I’ll start with a story.
Last year my girlfriend and I watched the pilot episode of a new TV show and were immediately hooked. The pilot episode was refreshingly complex and forced us to guess missing plot details continuously: it’s adventurous to make your audience work so hard during a pilot, we surmised.
We later discovered that, due to a technical glitch, we actually missed the first fifteen minutes of the show (about 30%). The ‘complete’ version of the episode was less satisfying.
Last year Steve Yegge wrote about life at Amazon.com and what it’s like working under Jeff Bezos. On the topic of presenting to Bezos, Yegge gave this tip: delete every third paragraph. Why?
Bezos is so goddamned smart that you have to turn it into a game for him or he’ll be bored and annoyed with you. That was my first realization about him. […]
So you have to start tearing out whole paragraphs, or even pages, to make it interesting for him. He will fill in the gaps himself without missing a beat. And his brain will have less time to get annoyed with the slow pace of your brain.
Around the same time as Yegge’s posting, a Reddit user known as Wadsworth pointed out that the first 30% of “nearly every video in the universe” can safely be skipped. As such things go, this soon became a YouTube URL parameter: just add &wadsworth=1 to skip the first third of the video.
This ‘law’ soon became known as the Wadsworth Constant. It works.