“Do a Small Thing”: Good Advice For Revolutionaries and Scientists

This is the best magazine article I have read in a long time. The subtitle is “What Egypt Learned from the Students Who Overthrew Milosevic”, a good description. The Serbian students who overthrew Milosevic had several lessons for budding revolutionaries in other countries, such as Egypt and Burma. One was/is:

Do a small thing and if it is successful, you have the confidence to do another one and another one.

Much like my advice about science: Do the smallest easiest thing that will tell you something. You will learn more from it than you expect. If someone criticizes a study for being “small” they are saying “1 + 1 = 3”. If someone does a large study that fails, they are saying the same thing.

Via Long Form. I knew little about the author, Tina Rosenberg, before this. I am looking forward to reading the book about peer pressure from which this article was taken.

4 Replies to ““Do a Small Thing”: Good Advice For Revolutionaries and Scientists”

  1. Interesting – but it’s democratic governments that need to be overthrown and replaced with anything – because they are worse than dictatorships in that they race replace the natives while making them to pay for it.

  2. In a similar vein, I wrote about focusing on the easy stuff in an editing task to make it more tolerable to do:


    There’s the snowball method of debt reduction, Sun Tzu’s advocacy of attacking weakness with strength and avoiding attacking strength, and similarly, military theorist Liddell Hart’s indirect approach, advocating in part attacking the weaker of two allies first, and following the line of least resistance.

  3. Tina Rosenberg won a Macarthur years ago and is an unusually thoughtful journalist. Her brother Paul used to be in social theory and is equally so…

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