Monday, June 05, 2006

Signal to Noise ratio

This post is a rant. It is about the noise I have to sift through online to find something I want -- or give up trying.

I was recently trying to find out more about distributed ruby. I have a book -- Dave Thomas' pragmatic programmers -- so I started there. This book, to begin with, runs out of its use in a very short period of time. Half of this book is a reference to the language where the description for methods is a one line sentence that repeats the method name in an English sentence with five more words around it. I remember writing comments like this in code, thinking the function name is self-explanatory. Heck, I wasn't writing a book. But Dave Thomas was. Anyway, it isn't a rant about this book.

So I searched online. Naturally, I went to Google. My search for distributed ruby showed plenty of results. But the promise turned to anguish as I found that most of these results were identical pieces of text on different websites. And guess what, all of these were identical to the text for distributed ruby in Dave Thomas' book. What a stupid, inbred world. Evolution stopped somewhere, I felt. But this is not a rant about these posts.

If you search for something online, again at Google for most part, you will be told that Google found 10s and 10s and 10s (ad infinitum) results from many million times more of the number of pages online. Wow. Images and articles about Googles' server farms and file systems and armies of Phds and some people like me working away (or not) in Google immediately come to mind. But I seem to be digressing again. What I realize, looking at my results, very often these days, is that most of the results are blog posts or articles or rants (like this) that talk _about_ the stuff you are looking for, but themselves aren't the stuff you are looking for. It is even worse than that. Most of these articles -- and you only find this after you've read them -- don't really add anything to the ocean of knowledge. I don't mean it in a way that the ocean is too big and therefore their contribution too small -- no, most of these blogs are too happy to either just repeat what's out there, or make derive inane epiphanies -- their actual contribution to the world is not just insignificant, it is none. And yes, not to forget, they also give you a bunch of ads from Google (ahem, ignore the stuff on top of this page, please).

I think the reason people write blogs is to massage their inflated egos. I can't sidestep this accusation either -- I think this reason contributes to the existence of my blog. Not all blogs, I agree, but most exist for satisfying their authors' desire for attention. The reason I feel this way is that in most blogs, it is not the content that assumes importance but the author. It is always about the author. It is rarely about the content. There are a few blogs I follow for content, but even most of these haven't really evolved much since they first started. Most of the blogs I follow are of people I follow, and beause there are common interests, they often give me leads to things interesting to me. But I find that most blogs, in the guise of enlightening the world with their wisdom, are just an outlet for people craving for attention.

The result is that many blogs/people write about the same stuff. How many people have to write about their experiences with coding a new Ruby on Rails application that I _want_ to read? Aren't there enough blogs with similar content to yours that you can just do your stuff and not have to write about it? Sure you have views about how Google manages its storage, but you don't know anything about it, really, and unless you are going to add something that google hasn't already shared, or that others haven't already inferred, why do you have to write about it?

I think one of the reasons this problem exists is Google. They have this huge machinery where they can slurp any new content and make it accesible through this one search box. And this machinery is hungry for new content all the time. I recently watched this movie called The Corporation. It talks about companies and large corporations that take decisions for their own profitability and revenue, and in their wake leave behind problems that others have to deal with (envionmental issues being the most prominent ones). I think Google is doing something similar to the web. Because they have a solution for handling large volumes of content, and they have a candy call AdSense for people ready to write content, everyone is ready to contribute to the problem by providing more content. Behold the world of inane junk that surrounds us on the web.

Of course, Google is not evil. Their motto says so. They are anti-Microsoft. And Microsoft is evil. Heck, Microsoft charges people! What a supid, hundred-year-old idea that is. Who ever thought of paying for anything? Amazon ships stuff to you for free. Hey, they even give you discounts and don't charge sales tax. Google pays you money for writing junk and having a bunch of ads on your site -- or better still, they'll pay even if you don't write anything but just have ads on your site! And yes, the prices of adwords are increasing. More people want to advertise on your site. More money for you. It's a beautiful world. And an ugly web.

Enough ranting. I should really be spending this time working on what I am doing. But then writing this softens my craving for attention. And before I leave, here's a thought from the lovely, lovely movie Usual Suspects: "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

P.S. I recently stopped giving forwarding links to Amazon for movies, and instead have them point to Netflix. I had an Amazon associate account, but I don't have a Netflix account (because it was a pain to set up, not because I don't like money, which I do). One reason is that a friend asked me to do that because it makes it simpler for him to act upon things I write. It made sense to me. Why would someone buy something because I liked it? But, if acting upon my writing was free for you -- like adding the movie in your Netflix queue is -- then you might. Or at least you are more likely to do that than buy it from Amazon. Hence the move.

No comments: