What are the most boring topics?
December 18, 2020 12:45 AM   Subscribe

Everything can be made interesting if you try hard enough, but which topics would you need to try really, really, really hard?

The article about container shipping posted some time ago somewhere on this site was one of the most intensely fascinating things I've ever read about a subject I would previously have ignorantly assumed was deeply boring.

So now I'm curious - what's not like that? What subject is near impossible to squeeze anything exciting out of? What subject would even the most talented reporter be stymied how to convert into anything beyond glazed eyes and yawns?
posted by Cozybee to Writing & Language (71 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Accountancy would be a challenge.
posted by unearthed at 12:53 AM on December 18, 2020 [11 favorites]


Project management methodologies? (I've been a project manager for over a decade, my own profession bores me to tears at times:
posted by coffee_monster at 12:56 AM on December 18, 2020 [17 favorites]


Financial trade processing and settlement (eg)
posted by crocomancer at 1:05 AM on December 18, 2020 [2 favorites]


ATM fees. Some banks refund you no matter which ATM you choose. Etc.
posted by Spokane at 1:09 AM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]


Property law/real estate law has always sounded painful to me.
posted by guessthis at 2:33 AM on December 18, 2020


I actually found property law more interesting in law school than wills which are even more boring. The trouble is that you can always attach a spooky manor called Blackacre to a property law situation.
posted by johngoren at 2:35 AM on December 18, 2020 [7 favorites]


Wills themselves are written to be dry as toast, but their contents (and the way they are received) are fascinating studies into the human psyche. Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers would doubtless agree.

I'm gonna go with pharmacokinetics. Absorption... Distribution... Elimination... It's a lot of very repetitive calculus.
posted by basalganglia at 3:32 AM on December 18, 2020 [3 favorites]


It's individual. No-one yet has said anything that I would find boring but the minutia (?) of an ordinary family ... or as Tolstoy writes 'All Happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
posted by b33j at 3:34 AM on December 18, 2020 [11 favorites]


Insurance or statistics.
posted by thesockpuppet at 4:29 AM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]


Remedial COBOL
posted by transitional procedures at 4:40 AM on December 18, 2020 [8 favorites]


In grad school I once spent a whole week thinking about how paint dries after observing what appeared to be Turing instabilities in the pattern on a fence. I've also spent weeks working on understanding how grass grows. If you're not aware, paint drying and grass growing are two of the most cliched boring thing there are. And I think pharmacokinetics are really neat, but I'll grant I never had to spend days working them out.

Ever hear the phrase "only boring people get bored"? It's somewhat true in my experience, or at least the converse is: people who are interested are people who are interesting. At least to me.

The only thing I find especially boring are certain types of TV and sports, but clearly many people find those compelling, so they don't fit your criteria either. The delivery matters as much as the topic, as you point out in your post. If pressed to make a list of boring topics, I suppose it comes down to a popularity contest. One of these topics will have the least amount of defenders among a certain sample size, but you'll always find plenty of people who like e.g statistics (e.g. me).
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:42 AM on December 18, 2020 [27 favorites]


A reporter would be able to tackle anything from an interesting-to-me angle, I think. Especially if it's a human endeavor, all you'd have to do is tell the human side of it interwoven with whatever dry minutiae must be communicated, so that there is a human context for the boring details: the history and progression of that profession, the way it fits into the rest of human work, the stories of the people who did big and small things in it, profiles of folks who care deeply about it, heck even recounting workplace politics of a particular set of people in that field. Human beings are unfailingly interesting to me.

