More on This Blog’s Namesake

by Site Author

I started this blog just over two years ago. In the spirit of the blog’s name, I’ve tried to post frequently. Most posts have been lousy: poorly written mini-essays that just make an obvious point pedantically. But a few posts have been useful; writing them has helped me figure things out.

The blog got its name from a remark by Dean Simonton: “quality is a probabilistic function of quantity.” I recently stumbled upon a a beautiful story by David Bayles and Ted Orland that makes a similar point.

In their book Art and Fear David Bayles and Ted Orland tell of a ceramics teacher who announced on the opening day of class that he was dividing the students into two groups. Half were told that they would be graded on quantity. On the final day of term, the teacher said he’d come to class with some scales and weigh the pots they had made. They would get an “A” for 50 pounds of pots, a “B” for 40 pounds, and so on. The other half would be graded on quality. They just had to bring along their one, pristine, perfectly designed pot.

The results were emphatic — the works of highest quality, the most beautiful and creative designs, were all produced by the group graded for quantity. As Bayles and Orland put it: “It seems that while the ‘quantity’ group was busily churning out piles of work — and learning from their mistakes — the ‘quality’ group had sat theorising about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”