Damn Interesting is a small, independent, award-winning, and award-losing project dedicated to the dissemination of legitimately fascinating but obscure true stories from science, history, and psychology since 2005. We reject the fashionable practices of placing quantity over quality and hyperbole over accuracy; we simply tell intriguing true stories as often as we can manage. Our content is offered in website, e-book, audiobook, and podcast formats. The project was established by Alan Bellows, and he is the ongoing designer, developer, head writer, and managing editor.
How small, really, is your small, independent project?
Our numbers vary, but at any given moment we have about eight 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.
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 (yet?) 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?
Objection, leading the witness. 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. We’re not intentionally being irregular—but even if we had more time to dedicate to our writing, a rigid schedule means that one must sometimes sacrifice quality for deadlines, and/or deliberately delay the release of ready content. Those are silly circumstances.
It also depends upon how one defines ‘success.’ We don’t measure success by the number of clicks we receive, or by our number of Twitter followers. We consider ourselves successful because we preserve our integrity, maintain a high standard of quality, and enjoy what we do.
Okay, I am now quite satisfied with your infrequent and irregular posting habits.
That is comforting, but it wasn’t a question.
Since you are unable/unwilling to post more often how can I be notified when you do post something?
When we post a shiny new article/episode we always announce it on our Twitter and Facebook feeds. You can also subscribe to get an email whenever we post a new article. Or add our RSS feed to your reader. Links to all of those things can be found here. If you are a monthly donor in our Intimate Circle category, your rewards page will have a form to sign up for the “early access” notification list.
If you’re a podcast listener rather than a reader, there are multiple ways to subscribe.
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 online advertisements are the information equivalent of sand in your swimsuit—an incessant irritant eroding an otherwise pleasant experience. Therefore we cannot put ads on our own site without feeling deeply uncomfortable. And itchy. Basically, ads are designed to steal attention.
Furthermore, a creative project’s income source is an insidious influence. We aim to please our readers and listeners, not some self-interested corporate backers. Ad-supported sites seem to inevitably regress to the saccharin safety of listicles, hyperbole, memes, and similar “clickbait” pap. In contrast, reader- and listener-supported sites like ours must work hard to maintain high standards of quality and accuracy, otherwise donations will dry up.
We do occasionally use Amazon Affiliate links at the bottoms of our articles when we link to sources/related materials. Some people might consider these to be ads; we don’t mind them because they don’t do any of the harms we aim to avoid. As of 2017 the revenue from these is quite modest, less than $200/year.
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.”
Ooh, that gave me incorruptible goosebumps. What else have you got?
“Now the presence of this instinct explains why we are so often taken by advertisers. You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff. … I got to drive this car because it’s something about this car that makes my car a little better than my neighbor’s car. … I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I’m going to continue to say it to America.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
Oh yeah, that’s the stuff. Wait, stop putting words in my mouth!
This is on-screen text, so we’re putting words in your eyes. Think about it.
Wait, if you don’t earn advertising dollars with this endeavor, why do you do it?
Well, most months we earn a little money from donations after we pay all the bills and expenses, but it’s not very much. 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 very good looking.
I have written an advertisement as a poorly disguised essay. Will you post a copy?
Please go away forever.
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 four little letters offend your sensibilities so severely that you must belch rhetorical diatribes, you are cordially invited to go to H-E-double-hockey-sticks.
Don’t you know that “Damn Interesting” makes you sound like a crappy clickbait site?
It didn’t when we started way back in 2005, and we don’t want to change our identity just because there are low-quality imitators.
Shouldn’t it be Damned Interesting?
You might think so, but folks don’t often say “that’s damned interesting,” they say “damn interesting.” As you must know, slang adheres to its own carefree, loosey-goosey syntax—we just adopted the common colloquialism. Furthermore, “damned interesting” sounds like it means “condemned interesting,” and we don’t wish to imply that we cover such a narrow niche.
Why don’t more people know about this site?
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, there are benefits to being a boutique sort of project. We can write about whatever we want to, and we can be ourselves rather than some stale corporate façade.
How can I help keep the project going?
We accept donations to help us stay afloat. In return we provide exclusive access to our eBooks, audio books, and other nifty stuff. Apart from that, you can review our podcast on iTunes 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 something?
Maybe…see here for more details. If your intended usage is non-commercial and educational your chances are good. For commercial uses we expect reasonable compensation, because if you expect to make money based on our work, we should get some of it. It’s only fair.
