Last year we really enjoyed opening our office up to OpenCo and revealing how we think and work as well as how we see technology transforming the world we live in. We ended with a look at “2023” and what all that may mean over the next decade. This year, after we were asked to present again under the new NewCo brand we took a different approach. In our talk today we hosted a thought experiment, taking a philosophical journey into what is content, how we know the difference between good and bad content, and how we can use that information to create the next set of products (or just appreciate the ones that come out a bit more.)
A talk about content in only one form of t would be sadly ironic. So, if you missed it we recorded and are presenting a few forms of the talk for ya.
I used this snazzy little tool that records voice on my iPhone and syncs the slides as a remote while giving a preso. Check out the tool at http://penxy.com/ or the final resulting “talking slides” at http://penxy.com/hyw
(Min 14:00 in Slides Above)
This year for NewCos new track named Yahoo’s content series we’ll take a different approach and start off by asking a more fundamental (seemingly obvious) question.
What is content?
For the most part we know it when we see it. It’s the substance or material we deal with in a speech, images, tweets, or memes. It can look like this [Essay], or content can look like this [Donald Trump tweet].
As we have access to more and more content in our daily lives the question that becomes more and more important to viewers is whether this content is worse or better than the previous one? Many will say the latter is awful, yet we read content like this in droves everyday. Why?
Let’s upgrade the question a bit and ask:
What is good content?
That’s a pretty tough question to answer but an important one too. As more and more innovative products come out we can get caught up in critiquing or dismissing one from the next. One super popular dismissal is the “I don’t care about you eating waffles on Twitter – I hate twitter it’s just noise”. When we take this point of view we can miss out on some amazing developments in our culture not to mention some amazing opportunities that come from that level of access.
Fair warning this discussion is gonna get philosophical. We’ll keep diving deeper into questions like that around content.
I know – we all love a presentations structure that involves action items, best practices or check lists ready to go by the time we leave.
Sometimes though it’s important to step back before you ask, or answer, a deeper question. After all the concept of “good” and “bad” is one of the oldest philosophical conundrums in existence. Furthermore is it even the right question to ask at all? Let’s see what we discover…
So let’s get dirty and start our philosophical journey by restructuring a very – very old question:
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?
We may be quick to answer: “of course it makes a sound. I’ve heard a tree fall and heard its sound – my presence is not required.”
But the question’s more of a thought experiment than anything else. What makes the question interesting isn’t the science of sound but the philosophy behind observation and reality of what sound is without an observer. Thought experiments like that can uncover new questions that may live beneath the surface that are able to more directly answer more monumental questions.
So let’s use our time together to dive into a thought experiment around content and see where we end up
If information is created but is never shared for others to see it is it still content?
I mean if content can stand on its own without the communication aspect…
Would you say then that all the hundreds or thousands of ideas and thoughts locked in our heads are actually hundreds or thousands of pieces of content then? Maybe.
Or maybe content is so inextricably tied to sharing that the two can’t maintain the definition on their own.
Hmmm.. Okay…if that’s the case then what side is more important in determining goodness? How well it’s distributed OR how well it’s formed and presented?
On one hand can we determine how good or bad content is if no one ever sees it? And, on the other hand, how worthwhile is content that everyone sees if it’s not useful or actionable? Content is more than text, sound, or an image in and of itself. In its most basic form it’s a projection of our thoughts that we thrust out into the world. As Maslov would probably put it: it’s a basic human need that makes us social and allows us to self-actualize.
If Descartes was alive today he may devise a whole new Cogito (“I think therefor I am”) to “I Share Therefore I am.”
We always hear there are no good or bad questions. And we are all unique – all our thoughts are important reflections of ourselves (which you may realize after thousands of dollars of therapy.) So why are we so driven to deem content good or bad if it is fundamentally a projection of self? Hmmmm… Interesting but I don’t think we’ve dived deep enough yet to form an answer… Let’s take another dive…
Let’s deconstruct content even further and ask
WHY is content?
(Min 23:00 in Slides Above)
(not a well formed sentence I know but you get the idea.)
Content is a transferring of our minds and being into an everlasting form.
It gives us eternal life and has so for thousands of years. In that regard it is one of the most advanced technologies ever created in the world. Our short finite lives are made infinite!
As the acronym YOLO so eloquently states, “You only live once” – but with the entire world filled with all these projected minds in the form of content we can live many lives vicariously through others.
If those concept are too abstract for your fancy and you’re more of the practical type then let’s frame it this way: Content gets stuff done more quickly. The faster we communicate the faster we can act between us.
I give you information locked in my head – you give your version back to me –
and like DNA all our contributions result in a greater overall result that may have taken ages had we attempted to think through it all on our own.