I guess the challenge is if the reporter's assignment is to avoid any mention of human beings? Like if it's not a reporter writing for a newspaper or magazine but rather an academic writer tasked with creating a textbook, or a teacher whose task is instructing students in some dry subject? That would come down to personal interests. I, for one, found my 11th/12th grade statistics classes terrifically boring. I was fully capable of doing the work but working those problems felt rote, pointless, and depressingly mundane. I wonder how someone might have made statistics interesting to me. Perhaps if instruction was gamified?

tl;dr I think literally everything can be made interesting, given the proper compensatory pleasures - for me those compensations are apparently gossip or game tokens; for you they may be different.
posted by MiraK at 4:47 AM on December 18, 2020 [6 favorites]


I once played kind of game with my students: find something that is not interesting. Someone picked a ceiling tile. So we asked: where did it come from? What is it made out of? Where did that material get manufactured and when did it start being manufactured and what are the working conditions of whoever is in that factory? Who installed the tile in our building and why is there so little contact between maintenance workers and faculty workers on campus? Why is the tile square? What does the fact that we have straight lines and regular shapes composing all parts of our indoor environment tell us about our specific society? Why is it beige? Anyway, you get the idea.
I know people who bore me, but that's just because I don't click with them.
posted by nantucket at 5:36 AM on December 18, 2020 [35 favorites]


You may find The Boring Conference to be, paradoxically, of interest.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 5:39 AM on December 18, 2020 [3 favorites]


Can confirm: insurance (and actuarial science) is really.boring. (Source: 7 years in property/casualty insurance.)
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:43 AM on December 18, 2020 [4 favorites]


Basic information about topics one is already thoroughly familiar with. Not doing a deep dive into fractally smaller units of meaning within that basic information, but really: just the basics, and you're supposed to pay attention even though you fundamentally know them.
posted by teremala at 5:48 AM on December 18, 2020 [10 favorites]


People think stocktaking is dull and, well, it is. (There are things associated with stocktaking that are interesting, like evolving technologies and loss prevention strategies, but the actual counting is boring, ESPECIALLY pharma stocktaking jesus christ I will never recover...)
posted by DarlingBri at 6:03 AM on December 18, 2020 [2 favorites]


The many-years-long public conversation about the evolution of the Perl programming language from version 5 to 6.

The first waves of it involved interesting (if esoteric) philosophical questions about handling data and whatnot, and then it went on for another ten+ years.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:12 AM on December 18, 2020 [4 favorites]


Can confirm that many topics in accounting are horribly, horribly boring. Pension accounting is the one that immediately leaps to mind. You learn these topics because you need to know them, not because they're interesting.

The thing about something like pension accounting is that it doesn't follow any interesting internal logic, the procedures solely affect the entity's bookkeeping (not even how much money people will get -- we're talking amortization of past years' service costs and things like that), it allows no peeks into the human psyche, and yet the bookkeeping is incredibly meticulous and complex. Not even the math is interesting!

But not everything needs to be interesting, some things are dull as hell but you need to learn them anyway, so you do.
posted by rue72 at 6:22 AM on December 18, 2020 [4 favorites]


I like insurance. I find it fun. What I find boring is people talking about other people with no real substance - i.e., gossip. With everything else that's been mentioned, there's at least a goal or an endpoint, where the world is different after the thing has happened. With gossip, it just is.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:29 AM on December 18, 2020 [7 favorites]


What subject would even the most talented reporter be stymied how to convert into anything beyond glazed eyes and yawns?

Glazed eyes and yawns from me, personally? The daily doings of the Kardashians and their ilk.
posted by flabdablet at 6:38 AM on December 18, 2020 [18 favorites]


One category of boring is subjects that are nominally governed by a rule of some kind but for which the exceptions are almost as common as the rule. Examples abound.

In the study of languages, there are irregular verbs with unique conjugations, idiosyncratic nouns, and, Lord help me, partitives. (For those who don't know, partitives are, for example, why you say "some coffee", or "a cup of coffee", but not "a coffee", and why you say "a beer" and not "some beer".)

In math, differential equations. There are a few rules, and a host of tricks with limited usefulness.

In music composed after, say, 1850, there are major exceptions to music theory which was invented to explain Bach.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:41 AM on December 18, 2020


ISO standards, particularly 14000 and 9000 series. Though the topics are critical to the operation of a high quality and environmentally conscious manufacturing firms, *reading* the standards themselves and how you implement them would take a very special type of person to find riveting. Not saying they don't exist! but I am a process and systems person and boy-oh-boy, that is some drying reading.
posted by chiefthe at 6:47 AM on December 18, 2020 [6 favorites]


For me it’s sports, but I guess I’m a weirdo.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:57 AM on December 18, 2020 [6 favorites]


SQL. Or database theory/architecture in general. I love writing it but I swear I can't listen to another person talking about it without wanting to rip the skin off of my face. I literally had to force myself to learn it.
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:00 AM on December 18, 2020 [3 favorites]


"So what do you do?"
"I'm a CRM administrator"
"Oh..."

