The Laws of Content

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A couple of ways the internet incentivizes making lots of mediocre and/or dishonest garbage.

Too Much Content

Space on the internet is free, with nobody to gate-keep what you can or can’t post. Naturally, a lot of crap gets made. That’s not the problem, the problem is that there’s no natural source of curation. Algorithms don’t know what’s good, just what’s popular, or aligned with other things that you’ve looked at.

Dishonest Content

There’s lots of clear examples of dishonesty online. Clickbait YouTube titles. Blog posts that are ‘recycled’ from elsewhere on the web. Basically anything that occurs on Instagram. We’ve become so used to the fact that people lie online that we’ve developed memes specifically to respond to stories we think are fake.

What’s the difference between dishonesty and faking it? The goal. Somebody who’s faking it is looking to test their skills and improve, if they need to. Somebody being dishonest is aware that they’re selling something different than what it says on the box, but they want to make that sale anyway. Stereotypical used car salesman are dishonest, but nobody accuses somebody redoing their kitchen before selling their house of trying to pull one over on the buyer.

Clicks are a Terrible Measure of Worth

In the attention economy, all of these practices make business sense. Dishonesty gets you more clicks per post, putting out constant drivel creates more aggregate clicks. The problem is that this creates an internet that looks like a never-ending tabloid rack in the grocery store checkout line. Shocking headlines about people you don’t care about, personalities famous for their own fame, nothing that would make you think too hard. Just click.

A lot of what gets made ends up being ambient content.

There’d be less fake nonsense if folks were more comfortable sucking at stuff.

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