Damn Interesting is an independent, award-winning, and award-losing project dedicated to sharing fascinating-yet-obscure true stories. We are not a big corporation, we are a dozen or so people working together to research, write, and record the most interesting stories in science, history, and psychology. We are ardent proponents of quality over quantity, and accuracy over hyperbole. We tell intriguing true stories as often as we can.
Damn Interesting, est. 2005
Founder/Managing Editor: Alan Bellows
Lead Editor: C.H. Hung
Alumni: Jason Bellows, Cynthia Wood, Greg Bjerg, Daniel Lew, Anthony Kendall, Josh Harding, Bryan Lowder, Shad Larsen, Christopher S. Putnam, Monica Traphagan, Michael Durbin, Richard Solensky, Gerry Matlack, Jennifer Colton, Brendan Mackie, Scott Cianciosi, Erin Anderson, Gustaf Hildebrand, Ben Taylor, Dan Gillis, Stephanie Benson, Zack Jordan, Kiona Smith-Strickland, Carol Otte
Frequently Asked Questions
How small, really, is your small, independent project?
Our numbers vary, but at any given moment we have about nine active authors and one dedicated editor. We have no offices, we each work from our homes, coffee shops, libraries, trains, and wherever else we can find a temporary portal to the fourth dimension. This is how we keep our operating costs so low despite our considerable traffic.
What are these awards you’ve won?
And the awards you’ve lost?
Statistically speaking, 100% of them.
Why don’t you post more often and/or on a regular schedule?
Four reasons: Reason #1: This project is a spare-time-and-weekends project for us, it doesn’t earn enough to make a living. Reason #2: Due to reason #1, our writing time shares schedules with day-jobs, eating, sleeping, personal hygiene, and other “necessities”. Reason #3: We strive for maximum accuracy and interestingness, so each article is a product of lengthy research, lovingly hand-crafted paragraphs, strict editing, and fact-checking. For us, this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Reason #4: This reason intentionally left blank.
Don’t you know that a rigid, regular posting schedule is the only path to success!?
Studies have shown that humans actually respond more to random rewards than regular ones, as evidenced by countless rat-and-pellet studies, and by the fact that slot machines exist. But that is not our motivation for irregularity. We think of a rigid schedule as a perverse incentive—instead of “I need to write a really interesting article,” one gets “I need to write something by Wednesday”; instead of “It’s ready, publish it!” one gets “It’s done, but we don’t publish until the 14th, so prepare to twiddle.”
It also depends upon how one defines ‘success’. We don’t measure success by the number of pageviews we receive, or by our number of social media followers. We consider ourselves successful because we preserve our integrity, maintain a high standard of quality, and enjoy what we do.
Okay, your persuasive explanation has convinced me to not send you an angry email regarding your infrequent publication.
That is comforting, but it wasn’t a question?
So how can I be notified when you do post something?
When we post a shiny new article/episode we always announce it on social media and our email announcement lists. If you are a recurring donor in our Intimate Circle category, your rewards page will have a special form to sign up for the “early access” notification list. If you’re a listener rather than a reader, there are multiple ways to subscribe to the podcasts.
If you want to quit your day jobs why don’t you just put advertisements on your site?
We here at Damn Interesting feel that advertising is theft of a finite resource—our attention. Therefore we cannot put ads on our own site without feeling deeply hypocritical.
Furthermore, a creative project’s income source can be an insidious influence, a perverse incentive like the one mentioned above. For example, we would be reluctant to criticize KFC if there was risk that Yum! Brands would withdraw advertising. We would be unlikely to poke fun at Coca Cola if there was risk of the multi-billion-dollar company strangling our revenue stream. In short, we aim to serve our readers and listeners, not some marketing department that buys attention rather than earning it.
Do you have any highfalutin’ Banksy quotes that sum up your thoughts on advertising?
Funny you should ask:
“People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.”
Oh yeah, that’s good stuff. Wait, stop putting words in my mouth!
This is typed text, so we’re putting words in your fingers. Think about it.
If you don’t earn advertising dollars with this endeavor, why do you do it?
