People as Content: Virtual Content vs. “In Real Life” (IRL) Content

Whenever we look through a kaleidoscope and make even the smallest of adjustments, the new picture that results can become very different from the one we were just looking at a moment ago (this is a favorite metaphor my mother sometimes likes to invoke). Here, I see a similarity with how even a small amount of feedback can jar the world in such a way that many of our long-held views can seem “new” (and hopefully also “improved” ;) ).

My friend who raised the question in the previous post also gave much more feedback, including what might be called “positive” or “constrictive” criticism, suggestions and so on. Although I don’t see a clear line to what I want to write about now, I could see that many of the “positive” vs. “negative” value judgements we often make are not helpful in order to “move forward” — and this aspect is also something my friend mentioned directly.

Regardless of how (or who) came up with this idea, I now feel I have made a significant observation with respect to a long-held truism that is bandied about all around any industry that has anything to do with the Internet: “the most important thing is content” — that’s what “theysay.

When they say this, it is usually implied that they are referring to words on the page, graphic design, images, photos, logos, videos, audios, … any of a wide range of what is usually now collectively referred to as “media” (and note how this use of the term “media” is very different from the way Marshall McLuhan might have used the term — and this is yet another good example of why jargon matters [as I mentioned just a few days ago]). That may all be good and fine from the perspective of “search engine optimization” (SEO) … as I also mentioned just yesterday. So if you want to impress a machine, and if you want some newbie monkey to click on your link, then this is definitely the way to go.

Note, however, that many of the peoplein real life” (IRL) have already moved on. They no longer spend time playing Google games, they no longer tinker and toy around with image tags, keyword density, … they have already given Google the “nofollow” card. That train has already left the station — if you are still trying to catch it, then you are trying to board an outdated technology (and I refer to all such outdated technologies collectively as “retard media”).

Where have all the “IRL” people gone? For the past several years, they went to Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. These days, they may very well “hang out” at websites like Pinterest, Instagram, and “instant messaging” services like Whatsapp. Increasingly, these are the same “suckers” who were willing to click on almost any link — now they are willing to install almost any app… and thereby be tracked by almost any data mining / business intelligence organization. Since they have not become more literate in the meantime, they are just as naive as they have been since pretty much the first days of the Internet.

IRL people are more important than virtual content. Virtual content doesn’t pay the bills — IRL people do.

Any good webdesigner will tell you what is the most important webdesign feature: White space. If you clutter a page with useless links and/or useless content, the user you are trying to reach with your multitasking messages will probably simply opt out and leave the page. If you look at most of the web 2.0 success stories, they will have this one thing in common: a lack of virtual content (on the page). All of the “ands, ifs or buts” are cleanly hidden in never-read documents named “user policy”, “terms of service” and so on.

Knowledgeable people analyze such documents, but newbies generally don’t. They will be amazed when they figure out that they have been sold down the river, but by that time the people who created these “most successful” services will have already cashed out. Expect many more tombstones to join Geocities, Friendster, Myspace, and litter the web 2.0 graveyard in the not-too-distant future.

Which companies will survive the second crash? I am not sure if any will, but I think those companies who put less emphasis on more content and more emphasis on real people with real qualifications will not only reduce their data transmission costs but also increase the likelihood of their own survival.

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