43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Wikipedia on "ratholes"

Ratholing - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ratholing is a used to describe a conversation or process that has deviated from its original productive purpose into a generally unproductive but long and winding detour that eventually comes to a dead end. The original discussion purpose may be to agree on a course of action. However, if one or more people rathole into a specific point of the discussion then the discussion stalls with no actionable outcome. This term is frequently used on the Macbreak Weekly podcast, resulting in the eventual creation of the "Rathole!" jingle[1] and subsequent full-length song.[2]

I first heard "rathole" used in the developer meetings run by my old boss and current friend, Richard Ramsay. Any topic that could be better handled offline or that took the group off the meeting's stated agenda would be declared a rathole, and we'd immediately move back into the subject at hand. (Richard was great at this, by the way -- one of many things I learned from him.)

Of course, as anyone who listens to MBW has figured out by now, our ratholes are usually the most interesting part of the show. I think of it like "You Bet Your Life," where the "news" is an icebreaker for letting us talk about more compelling stuff than who sold the most chips the preceding week or whether the rumors of Apple's iLawnmower carry any weight.

In any case, I salute Richard for teaching me this fine term, and -- owing to my own fragmented attention and general lack of interest (or ability) in typical Mac punditry -- I'm proud to have a role in bringing ratholes to a broader audience.

(Here's The Official Rathole Jingle)

[via scottgladstone's bookmarks on del.icio.us]

About Merlin

Merlin's picture


Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

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