So with that I present my first thesis: The figuring out how to label content as good or bad comes from entirely the wrong place. The real question should be how do we use THIS content or THAT content? Where can we put each bit of content to allow our thoughts a chance to live in the open so that anyone can get the value from it if they so choose?
Content is simply a medium we use at the moments we have thoughts to overcome our inability to be able to be inside one another’s head.
The real endeavor is to cut out the middleman completely and just exchange thoughts. And until we can do that our goal is to shorten the time it takes to transfer our emotions, ideas, and – our lives – as much as possible. Ultimate efficiency, eternal life, and dare I say maybe even peace will be achieved in that final move. It won’t be about us dealing with good and bad content it will be about us accepting all thoughts as a chance to achieve those ultimate goals.
If you appreciate the reality that a single mind is the ultimate goal then it will give way to clues to foresee what product, or content society will embrace next. I’m not saying we will achieve singularity tomorrow,
nor am I here to rally everyone to start making change so we do something – because it is inevitable whether you like it or not. I am here to help add to a map on how and why content exists so we can navigate what comes our way, or create useful products along the way.
The real problem we are attempting to solve in almost all products created today is: how do we decrease the inefficiency impeding us from what can be called a mind meld. Each new product attempts to close that time-gap from one persons mind and emotion to the next.
Still not convinced that is the ultimate direction?– lets take a break from the abstract and look at our known history for validation…
In the beginning it was the lack of the written word, passing down information through story. It got the job done but it could take a lifetime or more for anyone to have a chance to see ones work or hear ones thoughts in order to make use of them. It was also super lossy – changing with each storyteller and generation. The written word helped us set those words in stone so although interpretation was still at play the base from which we worked was identical to those that could read the original. Unfortunately there was only one original so it still took a while to get it circulating and – you break, you buy.
Then, boom, the creation of the printing press! Anyone with an idea could have a shot of distributing their thoughts in ones lifetime – rich or poor, academically educated or not –– well, as long as you could read or had someone that could read to you. An example of how powerful an easily copied text can be is seen in the 1500s when the Christian world’s perception of their religion was altered because of a German Friar named Martin Luther and the content he shared. Powerful yes,
but it still took 2 YEARS for his thoughts to circulate in his community. Could you imagine waiting 2 years for your questions or ideas to be circulated?
How frustrating for us to imagine?! At that time not only did communication work on a schedule like that but the perception was that not everyone needed to read or share content in the first place because the common folk were too dumb to make use of it. What value could they bring to the table?
We look back then and see a travesty around the freedom of information – but does our generation think all that differently? When we created AppMakr the same objections came up – “not everyone needs an app.”
The prediction was we would maybe make 4 apps a month. In our first day we had requests to make thousands. Against all doubt we knew that it has always been true that the power of distributing content should be given to the people “good” or “bad” – it was our guiding principle. … But I’m jumping ahead …
We’ve seen the drive to democratize content and speed its ability to be distributed for hundreds of years since the printing press.
Getting our thoughts out to the world in years
to weeks, to seconds with radio and TV. But then a problem still remained – instant is great but everyone should have a voice and the access to hear it – not just the privileged – we still wanted more.
And so the Internet was born: Instant transfer of anyone’s thoughts to anyone willing to access it. It was given the perfect term: “getting connected.” And our path to do so continued.
From dial up to Wi-Fi, from PC to laptop, from Laptop to phone. We are decreasing the time it takes for each of our thoughts to get out there.
The iPhone was also thought of as a fad by critiques after its release – for years large corporations wondered how they succeeded. Many missed that its main achievement was to further decrease the time and complexity it takes for us to create, share, and ingest content from anyone saying anything more instantly.
Whether it’s a lifetime to years or 3 seconds to 1 second. If you can decrease the time it takes to get ANYONES mind into the open you are on to something.
Of course we all hear the call to arms that everything is so different now, and bad, and chaotic – we are so much worst and impatient than in the past! I offer a different perspective, things are only different in the tools we use but our yearning and desires are exactly the same: “Hear me!”
Or, may I please have access to what is going out there.
Our heads are no more immersed in that desire today.
Than it has been in generations before us. We are just able to achieve those goals more practically.
Data has always been thrust upon us.
We are simply trying to make it ALL more manageable from one person to the next.
What we’re driving towards is a moment where my thoughts are yours in the same moment. Think of the frustration you’ve ever felt when you just wanted someone to understand what you were trying to convey but left only with words and gestures and maybe a white board. How awfully inefficient it is! Just get in my head for a second so we can move on! The channels we’ve seen are just manifestations of that desire we have. It’s still far away but that IS the direction we’re headed and have been headed since the word “I”.