It's a double-edged sword, because most people who are not in sales don't really know what that is. But their eyes glaze over if I spend more than about 30 seconds explaining.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:01 AM on December 18, 2020 [4 favorites]


“but I swear I can't listen to another person talking about it without wanting to rip the skin off of my face”

Haha this is so true. I enjoy the concept, but for whatever reason, conversations about it are invariably boring. I actually just got off such a call.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:17 AM on December 18, 2020 [3 favorites]


My glib answer is "other people's vacation photos."

Real answer: non-controversial city council meetings about zoning or other city business that doesn't have drama attached to it.

To be honest, I think boring is in the eye of the beholder and there's very few human endeavors that can't be made interesting in the right hands. Almost everything we do has fascinating history and implications in our lives.

CRM admin? There are probably 10 ways you could explore the architecture of a CRM and its impact on a company, its salesforce, and its customers. No doubt there are CRM horror stories that would be interesting to almost anybody if told the right way.

Database theory? Everybody interacts with databases in some form. "Your favorite website is slow? Blame the database."

"The many-years-long public conversation about the evolution of the Perl programming language from version 5 to 6."

1) I find this interesting, and 2) I feel attacked. I wrote stories about this and found it very interesting!
posted by jzb at 7:18 AM on December 18, 2020 [4 favorites]


Straight financial accounting is fascination itself compared to auditing. Foster Wallace tackled tax auditing in Pale King
posted by canoehead at 7:20 AM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]


What subject is near impossible to squeeze anything exciting out of? What subject would even the most talented reporter be stymied how to convert into anything beyond glazed eyes and yawns?

In a word, nothing. There are many things I personally find deeply uninteresting and would struggle to be excited by ordinarily, but there must exist a writer who can find the context or story about such a thing in order to pique my interest. That is the essence of good reporting, after all.

There is no subject that is of interest to no-one, therefore there is no subject that doesn't have something interesting about it. There may be lots of reporters who are unable to find anything exciting to say about their topic, but this is often more to do with deadlines, word limits, and editorial policy than a lack of willingness to dive into the human stories beyond the humdrum facts.

By the same token, the most fascinating and ground-breaking material can be deathly dull. Darwin's Origin of the Species has altered the way our species thinks of itself, which is astounding, and yet the book itself is painfully, tortuously, tedious.

So I'd rephrase the question as: Which subjects have not yet had a talented reporter make them come alive and dance off the page for their readers? (and hope that people chip in with counter-examples of great writing about nominally boring topics)
posted by underclocked at 7:21 AM on December 18, 2020 [2 favorites]


My students seem to feel that bond valuation is my most boring class.....
posted by Valancy Rachel at 7:24 AM on December 18, 2020


I find there are a small number of people obsessed with the minutia of trains that the rest of the world finds spectacularly boring. I mean, the word 'trainwatching' came out of it...
posted by Dmenet at 7:32 AM on December 18, 2020


Human interest stories generally but about people who are generally privileged more that me. Having to listen to sports commentators wax on able some athlete having to practice 70-80 a week (with the unacknowledged privilege that allows them to expend that kind of time on an activity that doesn't provide food/shelter) would send me into a stupor. Reporting on the mundane day to day activities of the Kardashians, Hiltons, Royals etc., just shoot me.

However I can be fascinated by dives in to material things. There is a great podcast, The Boring Talks, that can make pencils and toilet paper serial numbers interesting
posted by Mitheral at 7:38 AM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]


Legal terms and conditions
Prefaces to many books I've read
Easy instructions. I'd rather just wing it
Names of plants. Don't ask me their names bc I don't care enough to remember. I do like them though.
posted by DixieBaby at 7:39 AM on December 18, 2020


"boredom" or "excitement" are in the mind of the observer; these qualities are inherently reactions and have no connection to a given subject matter.
posted by niicholas at 7:40 AM on December 18, 2020 [4 favorites]


What subject is near impossible to squeeze anything exciting out of? What subject would even the most talented reporter be stymied how to convert into anything beyond glazed eyes and yawns?

