Signal/Noise

I’m trying to separate the signal from the noise.

Once upon a time, information was scarce, like music. You had to hunt for it, no one was pointing a fire hose at your face, which is what logging on to the Internet is like. It’s a tsunami of information. Time is limited. Where do you place your attention?

According to Eric Schmidt of Google, today we generate more data in a single day than the entire world created prior to 2003.

Whew!

“Noise” means…useless information.

“Signal” means…truth.

I got that from this month’s story on Nate Silver in “Fast Company”:

MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE 2013
1. NATE SILVER
PRINCIPAL, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT; AUTHOR

Interestingly, I can’t recommend the article. The facts are there, but the narrative is less than incredible.

And I only have time for incredible.

And so do you.

I’m catching up on my reading, I’ve got a stack of magazines as high as Mini-Me. And what stuns me is not only the repetition of information, but the amount of useless information.

The PR flacks believe if they just blast the story, somehow it will take.

And the magazines too often are just filling space. Like “Fast Company” pushing the “100 Most Creative People In Business.” And “New York” telling us what to do this summer.

Huh?

I don’t know who these “Fast Company” people are, the squibs give me almost no information, and there’s so much data in the “New York” issue that it makes me question its veracity. Kind of like how they give you twenty five must-dos every issue. Huh? I’ve only got time for two or three, maybe only one! Give me twenty and I ignore them all!

That’s the problem we’re confronting. Not only is everybody trying to push a square peg into a round hole, the hole is the size of a needle’s eye, it just won’t fit. But that doesn’t stop the purveyors. Every day I get tons of e-mail imploring me to listen to the productions of people I’ve never heard of. If I checked out all their music, I’d be unable to do anything else. It’s all just…noise.

I’m not saying it’s not good.

Wait a second, I am. Well, a bunch of it is good, but as stated above, I only have time for great, INCREDIBLE!

We need Ray Davies to write a song about it.

But with no traction in the offing, he’s put down his pen.

Then we have idiots like John Fogerty re-recording his hits with a bunch of today’s names. Huh? That was the nineties paradigm. When information was still scarce. I’ll listen to the original, but I rarely have time for that. You want me to listen to imitation remakes? Come on, tell me the time the latter-day duet was better than the original…it’s never happened in my book.

So we’ve got sellers and consumers.

And the consumers are inundated with noise. To the point where they ignore almost everything that’s incoming, they only pay attention to their trusted filters, who most often are human beings, friends.

You  can’t trust Pandora… If you think the service is about anything but money, you haven’t followed the travails of Tim Westergren. Oh, he TALKS about music, but he’s being pressured by Wall Street to provide better returns. It’s all a ruse. Like his recommendations.

And then there’s the “Huffington Post.” Where the links are intriguing but the stories don’t exist. As they say in today’s parlance, it’s all link-bait, I’ve stopped clicking, entirely, yet old media keeps trumpeting the genius of Arianna… Huh?

As for record reviews… If you trust what’s in “Rolling Stone,” you’re a better person than me. Hell, all over the web are tons of short reviews. At most I’m interested in the average, like Rotten Tomatoes for movies. Give me the general feel, is it necessary to pay attention?

This is a big problem.

Because there’s just not enough time for all the new productions. In the seventies, you could see every movie. Today, most indie movies go unreleased, there’s nowhere for them to play.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have to read stories about them.

But then you check out the result and…

It’s kind of like the James Salter hype, perpetuated by “The New Yorker”… Interesting backstory, but now that the book has come out, everyone agrees it doesn’t deserve the push…

And then everything’s forgotten.

Today’s story is yesterday’s news. Literally. Movies play for a weekend. Records enter the chart at number one and then fall precipitously. Meanwhile, the chart isn’t reflective of what’s really going on anyway.

But mostly this is a personal story. I don’t know whether to try and keep up or cry UNCLE! To burn the midnight oil or check out and just live my life.

I’m trying to whittle down. I’ve stopped reading those stories that talk about what MIGHT happen unless I’m truly interested in the subject. I’ll wait until the Supreme Court decides, I can miss the pre-analysis.

And then there’s e-mail.

I’m gonna tell you a dirty little secret. The longer you write, the less I read. Truly, unless your e-mail is fascinating, and this does happen occasionally, if you’re writing multiple paragraphs I skim…because I’ve got no time.

No one has any time.

Who’s watching 24 hour cable news? Unless there’s a crisis, it’s like watching paint dry. Oh, check the ratings, they’re horrific.

Same with late night television… For all the ink spilled about Fallon succeeding Leno, the ratings for all these shows go down down down. Why? Because instead of being subjected to these promotional circle jerks, people are watching dramas on their DVRs, or Netflix. Given choice, they don’t want what they got before. Kind of like the network news… I’m gonna tune in for appointment TV presented by a slimmed-down team that’s taking its cues from “The New York Times,” the only newspaper with enough reporters on the beat?

As for “The New York Times”… So much of what’s in there is placed by the aforementioned PR people. You read the hype, then it’s gone. Kind of like Steve Martin’s album with Edie Brickell. That story was EVERYWHERE! But I’ve never ever had a single person tell me they listened to the record. To quote the Eagles, it’s already gone.

And if you made it this far, I’m impressed. I’m doing my best, but it stuns me you’re reading at all, that you’re giving me your time.

But then there are the people who e-mail me and tell me I’m doing it wrong, to STFU. And maybe I am, but then why are you still reading?

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