On The Web, More Isn’t Only Less, It’s Actually Nothing


There is always news. Regardless of how newsworthy particular information is, newspapers have to put out the morning paper. No matter how little or no news there is, we’re still going to get “the news” every day.

Every so often, the newspapers resort to banal gossip pieces for the front cover (if they’re the New York Post) or featured investigative reporting that isn’t necessarily timely (if they’re the New York Times). This happens when there really isn’t anything major to report.

Now imagine that, rather than a daily release of news that hits your doorstep every morning, it’s every few hours or every hour or all the time. A never-ending printing press. Welcome to the Internet.

Take a look at these old Techmeme headlines. It’s a page full of news from May 2009, but really it isn’t news. It’s just what’s being talked about at any given time in the constant 24-hour information stock exchange that is the Internet.

An often-cited reason for the looming downfall of newspapers goes something like this: “the Internet blew away the Old Media’s monopoly on information.” Yes, we can get news instantly, all the time and from an endless array of sources. But the Internet did something else to the news. By putting everyone on a 120MPH highway, it left very little room for value judgment and discretion around what is or isn’t worth talking about. Take a look at any highly successful blog or new media source and you’ll find 50-100 posts per day. If Samsung comes out with a higher capacity battery for one of their mobile phones, Gizmodo is going to write about it.

The collateral damage isn’t so obvious but it’s undoubtedly there. Amidst my 400 unread Boing Boing links are probably ten or fifteen that are probably real gems. But I’ll never know and Boing Boing sure as hell isn’t going to help me out. The strange irony here is that the end result isn’t more information, it’s less. Instead of wading through the 400 posts, I simply ignore them all. I just try convince myself: “the good stories will somehow find me.”

These days, they’re finding me less and less. Someone needs to package it up for me on a daily basis. Maybe deliver it in a nice readable form every morning…

9 Comments On The Web, More Isn’t Only Less, It’s Actually Nothing

  1. Flooey

    In general, I agree. One of the things I think it is missing from the Internet is curators. However, there are some, for instance folks like John Gruber or Jason Kottke. They may still post more than you’d like, but I expect there are people out there who are producing content the way that you would like.

  2. anonymous

    If you don’t like the quantity and quality of BoingBoing’s links, why are you reading BoingBoing? There are many aggregators and blogs which pride themselves on having selective, focused, and high-quality content, and many other aggregators like Digg and Redit that allow you to filter based on your own metrics.

  3. Wayne

    As posted by Anonymous, this is already a solved problem with digg and reddit. Even the print world, there are really two news sources: the daily newspaper and specific-topic-area magazines. The former is a general source of top information while the latter is highly specific, more detailed, and filled with information the average person probably doesn’t care about (unless it’s in their field of interest).
    Gadget lovers are going to want to read about every new high-capacity battery — that’s that Gizmodo is to them. When I read it, I’ll skim over a dozen or so pages of news that wouldn’t likely interest anyone else. But every so often, an article of general interest will pop up and get voted up on a news aggregator.
    What you want to read isn’t necessarily what someone else wants to read. Your less might not be the same as my less.

  4. Cameron R.

    Have you tried Feedly? Not exactly pushed to you every morning, however, their cover function does a reasonable job of pulling out top news – suspect this is done based on RTs and how many times the links have been posted.

  5. Avi Flax

    Rich: totally agree with this. There are tons of blogs I’d like to follow but can’t because of volume. A really simple workaround might be for them to simply offer a “best of” feed, which would only have X items per day. Ideally, it’d be customizable with a parameter. Of course, that’d require someone to make judgement calls about each post, deciding whether or not they qualify for “best of” — and I guess that’s where the work is, and that’s why high-volume blogs aren’t doing this. They must find it easier to pump out reams of “content” than to actually think about what they’re publishing.

  6. Michael Kjeldsen

    This is sooo true – in essence, it describes the very situation I’m in.
    At the moment I have 1000+ unread articles/blog posts/whatnot in my Google Reader, and it has been like this for well over a year.
    One of these days I will clean out my reader, unsubscribing to a lot of really good – but ultimately useless – feeds, simply because they are way to “productive”…

  7. LJHarb

    That’s what I use Twitter for. The people I choose to follow are the ones who have proven to me they are good at filtering content.
    Following feeds is inefficient and outdated. Digg and reddit mean you are trusting a huge community that can game results.
    On Twitter, just like you would choose columnists back in the day based on their writing, you can choose who to follow based on their filtering.


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