Programming note: I’m working on a few larger writing projects that are taking up most of my time right now (stay tuned!) so I’m going to dip into my archives and do some more links posts for the next month or two. I apologize for rehashing old material, however my hope is to repost some of my earlier material from when I had much fewer subscribers so that these posts will still be new to most of you.
I’ve always been fascinated by the observations, adages, and aphorisms that we (often sarcastically) designate as eponymous laws, effects, or principles. They are often funny (and memorable because of it), but many of them speak to very fundamental features of our psychology and the human condition more generally. Murphy’s Law is probably the most well known example.
Murphy’s Law – “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”
There are also a few lesser-known corollaries to Murphy’s Law.
Murphy's Second Law – “Nothing is as easy as it looks”
Murphy's Third Law (also known as Hofstadter’s law) – “Everything takes longer than you think it will (even when you account for Murphy’s Third Law).
Murphy's Fourth Law – “If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong (corollary - if there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then.)”
I have searched far and wide to compile a comprehensive list of eponymous laws/effects/principles. A few notes:
I am exerting some editorial control; a few laws that I didn’t find particularly interesting/humorous are left out. There are also a few that aren’t named after anyone, but are still in the same spirit as the other eponymous laws so I included them as well. The list is divided into three categories: internet laws, programming/software development laws, and miscellaneous.
See Part 2: Laws of Programming and Eponymous Laws Part 3: Miscellaneous
Muphry’s Law (also known as Hartman’s Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation) – “any article or statement about correct grammar, punctuation, or spelling is bound to contain at least one eror”
Godwin’s Law – “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1”
Poe’s Law – “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humour, it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.”
Skitt’s Law – “Any post correcting an error in another post will contain at least one error itself” or “the likelihood of an error in a post is directly proportional to the embarrassment it will cause the poster.”
Danth’s Law – “If you have to insist that you’ve won an internet argument, you’ve probably lost badly.”
DeMyer’s Second Law – “Anyone who posts an argument on the internet which is largely quotations can be very safely ignored, and is deemed to have lost the argument before it has begun.”
Cohen’s Law – “Whoever resorts to the argument that ‘whoever resorts to the argument that… …has automatically lost the debate’ has automatically lost the debate.”
The Law of Exclamation – “The more exclamation points used in an email (or other posting), the more likely it is a complete lie. This is also true for excessive capital letters.”
Badger’s Law – “any website with the word “Truth” in the URL has none in the posted content.”
Haig’s Law – “The worse a website looks, the more likely it was made by a crazy person.”
Armstrong’s Law – “The phenomenon observed in discussions between Americans and non-Americans where any mention of America not being the best in the world at something dramatically increases the likelihood of the American arbitrarily bringing up the US moon landings as a non-sequitur to prove America’s superiority.”
Cunningham’s Law – “The best way to get a correct answer to a posed question is to post the wrong answer and wait for someone to correct you.”
Streisand Effect – “The phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.”
Layne’s Law – “A) Every debate is over the definition of a word, B) every debate eventually degenerates into debating the definition of a word, or C) once a debate degenerates into debating the definition of a word, the debate is debatably over.”
CAD’s Theorem of Topic Closure – “A clear, well thought-out, well-written post is less likely to receive a reply than a shitty, moronic, badly mistaken post, because it leaves less to be said. A really full and comprehensive post may even appear to bring the conversation to a screeching halt.”
Lewis’ Law – “The comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.”
Shaker’s Law of Departure – “Those who egregiously announce their imminent departure from an Internet discussion forum almost never actually leave.”
Skarka’s Law – “On internet messageboards, there is no subject so vile or indefensible that someone won’t show up and defend it.”
Shank’s Law – “There is no idea so batshit insane that you can’t find at least one PhD scientist to support it.”
John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory – Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad
Theory of Internet Relativity – “The more frequently you click “refresh” on a given site, the less frequently new content will appear therein.”
The Law of Fakery – “Anything fake which attracts enough attention will have some people vehemently proclaiming it’s real. Anything real which attracts enough attention will have some people vehemently proclaiming it’s fake. Corollary: If the creator confesses that it was fake, some people will still claim it’s real and call the confession a fake.”
“Thanks for Nothing” Effect – “If the original post in a thread ends with the sentence “Thanks in advance!” it is exponentially less likely that it will be replied to.”
Pommer’s Law – “A person’s mind can be changed by reading information on the internet. The nature of this change will be from having no opinion to having a wrong opinion.”
The Wadsworth Constant" – “the first 30% of any video can be skipped because it contains no worthwhile or interesting information.”
Brandolini’s Law - "The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than to produce it."
The Law of Go FAQ Yourself – “People will repeat a question answered in a given forum’s FAQ at least once a week.”
Time Cube Law – “As the length of a webpage grows linearly, the likelihood of the author being a lunatic increases exponentially.”
The First Law of Discussion Non-Response Bias – “Discussions tend to attract those with strong opinions, because moderates are less likely to make an effort to give their opinions.”
You Broke It Rule – “A new thread with a first reply which is severely off-topic or lacking in content is not likely to see an improvement.”
Illusions of Grandeur Principle – “The more someone calls attention to their talents, the less they will accomplish with them.”
Conservation of Intelligence – “For a well-thought-out post, the longer it is and the more sources it cites, the more likely replies to it will consist of only one sentence that dismisses the entire argument through use of a straw man and/or logical fallacy, usually both.”
Inverse Attraction Effect – “When someone starts a thread seeking fans/supporters of something (ex. “Who else here likes Twilight?”) on a forum not devoted to that thing, the thread is going to primarily attract people who dislike it and would like to tell the original poster about that. The reverse is also true (ex. “Who else thinks anime is too popular?” will rally the fans).
Martin’s Law – “If during an online argument anyone accuses their interlocutor of living in their parents’ basement, the argument is over and the accuser has lost.”
Brown’s Corollary - “On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog, but everybody knows if you're a jerk.” (credit: Dino, see comment below)
Request for coinage:
1. "Curse of Development" from Gervais, The depth of any transaction is limited by the depth of the shallower party. If the situational developmental gap between two people is sufficiently small, the more evolved person will systematically lose. https://dustingetz.com/d4337a942961484b8b408d4b1963e161
2. "Elite Overproduction" by Turchin, or a reiteration of Tonybee, could likely be tied to Putt, Shirky, and Gervais. https://peterturchin.com/age-of-discord/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Societal_collapse#Toynbee%E2%80%99s_theory_of_decay
3. Ringelmann Effect: Individual members of a group become less and less productive as the size of the group increases. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ringelmann_effect
4. Dunbar's Circles (related to Ringelmann Effect) Effective Decision-Marking Group Size is 5. Task Team size averages about 15. Effective Team Size averages around 50. Maximum Social Network Size is 150. https://sheilamargolis.com/2011/01/what-is-the-optimal-group-size-for-decision-making/ http://www.theagileelephant.com/dunbars-numbers-and-organising-for-social-business/ http://www.lifewithalacrity.com/2004/03/the_dunbar_numb.html https://kissflow.com/digital-workplace/collaboration/dunbars-number/
5. Sowell's First Law: Politics disregard economics and scarcity. https://rclutz.com/2019/08/05/economics-1-law-vs-politics-1-law/
6. "Patron-Client Relationship" contra "Law of Reciprocity".
Zymurgy's Law of Evolving Systems Dynamics: "Once you open up a can of worms, the only way to get it back in is to use a bigger can."