Filing/timing/deadline requirements and other procedural requirements in the legal field. Dealing with them is so boring that lawyers hire other people to do it, which is how you know something is truly tedious and unpleasant.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:56 AM on December 18, 2020 [2 favorites]


The "good old days".
posted by gusottertrout at 7:59 AM on December 18, 2020 [2 favorites]


You might be interested in The Seven Things You're Not Supposed to Talk About episode from This American Life. Their summary:
Producer Sarah Koenig's mother lives by a set of rules about conversation. She has an actual list of off-limits topics, including how you slept, your period, your health, your diet and more. You don't talk about these things, she says, because nobody cares. This week we try to find stories on these exact topics that will prove her wrong.

I personally think that almost anything can be interesting, if you find the right person to talk about it--but "the right person" can be incredibly hard to find.
posted by CiaoMela at 8:14 AM on December 18, 2020 [3 favorites]


Auto racing/muscle cars in general.
Video games.
Burning Man.™
Social work.
Anyone’s gallbladder ailments.
Reagan-era “economics.”
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:21 AM on December 18, 2020 [2 favorites]


This is such a non-boring question : )

I struggle to think of a subject that is never interesting, but I do struggle with one family member's stories. These stories are really boring because you get the point as soon as the story starts but you have to listen to meandering and off-tangent details that have nothing to do with the story and go on and on... last Wednesday, or was it Tuesday? hmm, no it must have been Wednesday because I got the shopping done... oh yes, it was definitely Wednesday because I met with my friend so-and-so earlier in the day... oh my goodness, do I need to dig deep sometimes!

As a former reporter, I agree that you should be able to find the interest and the interesting out of any subject (but some people will turn the interesting into something boring-to-you). So my non-answer answer is that no subject is inherently boring but people can make it so.
posted by mkdirusername at 8:27 AM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]


I just watched a video that included a bit about deadlines in the legal field - and I thought it was interesting because it's something I didn't know much about.

Not too long ago, there was a story on the blue about accountants writing sci-fi stories including accountancy. That was cool to learn about!

I think that's the key for me. Is it new? I think human beings are wired to find new information interesting. We're life-long learners. Sure, many people are going to find some topics a total snoozefest, but it's not going to be the same topics for everyone. Even the topics that are widely derided as boring will usually have some new angle that you can present, that will catch at least some people's attention.

A lot of people are just listing things that they personally find boring, but none of these will be universal.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:29 AM on December 18, 2020


I knew that my boss had been a railway accident investigator; there'd been an accident on the news, I asked if he'd seen the news. 30 minutes on train brakes was at least 10 more minutes than was interesting, but his delight in discussing a subject about which he was passionate and knowledgeable was still worth the listen. The real payoff was that I asked why he left the field(that he so obviously loved). His answer - his wife's health meant that he could no longer travel for work. I meet some shallow people who care mostly about being cool and being around cool people, care about Kardashians or 'Real' housewives or money, and they get pretty boring, but most people are pretty interesting. Accounting or any field full of minutiae will generally get dull, but then there are the stories of how the field plays out in real life. The minutiae exists because of the ways rules have been exploited.

Modern life is full of fast gratification like tik-tok videos, which I find kind of boring, fb likes, twitter fast takes, fast food. One thing about covid isolation is the pleasure of slow processes like making bread or soup
posted by theora55 at 8:33 AM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]


What everyone has said above about the answer to this question being highly individual-and-context dependent is absolutely true.

There may be lots of reporters who are unable to find anything exciting to say about their topic, but this is often more to do with deadlines, word limits, and editorial policy than a lack of willingness to dive into the human stories beyond the humdrum facts.

I work in a field of journalism often writing about stuff that would probably sound pretty dull to most people, and I can confirm that this is indeed the case. I'm usually able to find some interesting-enough hook (which may or may not be human interest, FWIW), but on the occasions where I couldn't it was more about time and resources available than it being literally impossible.

