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 19, 2014
@(All the commenters who have chimed in about Scotts divorce)

Hey, Im curious about this too, but until such time as Scott decides to tell us more we should leave this topic alone. We have no idea what happened or just how much this whole situation has hurt him. And its not as if Scott hasnt let us into his world enough. And were focusing on one word of a fifteen paragraph blog when theres a lot more we could be discussing about this post.
Feb 19, 2014

[Scott's arguments are routinely based on phrasing the topic is a way that makes his conclusion the "obvious" one. It's intellectual dishonesty at its finest.]

Maybe. Maybe Scott is phrasing these questions the way he sees them and refuses to discuss them on the oppositions terms. Which is fine if what he wants to do is defend his opinion to his own satisfaction. If he wants to persuade people, though, he really should talk about these things in the terms they see them.
Feb 19, 2014
When i read, "ex-wife" in the blog I thought, was Scott married prior to this current marriage? No way he's divorced from his current wife. It was upsetting. I guess I kind of idealized your life to an extent. That your life was superior to mine in every conceivable way. I realize your personal life is none of our business, and that it might be inappropriate to publicly ask about such a personal situation. Yet, I'd be interested to know your take on the divorce experience in a general sort of way. It makes robots and cartooning and such seem a bit trivial at the moment. After reading this blog daily for many years it feels like we've been left out of something very important in your life, A life that we've come to feel a part of in some way, even if we are silent observers from afar.
I appreciate you most likely don't care to discuss the matter and I respect that. Sorry, just a kind of stream of consciousness posting.

[I appreciate your concern. But don't assume change is for the worse. Marriage isn't the ideal social arrangement for everyone. -- Scott]
Feb 19, 2014
[ Scott's arguments are routinely based on phrasing the topic is a way that makes his conclusion the "obvious" one. It's intellectual dishonesty at its finest. ]

Uh... just like most polls? It's simply a choice.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 19, 2014
[I think the phrasing of "should the government overrule end-of-life decisions" is an obvious trick.]

Scott's arguments are routinely based on phrasing the topic is a way that makes his conclusion the "obvious" one. It's intellectual dishonesty at its finest.


[That's what clear thinking looks like. I couldn't make a wrong conclusion look obvious no matter how hard I tried. -- Scott]
Feb 19, 2014
I think robots, AI's anyway, will eventually be a huge help to us to enforce privacy. There will be an ugly time where cameras will be everywhere, and humans who don't much like you will feast upon your data. That is starting now. However, eventually the AI's will be capable enough to be put in charge of our data and programmed to dispassionately enforce privacy laws. I don't (yet) care if the AI's know my private information, as long as they stubbornly refuse to blab it to those pesky humans. Think the fundamental nature of privacy protection will change to guaranteeing the integrity of the AI's. Is this the path to a system of ruling AI's like Gort?
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 19, 2014
Mr. Adams, I have a question:

Years ago, you said that if Dilbert's tie ever straightened out, you'd know that he got laid. While I haven't followed every strip, I have never seen that occur.

Until this year's calendar on January 13. That tie is pretty clearly straightened out and stiff as a board.

Is Dilbert no longer a virgin? Did he and Alice really have Vulcan sex?
Feb 19, 2014
Giant Wind-Up Bots Overtake the Streets of Buenos Aires

Feb 19, 2014
[We're probably five years away from the day when advances in robot technology will dominate the news, so it would be useful to have a branded character in that space. ]

Good luck with that. I dont beleive anyone knows or even has a good guess what will dominate the news in five years.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 19, 2014
Robots Read News could serve as an ultimate mashup - all three frames without text.
Feb 19, 2014
I really like the RRN comics. Frankly, I hadn't noticed that the artwork is the same for every frame. I guess that means I was enjoying the script more than the screenshot. I'm sure that's a real time saver for a cartoonist. Offhand, I can't think of any cartoons or comic strips that I enjoyed because of the artwork. Well, there was that Vargas guy.
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog