Five Years of Overthinking It

By "Price is Right" rules, whoever guessed, "This thing'll last eighteen months" gets the pot.

On January 22, 2008, Overthinking It published its first five posts. Two were linkblog posts—one to a comics site called Nad Shot and one to audio of Daniel Day Lewis bellowing, “I drink your milkshake.”

OTI has outlived both of those links.

We don’t really publish link posts anymore. That base is already covered better by, oh, the entire rest of the internet. And that first day also featured another kind of piece that fell by the wayside: a random bit of humor from Belinkie, who at the time thought OTI would be a decent outlet for whatever he wrote that McSweeney’s rejected. They’re great—I just snarfed my drink re-reading MarketingBot 349-A Lands The T-1000 Account—but, it turns out, they weren’t really our thing. More’s the pity. I am seriously wiping tea off my keyboard.

But even on that first day—in posts about There Will Be Blood and the semiotics of the then-current Rambo poster—and certainly by later in the month—with posts on Kris-KrossA League of Their Own, and Soulja Boy (the proto-Musical Talmud)—the seeds of what would become Overthinking It were already present.

Stokes came up with the name (I still have the email he sent me suggesting it, and I look at it nostalgically from time to time). Our first viral hit came on Friday, June 6, 2008, when IMDb linked to OTI on its homepage and Reddit picked it up. Our first server crash came also courtesy of IMDb, and was a list post.

There are a couple ways to measure what has happened in that time. We found our voice in that first year. We’ve served about 10 million pages. We’ve been linked from every corner of the Internet. We started a podcast which has an international listenership and causes people to laugh in public as far away as the Republic of Georgia. We manage not to crash the server anymore. (Knock on wood.)

Another measure is our relative longevity. I think if you’d polled us on January 21, 2008 and asked us how long we thought this new venture would last, the over-under would have been about eight months. We were a bunch of over-educated, under-employed twenty-somethings, and we didn’t have a great record of keeping projects alive for the long term.

But in my post on the first anniversary, we unveiled OTIs, our mascot, drawn by our own David Shechner.

In the comments on the second anniversary post, two comments suggested something that later became The Overview.

I gotta admit, for the third anniversary, I kinda phoned it in. Not that it isn’t a great video.

When we turned four, we launched the new design (decidedly mixed response) and later the forums.

Now we’re five. It’s the Wood Anniversary. We’re throwing a party, which is a first for us. But there’s a lot to celebrate—largely that we’ve lasted this long.

But I think the proper way to gauge our collective accomplishment in OTI is the quality of our audience. Not the size—though it’s grown larger and more diverse than we’d imagined possible—but the quality. This is from that first anniversary post:

Somewhere in there…we found incredible, loyal, brilliant readers who are every bit the opinionated, quirky, funny pop-culture idiot savants that we are.

I didn’t realize at the time that the global community of overthinkers weren’t every bit the idiot savants that we are; they were ten times the idiot savants we are. (I think our first catch phrase was “Well, Actually,” and though it’s caught on around the Internet, I like to think we had a hand in popularizing it.)

Not to give away too much of my speech for the party, but: I am as proud of working on Overthinking It as I am of anything I’ve ever done in my life, and I measure our collective success in human terms: by the incredible group of writers I am honored to be a part of, and by the incredible community of readers we are privileged to serve. Thank you for giving us your time and your attention—a little or a lot. We have worked hard to earn it, and will keep working hard to continue to be worthy of it.

And thank you to the writers. Thank you Stokes, thank you Belinkie, thank you Fenzel, thank you Sheely, thank you Shechner, thank you Mlawski, thank you Lee, thank you Perich, thank you Callot, thank you McNeil, thank you Adams, thank you Rosenbaum. (This is, according to the database, the order in which your user accounts were created.) Thank you guest writers, thank you commenters, thank you podcast listener feeders-back. Thank you anyone who ever supported us by buying something, by clicking something, by donating something. Thank you for emailing and calling and tweeting and Facebooking. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Let’s keep overthinking.