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.

9 Comments on “Five Years of Overthinking It”

  1. Chris #

    Ah, I remember lo those many years ago when I would periodically click on a link from IMDb until I realized, “Hey, maybe I should just visit this site regularly.” Which I did, which led to many an article written and many a podcast listened to, not to mention a few guest articles and the opportunity to participate in the time honored Overthinking It tradition of appearing on the podcast to discuss a movie I hadn’t seen (and I still haven’t seen Thor, for the record). Plus, I have been able to sucker Wrather into guesting on my own podcast multiple times to take advantage of OTI’s extensive fanbase. I am an internets genius!

    If nothing else, Overthinking It remains the only website where I even dare to dream of reading comments with any regularity, and it is also where I learned the issues with “begs the question” and “the exception that proves the rule.” That is a true service to humanity.


  2. Timothy J Swann #

    As someone who’s only been here since January 2010, I have to say this is an amazing achievement. As with everyone else I say, here’s to five more years.


  3. Gab #

    Huh, I guess I did sorta sidelong co-suggest the Overview. Maybe I’m not always crazy…

    It being the wood anniversary, I imagine the jokes are in no need of being said.

    However, I’m infinitely grateful for having found OTI. So I’ll reverse the thanks to y’all for providing one of the only “safe” places for a dork like me on the Internet. And for putting up with me and my propensity to be awkward, say too much, and get confused, all because I have so much going on in my head that I just have to gush about, otherwise I esplode.

    Will someone record the speech Wrather plans to give? Or provide a transcript? SO BUMMED I can’t go to the party- I know it’ll be awesome.

    Happy Anniversary.





  4. Emil #

    I’ve been following you guys since, I don’t know, episode 30-something?

    I can’t express my gratitude (mostly due my limited command of English) for all your work, it’s a high point of my Mondays. You are the shining example of quality on the Internet; the meme filled, copy-pasta driven, trolling-enabling sewer of our society we love so much.



  5. AJS #

    As a devout reader since sometime in 2008, I’m truly thrilled to see that you guys are still alive and kicking 5 years later. I’m a natural Overthinker in many phases of my life, and my time on OTI has shown me that not only is that an OK thing but that there are a lot of people who Overthink even more than I do!

    I always say to myself that I should comment more, and join the forums, and catch up on the Podcasts, and I always seem not to. But rest assured, as long as you Overthinkers keep writing, I’ll keep reading.

    Cheers to 5 more years!

    My Personal Top 3 Overthinking It Pieces:
    1) 40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 minutes [In my opinion one of the best videos on the internet period.]
    2) My Little Republic [My Little Pony & Plato? My friends looked at my like I had 3 heads when I told them about this]
    3) “Remember Bane” [Guns & Roses and Batman. What’s not to like?]


  6. IEGeth Member #

    I picked up the podcast around episode 24. I’ve been listening ever since.

    Also, it is great to share a birthday with Overthinking It.

    I am looking forward to five more years of this!


    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      Happy belated birthday, IEGeth!


  7. Wizardy #

    I’ve discovered OTI through Clichemagedon video on YouTube some time ago and got instantly hooked.

    My experience of reading the articles have been changing a lot because I was and still am learning English, and OTI’s long, “hard-words-rich” articles helped to greatly improve my dictionary. The Podcast then is the same thing with bonus audio.

    So I would like to thank YOU for helping me learn in a way that’s fun, entertaining and relatable.

    Here’s to another 5 years!


  8. An Inside Joke #

    Happy 5th!


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