While I was starting to write this, I caught myself cycling, jumping quickly from Facebook to Twitter to my email to my phone, and then Snapchat and so on. This happens all the time since there’s so much noise out there pulling my attention away from everything else. That same noise could be affecting the content that I’m putting out.
There are many factors that have contributed to this feeling of “information overload” in the last decade. But did you know that this isn’t a new phenomenon? As writing became more common in Ancient Greece, Plato decried that “this discovery will create forgetfulness in the learner’s soul.” European scholars felt the abundance of books created by the Gutenberg printing press was ruinous, even comparing it to an epidemic. Of course, nowadays there’s the World Wide Web, with its ever-growing glut of content and big data.
While writing and books aren’t bad-mouthed anymore, although this may depend on where you are, the age of the Internet may be the wave that can really overwhelm people. Plato could never have imagined a constant stream of information flashing before his eyes at every waking moment. So how can you make sure the content you produce is engaging?
Recommendations make navigating the world a little easier. Trusting something is easier knowing it has good reviews or that a friend actively enjoys it. Recommendation systems like Netflix’s movie recommendations or Spotify’s Discover Weekly are a much-valued part of their respective platform. That means it could be well worth delving into how others are recommending your work and not just sharing it, especially if you’re in the process of crafting viral strategies.
The future of big data is intelligent recommendation AI that is capable of using all the data about what others are reading and enjoying. Then it uses that data to recommend related and engaging content. As machine learning and AI takes off, staying on top of the revolution is something highly valuable.
No more clickbait
I have the bad habit of oversubscribing to email lists. If it seems tangentially related to something I’m interested in or doing, I think, “Why not?” One of my favorites is the CBInsights newsletter, which focuses on analyzing the data of private companies and their markets. One of my favorite things about their emails is that the subject line sounds natural. As a conscious consumer of content on the internet, I’m more likely to stay engaged if I don’t feel actively manipulated by what I’m looking at. So, try to be more cognizant of the articles you’re putting out. Make sure they’re trying to provide real value to your audience, and not just clicks.
Steal like an artist
Poet and author Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist lives on my coffee table. It’s small, square and black. In fact, its actual shape looks artsy and creative. Kleon’s book has an interesting thesis: nothing is completely original and all creative work builds on what came before. This artsy-looking book I originally bought for its looks holds a capital “T” for Truth.
Through the noise of all the information, anybody who cares about putting their work on the internet should be constantly stealing. There is a modern-day Library of Alexandria your fingertips and so, the Information Age is a blessing. There is so much to take from, there will always be the chance of finding inspiration. The web is full of great content, so help showcase some of it by retweeting, sharing and curating.