Signal vs Noise (or Is Technology Destroying Humanity?)
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary.
Posted by Ryan Neal
Signal vs Noise (or Is Technology Destroying Humanity?)
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal

Everything you've been force-fed about blogging ruffled a few feathers. That wasn't the intention and, for the most part, I got a lot of positive e-mails/tweets/comments.

It got me thinking about how I decide to do what I do. Specifically, how I use technology in regards to this site and how technology has given us the ability to act in ways we would never act face-to-face.

For example, why don't I tweet Instagrams? Because they are (usually) lame and (usually) nothing more than ego strokes. Do you text/call your IRL (in real life) friends every time you take a photo or go to the gym or a restaurant? Think about it. Why do we feel the need to announce to the world where we are or what we're doing on a regular basis? (This goes for Foursquare, and other check-in apps as much as Instagram and its ilk.) It's because we want people to know we're doing stuff. Ego driven. We want people to be a little envious of what we're up to. Ego driven. Or we want people to know that we don't just sit at home on the computer all day. Ego driven.

I'm not saying these things don't have their uses sometimes. They do. If you're walking across America, for example, it might make sense to check in so anybody who wants to follow along can do that.

What it boils down to is signal versus noise. If what you're doing is noise to the majority of the people who have opted in to follow you then are you acting in a way that's aligned with how you want to live your life? You obviously can't please all the people, but if you're reaching your right people you should be more signal than noise to them. Isn't that common sense?

Back to a part of the "everything you've been force-fed" article that ruffled feathers: Why don't I tweet my articles multiple times per day? Because it's noise. I don't like when other people do it, so why would I? Yes, I know I'll get more visitors to my site if I do it. So what? Once, and sometimes twice (if it's relevant), is enough. If the message is worth spreading it will spread. I'm not going to force it down your throat hoping it'll change things.

Why don't I send blanket "good morning" or "good night" or "how can I help you today?" tweets every day? Again, it's noise. And it's incredibly insincere. Fun test: Next time you see a "how can I help you?" message flung out to the world make a request of that person and see what happens. Maybe I'm being incredibly cynical and these questions are sincere. As for me? While I do care about you, I'll ask how you're doing one-on-one instead of asking you and the thousands of people following me on twitter in a very disingenuous manner.

Moving along ...

Consider popups, which many of your favorite bloggers use. Why don't I have a popup on this site? Because I don't like popups on other people's sites. (I have a hard time believing anybody does.) It's very rare that I'm actually finished reading an article before a popup distracts me. If it pops up after I'm done reading then it bothers me a lot less, but I can't think of a single person who does this right. Yes, I know I'm throwing away a good 30% of my income by not having a popup. I don't care. Life is not business. Business is not life.

If You Don't Like Something ...

Don't do it. It feels very odd writing that because everybody knows this simple rule of life. Why does technology make people forget?

If you love popups then, by all means, put a popup on your site.

If you love seeing people's instagrams then post, post, post.

If you love seeing the same article tweeted out over and over from its author, then do that with your articles.

If you like noise, create noise.

If you value signal, then broadcast signal.

You are the barometer.

Do what you like. But don't do something just because "everybody else is doing it." There's that odd everybody-already-knows-this-but-not-everybody-practices-it feeling again.

What's your take?