Tag Archives: outliers

10,000 hours and The Coming Online Talent Explosion

About half way through Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success and, if he’s thesis and the research it is based on is valid, I think we are in for some exciting times in the online writing world.

Gladwell talks about how it takes about 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in area, subject or practice. Referencing a study of musicians that sought to determine how many “natural” talents their were, Gladwell notes that:

“The curious thing about Ericsson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any “naturals” – musicians who could float effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time that their peers did. Nor could they find “grinds”, people who worked harder than everyone else and yet just didn’t have what it takes to break into the top ranks. Their research suggested that once you have enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. What’s more, the people at the very top don’t just work much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.”(H/T Tim Finin)

How much harder?

“In those first few years everyone practiced roughly the same amount, about two or three hours a week. But around the age of 8 real difference started to emerge. the sudtents who would end up as the best in their class began to practice more than everyone else. 6 hours a week by age 9, 8 hours a week by age 12, 16 hours a week by age fourteen and up and up until by the age of 20, they were practicing – that is purposefully, and single-mindedly playing their instruments with the intent to get better – well over 30 hours a week. In fact by the age of 20 the elite performers had totalled 10,000 hours  of practice over the course of their lives, by contrast the merely good students had totaled 8000 hours and the future music teachers had totaled just over 400 hours. “

He then cites example after example of this trend. 10,000 hours – usually attained only after about 10 years – is a magic number.

Well, two years ago my friend Taylor and I wrote this piece about the 10th anniversary of blogging. Since the blogosphere is only about 12 years old there are not that many people who’ve been blogging for 10 years – moreover, the scant few who have are most likely to be those who work, or and deeply interested, in Information Technology. If Gladwell is correct it means that virtually all bloggers  (self-included, only 3.5 years) and especially those without an IT background, are likely well short of the 10,000 hour mastery threshold.

This is exciting news. It means that despite the already huge number of great blogs and bloggers we are probably only experiencing a fraction of what is to come. Given bloggings exponential growth I’d wager that the world is about 2-5 years away from an explosion in writing talent. Today all sorts of people who would never have previously written are writing blogs. Many are terrible, some are good, and fewer still are excellent. But what is important is that they are gaining experience and learning. With more people reaching that 10,000 hour mark, more talented people will also reach it – consequently, we should see more gifted writers. Better still, it is possible their talent will be restricted to blogs – but perhaps not. As these writers get more recognized some they will shift to books, or magazines or whatever new medium exists by then.

All in all, the first half of the 21st century could be one of the greatest for writers – and as a result, for readers from thereafter too. The internet’s writing renaissance could be upon us soon.