With that said, here's something I find boring...interviews with professional athletes. I find sports in general interesting enough, but professional athletes have to be, with some rare exceptions, among the most boring people on the planet. A good writer can weave such interviews into a compelling narrative, I'm sure, but I am baffled by the continued existence of the post-game interview. Yet they exist, so I'd guess someone watches them.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:38 AM on December 18, 2020 [2 favorites]


other people's diets, especially but not limited to weight loss efforts, and food-related [X]-ism in general. There are exceptions to this. I was fascinated once by a woman's telling me about her "wheat rage." But in general, I don't care what virtuous posture you're copping re your food, and I really don't want to hear about it.

also and extremely: coding algorithms.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:38 AM on December 18, 2020 [6 favorites]


Every “boring” topic I can think of probably has at least one youtube channel devoted to it, which means somebody finds it interesting.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 8:40 AM on December 18, 2020 [3 favorites]


Suddenly remembered what I find most boring: when someone relates the plot of an episode of a TV show they love, which I do not watch, will never watch and did not ask about.
posted by guessthis at 8:49 AM on December 18, 2020 [16 favorites]


The drinking stories of teens.

The justifications of racists.

MLM pitches.

In other words, "things that I fundamentally disagree with."
posted by wenestvedt at 8:57 AM on December 18, 2020 [2 favorites]


Can confirm: insurance (and actuarial science) is really.boring. (Source: 7 years in property/casualty insurance.)

Really? I find actuarial stuff fascinating: it started with a morbid interest in life insurance (how do you value a human life, etc, that kinda stuff), and once I was a bit more familiar with the overall processes and concepts, I was hooked. It's fascinating to me because it reveals two things, simultaneously: what the actuary (in institutional form, usually) thinks about the current, present, world (what it values primarily, but also a whole host of preconceived notions about culture and society and psychology), and where the actuary sees all these facets of the human world going in the future (which gives insight, then, into the what the actuary thinks of itself). It's like some kind of disembodied anthropological machine. I find it all very cool.
posted by pseudophile at 8:58 AM on December 18, 2020 [3 favorites]


This is definition: chat filter, but I'll bite.

Anything highly technical and non-intuitive to a non technical audience.
posted by latkes at 9:20 AM on December 18, 2020


Robert's Rules of Order?
Details of video games I do not play?
Speechifying on C-SPAN?
posted by *s at 9:32 AM on December 18, 2020


when I worked in R&D I had to meet with patent lawyers. Once they had a 30 minute discussion on whether or not to place a comma in a specific sentence. just kill me now.....
posted by alchemist at 9:32 AM on December 18, 2020 [2 favorites]


Hmm, just to speak up in defense of insurance, I've been working in P&C insurance for the last seven years, first as an actuary, now as a data scientist, and I actually find it fascinating, truly. It's just layers upon layers upon layers - it really does touch almost every field of human endeavor. At the end of the day you are actually trying to predict what the chance is that some bad thing will come to occur - and what could be more interesting than that? Everything impinges on it.
posted by peacheater at 9:37 AM on December 18, 2020 [4 favorites]


Hearing about the things other people find boring.

:)
posted by aspersioncast at 9:44 AM on December 18, 2020 [5 favorites]


I just watched a video that included a bit about deadlines in the legal field - and I thought it was interesting because it's something I didn't know much about.

Most of the answers here will depend on specifics and scope. The big questions about legal rules and related regulations are, like all big-picture legal questions, interesting and important because they affect the material conditions of people's lives. However, if you ever read these rules IRL, they are incredibly boring. Just one example from one single document on local court rules:
L.R. 5-1 Lodging Documents. “Lodge” means to deliver to the Clerk a document which is tendered to the Court but is not approved for filing, such as depositions, exhibits, or a proposed form of order. Unless excluded from electronic filing pursuant to L.R. 5-4.2, all lodged documents shall be submitted electronically, in the same manner as documents that are electronically filed. Parties electronically lodging proposed orders or other proposed documents that require a judge’s signature must comply with L.R. 5-4.4.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:59 AM on December 18, 2020


Also, answering with something you find uninteresting but which is clearly popular is not answering the question! It's not what you personally find boring, but about what is most objectively boring, to the extent that objectivity is possible.

