The Biggest Issue Facing Readers Today
When we talk about online content, it's quite easy to think about the creator. We talk about programs like ChatGPT replacing writers, the difficulties bloggers face in getting discovered, and how bloggers can derive an income from their work through monetising their blog.
This may be all well and true, but the problem is that overtly focussing most of our attention on the reader means that we're ignoring another key stakeholder, and that is the reader.
So I sit down today and write this blog on behalf of all readers to vent their frustrations. As an avid reader myself, I can vouch for what I am about to reveal.
The biggest issue readers face today is this:
Hardly controversial, but it's becoming an ongoing problem - one that I think is leaving many readers of online content quite exasperated.
How I Define 'Crap Content'
I define 'crap content' as content that does one or more of the following:
- Content that is blatantly 'false'
- Content riddled with half-truths and biases
- Content that is plain boring and unhelpful
- Content that basically repeats what others have already said, with minimal originality or flair
- Content written by people without skin in the game
Let's explore each in turn.
Obviously no one would bat an eyelid at the first point. Content that is openly deceitful and plain 'wrong' is immensely unhelpful, unethical and a waste of time. A more insidious issue, however, is content riddled with half-truths and biases. I might say that 'X' is true while omitting that X is true in only some circumstances, or that 'X' may only be true when events 'Y' and 'Z' take place.
For example, I could say that 'blockchain will revolutionise smart contracts' and stop there, but this would avoid a lot of the nuance required when advancing this topic. Not only is blockchain still an emerging technology, but blockchain's suitability for smart contracts is also a point of contention. Do firms have the technical capabilities to implement automated smart contracts? How will blockchain smart contracts work when the contract needs to be amended?
As a general life lesson, be critical of content that lacks rigour and advances an 'absolute' position on a topic because chances are that the writer has missed a lot of nuance when forming their view.
Boring, Unoriginal, Unhelpful Content
The next two points go hand in hand. No one wants to read plain, boring content that doesn't help with solving a problem or provide any value to the reader. To this, I would also add that I am sick of reading blogs that simply repeat cliches that other writers have already advanced. Content should be original and unique, not mere carbon copies of what people have already said.
Content Written by 'Anyone' Even When They Don't Believe What They're Saying
Now, you'll see that I've bolded my last point. Fundamentally, I would never write about anything that I haven't done myself or experienced before. I write from a bank of personal experience and knowledge that I have developed over time. In fact, I don't think it's fair for me to advance a position that I don't believe in or would never implement personally. Why is this: I don't believe in lying to other people or being ingenuine.
The Internet has given everyone a voice, but there should be a system of ethics how people use that voice. Believe me, it seems rather easy to write a stack of blog content on random topics that I am unfamiliar with or positions that I disagree with, but since people read, trust and are influenced my work, I think it's fundamentally wrong to mislead them by 'educating' them on something I don't believe in.
This is why I believe that content creators should not write about a topic unless they have 'skin in the game' somehow in that area. For instance, I write a number of posts as a blogger because I write on a consistent basis, I speak from personal experience, and I have 'skin in the game' because I actually write for wide online audiences and can easily lose everyone's trust if I wrote something stupid.
Next time you read a post, ask yourself: 'Does this writer actually practise what they preach?' You'd be surprised at the answers.
Why is 'Crap Content' an Issue?
Here's why 'crap content' is an issue:
- It wastes the reader's time and attention
- It worsens 'content fatigue' where the reader becomes tired of reading so much bland content that they feel burnt out
- More importantly, crap content ruins the Internet for everyone. This is an important point. What use is the Internet or a social media platform if it is riddled with rubbish? To be even more direct, I'd say that crap content is what makes or breaks a social media platform
So, what can be done about this? Not much, unfortunately.
With the rise of ChatGPT* (amongst other things), it'll become increasingly easier for anyone to churn out content on a frequent basis. What's worse is that ChatGPT makes it extremely easy for anyone to write 'crap content': Content that is false, has flaws, is unoriginal and is curated/'written' by anyone even if they don't have any skin in the game or knowledge with the topic they are writing about.
There is of course the argument that people can simply 'stop reading' rubbish content. This may be true to an extent, but the problem is that people can't entirely 'avoid' crap content despite their best intentions because crap content appears to be 'everywhere'.
In my view, the only thing I have to say to readers is this:
- Learn how to spot 'crap content' when you see it
- Go on an 'information diet' when you find yourself feeling fatigued by the lack of quality content
As with most things, the best remedy is prevention, and it's important we all realise this now because the pandemic of 'crap content' won't stop spreading anytime too soon.
I'm sick of it all too.
*As a side note, I am not against the use of ChatGPT or tools to help people write content; what I am against is people taking advantage of ChatGPT to produce large volumes of spammy content or taking ChatGPT as gospel without fact-checking what ChatGPT has produced.