Anything that shortens that gap for ANYONE to get ANYTHING to ANYONE ELSE is following that trajectory and delivering goodness.
Is it asking too much? Are we really so much more impatient than the past?
Why is a month too long to wait but a minute juuuuust short enough?
What is it compared to?
Cutting the time in half is cutting time in half when you move forward – period. And it will always take twice as long as it does now to those looking back. It’s not time thats a problem – time is relative.
All content that is caged is bad content because it doesn’t have the chance to allow someone to try and make their mark, live vicariously through shared story, or help them self-actualize. Sure with this digital tool there’s great power, fear and concern in how we will handle it all but it’s not about getting rid of some of it based on it being good or bad. Content is a tool to convey our thoughts – and we have all kinds of them that seem like garbage or gold from one person to the next.
It’s the difference between this
and this. Same tool different purpose
This is a knife
and so is this. And there are tons others out there. More and more a minute with a better edge or handle or metal or balance. They’re the channels we use to express ourselves with one another more quickly.
We connect in less time by decreasing the physical distance between us and our technology.
We connect with less clicks or gestures.
And yes sometimes that stream of consciousness means we trade breadth of connection about something trivial and seemingly painful to read
for accuracy and depth of critical information that is otherwise caged. Never the less, in both instances we are connecting more effectively. Believe me when we do end up truly “connecting” our thoughts it will be scarier and far noisier than today but innovators will be propelled to figure out how to appreciate and allow for that connection to build from – not work on tearing them down. And each passing generation will have a higher bandwidth they can handle than the last.
So. Maybe it’s not about whether the content is good or bad quality, heck maybe it’s not even about how much it gets shared –
maybe it’s always been purely about how many people are connected and how quickly they can achieve that connection.
Content and sharing are the two fundamental ways we are able to do it today – they are the means to the ends. They are our rocks, and knives, and arrows for lack of any other available means. But they themselves is not the goal. So, maybe good content could be defined as ANY-THING that connects ANY-ONE in less time or complexity then what is currently out there.
to TV still lacking the option to connect or comment
To the websites and blogs where interaction intertwined itself with the content being shared.
Once communication and distribution became instant we shifted our strategy to decrease the time-gap between exchanges by limiting the amount of content exchanged when conveying a thought in the first place.
Those thoughts, emotions and ideas were created and deployed more quickly and frequently with statuses, and 140 letter max tweets – a real stream of consciousness was born. And that consciousness was further fed with the ability to post even if you weren’t by a computer.
So who are we to judge even shorter content still?
The end goal is about getting a feeling, thought and/or emotion to whom ever you want or as many people as you want with the least amount of friction.
So why is Yo so surprising?
Less characters and a quick intuitive interface has created a quicker connection between people. In first principles we aren’t searching for depth in substance – we are searching for a mind meld.
With 2 clicks I can convey “yo I’m thinking of you”, or
YO “I’m in town” – if the message is received and the minds are linked then it is content and it is valuable and it is good.
Yes, there is beauty in the creation process and that shouldn’t be forgotten, but let’s also recognize that the PROCESS was originally created to convey the idea with the tools available at the time. Losing site of one is as destructive as the other. The art comes from the need and some of our needs are satisfied within the art.
Which could be why memes are so powerful. Quick, efficient, creatively assembled, instantly connecting complex an otherwise tough to describe moment of humor or feelings with others through a shared experience we can relate to.
We can have taken the concept of video and trimmed it to its essence in a 5 second clip.
if you are afraid to share because to many people will see it then
a product removes that barrier so your security can be guaranteed with ephemeral storage.
We want to be closer still and our tools are extensions of that. Now we are cutting out the middleman entirely (pun intended) and letting our body do the communicating for us – instantly.
It’s amazing – in the pursuit of closing the time-gap between us we’ve managed to jumped right over our stream of consciousness and found a way to release what our body is saying even before our consciousness realizes it; a whole new level of getting connected.
So I that I think our thought experiment has yielded a conclusion for the question on what is good content:
GOOD CONTENT IS: ANYTHING THAT CONNECTS ANYONE’S THOUGHTS EFFECTIVELY IN LESS TIME OR WITH LESS COMPLEXITY THATN IS CURRENTLY OUT THERE.
So if nothing else keep that in mind when you see the next best thing and wonder why.
Thank you for keeping an open mind.
We used the Google On Air tool (basically Google Hangouts but for public live streams that are also automatically uploaded to Youtube when the broadcast ends.) This is my 3rd attempt to use On Air in some live stream capacity and it finally worked well! The trick was setting up a second computer than from my own with more memory. Long story short, here is the presentation using that product:
On Air Event Page: https://plus.google.com/events/c1ginlf8oufe9pkl6mcq38tb1mc