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. Now we also offer our catalog in e-book and audio book form.
There’s probably another book on the horizon, but don’t tell anybody, it’s still a secret.
Why was there a period of like 2 years with no new articles?
There was a nasty 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 articles?
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 “nuggets,” see here.
Can I write for you guys?
We do occasionally add new authors if they are talented, self-motivated, and willing to help in our collaborative editing process (emphasis on self-motivated). If you think that sounds like you, feel free to send us a writing sample. We’ll scrutinize your jib and appraise the quality of its cut. Did I mention you should be self-motivated?
I feel like these questions are not really asked 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.
Oh, hello. I’m Alan Bellows, the founder of DamnInteresting.com. I am responsible for the programming, design, final editing, and about half of the writing around here. I also create much of the artwork featured in articles, and I produce the audio (and compose most of the music) for our podcast.
I live in Salt Lake City with my meteorologist/musician wife and our
trio duo of felines. I am a web developer/designer at my day jobs. In my spare time I travel faster than the speed of light, which is to say I do not have any spare time.
Damn Interesting is currently an after-work-and-weekends project for me. My dearest hope and ambition is to one day have enough monthly Damn Interesting supporters that I can afford to quit one of my day jobs and give this project more of my time and attention.
Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.
C.H. Hung scored highest in Input on the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment, which finally gives her pseudo-scientific justification for her penchant to hoard away all sorts of interesting information for (possible) use later. She writes and edits full-time in Salt Lake City, UT, with her husband and six paw kids.
My aim for myself is to be a Renaissance Man, a goal I strive for by reading constantly, keeping up on new and interesting science, writing, staying fit, and maintaining an open mind. Nevertheless, I’m a disgruntled idealist—guy filled with grand notions, and a little bit of rancor that these ideals aren’t already widespread and adopted. Being without the wealth to enter politics, and too blunt to succeed there if I were instilled, I instead try to bring about my personal view of utopia through the means I have available: writing and sarcasm.
To that end, I am creator of some fiction—mostly sci-fi and fantasy. Some of my writing credits include:
Flashquake Honorable Mention Winter 2005
I’m a linguistics professor, meaning that there are about three things I do: think about how languages work, write about how languages work, and talk excitedly about how languages work. My contributions to DI tend to be attempts at squeezing in some time with a few of my other interests (psychology, genetics, geography, etc.). I’ve been contributing to the site since mid-2006, though I generally recommend ignoring that big gap in the middle.
Since joining DI, I’ve had 14 addresses across three countries. I’m currently doing dialectology research in a sequence of interesting towns along Canada’s west coast.
I’m a 30-something year old living in London- apparently that makes me the first non-North American DI writer. So feel free to point out any spelling mistakes.
Interests include reading, writing, photography, film, history, aviation, space, nearly all branches of science– life sciences and geosciences in particular– technology and erm, almost everything else really.
One of these days I’ll get round to creating a website all of my very own. When that happens, you’ll find out about it here.
Gustaf Hildebrand resides, for reasons unknown, in Sweden. He writes for Damn Interesting, has studied Information Design and likes to maintain the illusion that someday he’ll be a successful science fiction author.
Jennifer Colton-Jones is always searching for something interesting, in between writing, studying and living in the Pacific Northwest.
Erika Nesvold has not yet written a bio.
Christine Ro is nervous about having an online presence, which she realizes makes her a dinosaur. If she were a dinosaur, she’d be a sauropod, as she’s also a herbivore with strong hind legs. If you speak a different dialect, that’s “AN herbivore with strong hind legs”.
I like to write all sorts of things. Especially words. I’m a big fan of non-fiction, both as a reader and writer, and in addition to my Damn Interesting work have written a couple of books on finance for McGraw-Hill and articles appearing in places such as Narrative.ly and the New York Times op-ed page.
My day job is in the financial industry where I manage software development and teach from time to time. I live in Carrboro, North Carolina, a state known the world over for its mountainous mountains, sandy beaches, and legislators keenly interested in which bathroom people choose to use.
Jennifer Noonan never met a job she didn’t want to try at least once. She has at various times worked as a video game sound designer, pizza chef, stand up comedian, computer support technician, construction assistant, cooking instructor, and most recently as a voiceactor and writer. She holds two Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Texas, because as usual she couldn’t commit to just one thing at a time, and her first book, “No Map to This Country,” was published by Da Capo Press in 2016.