Good evidence that something is objectively boring is that it's (1) not popular, meaning you probably haven't heard about it unless you're in the field or needed the information for some other reason; (2) not relevant to most people's lives or otherwise important to real-world functioning, meaning, it could disappear tomorrow and no one would be too bothered except the specific people who already know/interact with it; (3) people get paid to interact with it, rather than paying to interact with it.

By these standards, certain subsets of accounting seem to be the best answer!
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:04 AM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]


Yes, there's boring as "impenetrable" to outsiders, where the conversation is filled with information one has to be well versed in the subject to even understand, which can be most fields at certain levels of detail, but if the same subject is pitched with the understanding it's to engage outsiders, then most topics can be interesting if discussed with enthusiasm and some depth in explaining why the thing works as it does. The other kind of boring is when someone recounts their feelings on more common subjects as if their experience was the only thing that matters. Where the subject isn't the problem so much as the person relating their thoughts.

I find the former bearable, but hard to understand when I'm not being engaged and usually quite interesting when I am, and the latter tedious beyond belief when there is no consideration for the other people involved and more a conversation starter than exciting when there is thought about everyone involved.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:21 AM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]


Some one you now dislike performing a repetitive ritual at which you are trapped as audience or participant.

I love logic puzzles and find accountancy soothing, I like going through medical biopsy reports and similar technical papers I don't understand and finding the underlying pattern that makes the information start to make sense.

It never ceases to frustrate me when someone is an expert in something obscure that I know nothing about, so I carefully draw them out until they begin to explain the politics behind forestry management or how you separate chloroplasts from the inside of the plant cell for analysis and what that analysis means, or the affect that chemical fertilizer has on nematodes - they will suddenly hit a wall and absolutely refuse to tell me any more on the grounds that I am bored, just after I have reached the fascinated stage.

But put me in a room with someone who feels entitled to my attention and does the same parlour tricks over and over and I totally glaze. The first few times they played their shtick it was interesting as a means of understanding them and learning who they were and what was important to them. The first two days were maybe tolerable.

But year two of listening to the boss's daily, "Remember, the customer comes first, and if you need to miss a shift for any reason YOU are letting the customer down which is why we make you find coverage;" or the second month of listening to old Mrs. McIlvray's whine, "She never is willing to stay on the phone with me," for three hours after the daughter's faithful daily half-hour morning phone call, knowing that she will resume that complaint once the distraction of lunch is over; or yet another guy making yet another pass at me at a dance event - That's what I consider boring.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:31 AM on December 18, 2020 [3 favorites]


Website deployment. Different flavors of packagers / orchestrators, etc.
posted by signal at 10:31 AM on December 18, 2020


I believe that a good writer can make anything interesting. That said, I know someone who began his copyediting career at the Journal of Sludge.
posted by scratch at 11:06 AM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]


In grad school I once spent a whole week thinking about how paint dries after observing what appeared to be Turing instabilities in the pattern on a fence.

ME TOO! What did you decide?

I was hoping to maybe use it as a model for a huge slow process, but (a) the scaling factors didn’t work out and (b) a surprising amount of film-drying knowledge is still proprietary.
posted by clew at 12:39 PM on December 18, 2020 [3 favorites]


I know it's said that 'an intelligent person is never bored', but I don't believe it. Just as there are forms of manual labour so hard and unpleasant that no sane person would choose to do them, so there are forms of intellectual labour so tedious, so repetitive, that no intelligent person could possibly extract any satisfaction from them.

The most boring experience of my professional life was in 2014, when the organisation for which I worked unveiled, with great fanfare, a new strategic plan. This consisted of six principles along the lines of 'embrace quality to enable key deliverables'. We then had a series of day-long meetings in which we had to break into small groups to discuss what these principles meant to us, before returning to the full meeting to testify how our lives would henceforth be transformed by them. As I stared out of the window during one of these interminable afternoons ('Why will the summer day delay? When will Time flow away?'), it struck me that this was the late-capitalist equivalent of the three principles of Juche. No doubt at that moment, somewhere in Pyongyang, there were jaded middle-managers staring out of a factory window as they discussed how to put the revolutionary theory of Kimilsungism into practice. What counted was not the intellectual content of the principles (which were, in truth, meaningless) but the power to force other people to waste their time discussing them.

