Time to fight the bloat
Did you know that FOMO has been around since the 16th century?
Back in 1525, Erasmus, among many others, opined that due to the printing press, that there were just too many books to read — that one could never read all of the books out there in one’s lifetime.
“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” ― Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus
Of course today we get streamed probably as much text as a 1200 page novel daily, and that’s just the various feeds we read which are pushed to us that we may want to read — don’t even think about incoming emails and spam.
The average book size has also gotten larger and larger, the average blog post has gotten longer and longer, the average tutorial video is longer and longer, the average podcast is getting to be over an hour. Not because they are more information dense if anything they are more information sparse.
Some of this can be attributed to technology — it’s much easier to write a long novel or blog post on a laptop than it is to write it longhand or even on a typewriter (BTW, I’m typing this on an AlphaSmart NEO2, a godsend for those of us who have trouble with focus).
For another part, I blame Google and other search engines who somehow also equate length with relevancy — I’ve never seen so many overworded blog posts in my life. Why say something in a paragraph when you can stretch it out for 500 (or many more) words to get Google to notice you. I read somewhere that originally posts needed a minimum of 150 words to be considered authoritative by Google, then 300, then 500, now unless your post goes up well over the 1000+ word mark (and some in the 10,000+ word space) then they are totally ignored by the search engines.
The problem is that we are writing these posts to be found (by a search engine) not to be read (by a human). So when your favorite search engine serves up an article you might like, you will probably find it so full of filler that you’ll cringe, once you start reading it.
Ultimately, this problem which tech has created will have to be solved by tech — books will disappear as our virtual assistants read them for us and summarize them intelligently so that only they’ll only read you the information which is relevant to you.
Your assistant will similarly consume blog posts, podcasts, and videos and edit them down for you distilling them down to the most relevant version for you — wouldn’t it be great to not sit through a 5 minute tutorial video where the host goofs around for 3 minutes, shows off the tutorial for 30 seconds, then asks you to subscribe and like his videos for the other 60 seconds. And don’t forget the two 15 second irrelevant commercials. That’s 4 and a half minutes of your life you’ve just wasted!
Soon, humans will be creating content for machines to recognize and then summarize for other humans. Wouldn’t it just be easier for us to quit the bulking up of our content with filler and just say our piece, no matter how short it is?
Humans talking directly to other humans, without the search engine filter in-between. What a concept.
You don’t need 593 pages to describe radical transparency (talking to you, Ray Dalio), or 689 to say “buy real estate to get rich without working” (that’s you, Tony Robbins).
Just like work which seems to “expand to the time allotted” we humans need to work on our brevity — we need to say things in as few words as possible to get our point across — we need to look at quality vs quantity when it comes to relevance and intellect — and we need to stop loading up all of our content with extraneous, unnecessary flab.
Since blog posts, podcasts and books can be any length, why not just make them whatever length they need to be — instead of bloating it up for the sake of the search engine? There is no need for a novel to be 50,000 words and up, or a podcast to be 3 hours long, or a blog post to be 10,000 words.
Think MVC — minimum viable content — be Hemingway, not Henry James. Your human readers, listeners, and watchers will thank you.
BTW, if you are looking for a new product idea, develop an intelligent summarization engine — it’s your sure bet to a billion dollar business — free idea — if you make it so, just give me some credit.