Well, most months we earn enough money from donations to compensate our authors, even after we pay all the bills and expenses. But it’s not very lucrative, our primary motivation is the gratification that comes from researching, writing, and publishing for a diverse, intelligent audience.
I’m part of that audience, are you trying to flatter me?
Yes. You’re also quite good looking.
Is the “damn” really necessary?
No, but neither is any other word, really. Words are just vehicles for ideas, and “damn” is the idea we wanted to drive around. If you don’t like it you are cordially invited to go to H-E-double-hockey-sticks.
Shouldn’t it be Damned Interesting?
You might think so, but folks don’t often say “that’s damned interesting,” they say “that’s damn interesting.” Slang adheres to its own carefree, loosey-goosey syntax—we just adopted the common colloquialism.
Why isn’t this site more famous?
Our objection to advertising goes both ways—we don’t host advertisements, nor do we run them. Consequently our entire audience is organic, and slow to grow. But that’s okay, we enjoy being a boutique sort of project. We are not trying to please everybody—we can write about whatever we want to, and we can be ourselves rather than erecting some stale corporate façade.
How did you make that fancy “c” character in “façade”?
It’s called a ‘cédille’. It’s French! On Mac, hold down the “c” key until a little dialog pops up, then press the number 1. On Windows, hold the Alt key and type 0231. On pen and paper, write a normal c then put a little boopy thing on the bottom.
How can I help keep this brilliant project from being crushed to death by the harsh, harsh universe?
We accept donations to help us keep our figurative head above metaphorical water. In return we provide access to our eBooks, audio books, and other nifty stuff. Apart from that, you can review our podcast on Apple Podcasts to help us gain exposure, or just tell people about us in general. We rely on word-of-mouth and text-of-finger for people to discover that we exist.
Can I use your material for my own project?
Maybe. See here for more details. If your intended usage is non-commercial and educational your chances are good. But if you expect to make money based on our work, you should be prepared to compensate us fairly.
Have you ever published a paper book?
In 2009 we published a collection of some of our best articles (and a few new, exclusive ones) through Workman Publishing. It’s titled Alien Hand Syndrome, and we feel that everyone should own a copy. Because money. The cover is disappointing—the publisher insisted on a design that made us look like a cheap tabloid outfit—but it’s what’s on the inside that counts or something.
There may be another, classier book on the horizon, but don’t tell anybody, it’s still a secret. But we do also offer our catalog in e-book and audio book form. That’s not a secret. In fact, please tell everyone.
Why was there a period of like 2 years with no new content?
There was a big spike on the stress-graph of life. Writing is difficult under those circumstances. Things are better now.
Where can I find a list of all of your work?
We do offer an archive of current content, and a separate archive of our “retired” articles that are no longer deemed worthy of inclusion in the main catalog. To peruse our short-form “curios,” see here. If you just want the favorites, see our Greatest Hits.
I have written an advertisement as a poorly disguised essay, or our marketing people have made this branded infographic. Will you post a copy?
Please visit our advertising guidelines.
Can I write for you guys?
We do accept pitches from freelance authors. If you end up writing with us and we mutually enjoy working together, we can discuss the possibility of a more involved role.
Can I option one of your articles to shop around to TV and film producers?
Sure, make an offer! But make it something fair and equitable. We have had a rash of film producers who want to option our work for $0 or $1. Quite frankly there is no sensible reason for us to give you exclusivity if you don’t pay for it. That’s the whole point of optioning: you risk some money, and we risk missing out on a better offer. Let’s be professionals.
What’s the deal with the The Dollop?
It’s a long story. TL;DR: We make a history podcast. Dave Anthony of the competing history podcast The Dollop (which has a much larger audience than we do) started lifting huge chunks of our scripts for use on his own show, without crediting us, or even mentioning he was not the author. We called him out for this blatant plagiarism, he denied wrongdoing, and reportedly he continued to plagiarize from other authors. It was a whole ugly mess best left undisturbed.
I suspect that these questions are not asked all that frequently; Are you only addressing the questions you want people to know the answers to?
If that were true would we have included that question? It really makes you think.
No further questions.