In my own specialist field of early modern history, the most intensely boring topic is late-seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Protestant scholasticism, which always reminds me of Thomas Carlyle's remark about 'an ancient rusty nail embedded in half a ton of dust'. But I would rather study Protestant scholasticism than spend my life enabling key deliverables.
posted by verstegan at 1:35 PM on December 18, 2020 [9 favorites]


I'm afraid it's 100% subjective. One topic I find exceptionally boring is wine, but I live in a state where people think of it as a conversational goldmine.
posted by less of course at 1:53 PM on December 18, 2020 [4 favorites]


When I had to write brief descriptions of businesses for a local business journal, one of the businesses wanted their low-VOC automobile painting highlighted. Trying to first wrap my brain around automobile paint volatility, then convincing our readers that this was very important to their auto paint shopping was a task I still think of as one of my most boring writing assignments ever.
posted by Lynsey at 2:45 PM on December 18, 2020 [3 favorites]


Baseball statistics. I could read canon law all day long (and increasing, I do!) but baseball? Verstegan is right, though. Late seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century Protestant scholasticism will make you want to poke your own eyes out, almost as much as baseball statistics.
posted by pleasant_confusion at 4:49 PM on December 18, 2020


I once found a copy of Wiring Harness News in the break room. I used to think that every subject could be made interesting until I attempted to read that particular trade paper, which turned out to be the dullest publication on the planet.
posted by monotreme at 6:53 PM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]


I used to think that every subject could be made interesting until I attempted to read that particular trade paper, which turned out to be the dullest publication on the planet.

Maybe the inverse is also true: A writer with one skill set can make a dull subject exciting, and another writer with a different skill set can make an exciting subject dull.

I’m also reminded of this Tumblr post, which uses an example from TNG to illustrate how difficult it can be to communicate when a subject comes easily to one person and not to the other. (I’ve long believed that it’s harder for a person to whom something comes naturally to be an effective teacher of that subject at the beginner level than it is for someone who had to work to learn it themselves.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:56 PM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]


Religious services. Not the kind with interesting food or music or rituals. But the boring ones with a lot of standing and sitting and reading aloud from a book. Sometimes in a language you don’t understand.
posted by panama joe at 8:18 PM on December 18, 2020


I know someone who began his copyediting career at the Journal of Sludge

Lake Dredge Appraisal

posted by flabdablet at 3:09 AM on December 19, 2020 [1 favorite]


Note: I did not mean this to be "things you personally find boring even though it is trivially easy to find evidence that there are lots of people who find them very interesting"... That's sort of the opposite of what I'm asking, not evidence that anything can be made boring, but about what makes something particularly difficult to make interesting.

Thanks for the answers thus far, and particularly to
- those either from journalists/writers or citing journalists/writers,
- or those involving examples of the boringness of the boring topic in question,
- or those discussing criteria for how such boringness would be quantified/qualified/judged.
posted by Cozybee at 8:04 AM on December 19, 2020 [1 favorite]


My boyfriend just learned a lot about cost accounting (for a work project) and as the person who heard a lot about it over dinner for the past few months, I can attest that it is deeply boring. As far as I can tell it is about determining what costs were incurred to earn a profit.
posted by hepta at 6:07 AM on December 21, 2020


or those discussing criteria for how such boringness would be quantified/qualified/judged

A subjective criterion—familiarity. I have a bad habit at parties, when trying to socialize with strangers, of being too interested in the minutiae of other people's professions. I've had to learn to recognize the hunted “I do this all day at work, I don't want to talk about it at a party this much” facial expression.

The COVID pandemic has mostly solved the problem, given the end of parties.
posted by XMLicious at 6:12 AM on February 2


« Older An escape room in a box that also teaches you...   |   Need a driving simulator game for iphone... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments