Unexpectedly Intriguing!
October 22, 2007

Blame Craig Newmark. No, not the Craigslist guy, we're talking about the *real* Craig Newmark. This morning, he linked to a Washington Post article featuring a mathematical formula and tool that's designed to measure the degree to which a music artist is 'selling out' by licensing their artistic products to be used in the commercial advertising for ordinary, everyday products, such as cars, soft drinks and underwear.

Update: We edited the previous paragraph after receiving an e-mail from Craiglist's Craig Newmark who confirms that he's real as well. The world will simply have to continue to be confused, as the statistics behind this site indicate that there can be only one....

The Moby Quotient (Source: Washington Post) The Washington Post's tool is a mixed affair. It offers an excellent graphic created by Todd Lindeman detailing the formula and providing entertaining suggestions for how to measure the degree of an artist's "integrity." But then, as you scroll down to where the tool's data input fields may be found, it gets pretty clunky.

You, as the user, are expected to remember all the things that go along with each of the different input factors that were presented in the excellent graphic. However, if you, as the user, are anything like us, you quickly forgot just about everything presented in the formula's graphic. That means you're going to be doing some serious up and down scrolling as you're using the Washington Post's tool. That process makes for a very clunky way of doing business.

Then, it gets stupid. Instead of providing your output right then, right there, the Washington Post takes the data you entered and sucks it back into the newspaper's servers, where we suspect it's probably pretty likely that they store it along with information about your computer and your location in a database, where it may well be used to target specific advertising your way.

So, if you are one of those people who get really upset by the idea of artists who sell out, well, guess what you just did. For free!

We know all this because of what the tool did when we clicked the "Calculate" button. Instead of quickly running the numbers and outputting the data directly, the entire page refreshed to include the results. That's a pretty wasteful way to do the programming for such a simple calculation.

We can do better. Here's our tool that's designed to do exactly the same math but that incorporates all the lessons we've learned, both tangible and intangible, in becoming the blogosphere's premier source for online tools.

Your role, should you choose to accept it, is to think about that artist you've always admired, their song that's always been one of your favorites, and which has perhaps now become irrevocably linked to dishwashing detergent, and enter the indicated data in the tool below to find out just how far the artist has gone down the sellout route:

Artist Sellout Data
Input Data Values
The disconnect between the client and time-honored rock-and-roll ideals.
(Halliburton, 10; Wal-Mart, 7; Apple, 4; Amnesty International, 1)
The sacredness of the song involved in the shilling.
("Imagine", 10; "Get Yr Freak On", 5; "Disco Duck", 1)
The artist's underground, nonconformist or punk origins.
(Rolling Stones, 10; KC & the Sunshine Band, 5; Clay Aiken, 1)
The artist's artistic reputation.
(Bob Dylan, 10; Justin Timberlake, 5; Bachman-Turner Overdrive, 3)
The artist's wealth.
(Paul McCartney, 10; Pearl Jam, 7; Aimee Mann, 4; Sufjan Stevens, 1)
Time since artist's heyday.
(Current, 1; Five years ago, 5; 1990's, 6; 1980's, 7; 1970's, 8; 1960's, 9; 1950's or earlier, 10)

The Moby Quotient
Calculated Results Values
Moby Sellout Score

The higher an artist's Moby quotient, the greater the degree to which the artist has sold out. The default data for the tool above is taken from the Washington Post's assessment of Led Zeppelin and their song "Rock and Roll" which is now used to hawk Cadillacs. Your artist's Moby Quotient may differ.

To be honest, this was a fun project for us! Then again, the combination of entertaining math and poor tool design is for us what offering crack to a junkie is like - a pretty irresistible combination. You can thank Craig Newmark for serving as our dealer....

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Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

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