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Dumb people: the new audience

When the reader change so much, how far should you go to adapt?

     
4:11 pm on Jul 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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This is related to writing content and SEO, it's seems the new challenge on writing for people (not algorithms) who are becoming increasingly dumb. Websites needed to adapt to new technologies so responsive (adaptive) websites were created for that exact reasons, captchas were created to filter bots, robots filing your forms or web-form-attacks, now it seems we need captchas for people, to filter the quality or specific characteristics of our audience.

- This is part I - describing how from creating content and I also moved to filtering visitors, making a bit difficult the experience of contacting me, making it difficult to make questions, making it difficult to engage. Sounds contradicting, it's not. This is more of an intro, given that many are already aware of this you can jump to the next post where the core of the topic is.


- - - - - - - - -


We might loose traffic, or we might be getting more traffic but the wrong one. It's no secret: people in general are becoming increasingly dumb.

The content some of my websites worked really well in general writing, from the general to the specifics, introducing people to a well defined concept. At times I wrote pieces going straight to the specifics, I experienced diff results for that, it worked, and I understand it was due to diff public and also diff situations. I was creating content adapted to a general public and also offering very specific articles in those websites.

At some point the rules changed, the traffic, the comments and questions for readers. I no longer had to work on good content (the kind you find on good books, sort of speaking) and noticed I had to put effort on a writing style that would be difficult to misinterpret things. Suddenly I wasn't writing content for reading only, I was creating content to avoid confusions. Confusions? I couldn't even understand why people were getting confused. Something as simple as a message to filter buyers on some website stating "please don't ask, we don't sell X services" didn't work, that's when I couldn't deny something else was going on. Suddenly I found myself trying to emulate the mind of someone who had poor reading skills.

After some experiments I decided to just ignore such changes, I refused to adapt the writing and style for dumb people. Did this affect my traffic? a bit. Did this affect my position on search engine results? yes. And I noticed competitors climbing positions but their content was pure garbage. I made some tests and shared some content with diff people, they were very attracted to the pictures yet many of them weren't reading the content, on the other hand my website had good pictures and good content, but the density was different. The general difference is competitors were posting articles based on the "10 best places to..." and that's all. I had a difficult moment, but despite the metrics (likes on the articles) they were not really buying anything.

Those websites did something different than what I was doing: I don't post the messages sent by readers, they do. The messages were kind of similar. Some article (of the competitor) could be talking about some concert on December, and this was posted on the title, intro and content, yet people were asking on the comments "what's the date? when?" if that's not being stupid, then I don't know what it is. So I refused to change my content to new writing styles, you can do that to increase your positions regardless of the algos on search engines making no sense, but you shouldn't sell to dumb people.

"You shouldn't sell to dumb people", wait, isn't all money... green?, yes and no. Creating content and sells for that kind of people means trouble. If they have a hard time buying hard disks when the sign says "hard disks US$1 each" and still ask for the price, imagine when one hard disk fails what kind of user experience and customer service they expect? it's like talking to monkeys. So in many areas this is not good business.

- End of part I -

You might agree or disagree, you might see it or not, perhaps you get the idea that I'm just expanding an essay, I'm not. Perhaps you are part of the problem and expect the best 10 tips for money making websites.
5:35 pm on July 13, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Talking about dumb. I'm currently involved-related on two pieces of work (around 450 pages each), but not content level, so I have very little power over such content. Both are educative pieces, one in Spanish, the other one in English, target: children around 5-7 and the other one a bit more, around 5 to 12 years old. It's about two diff educative books that should improve learning and reading (each). Both works cover:

- signs
- letters
- symbols
- theory of color
- writing style
- educative theories / educational psychology, etc.
- it quotes a lot of research from past experts in the field

And also covers a fictitious character for each piece (both pieces from diff authors), and both pieces will be produced and released for school use (and not just one school).

Would you like to know what aspect covers more pages, attention and effective production? the fictitious character. Way too much studies and effort dedicated to make it friendly, with a facial expression that looks friendly but with ambition, smart, with NEUTRAL colors regardless of the target, so many children can relate. A lot of attention put on the name, on it's origins, it's personality, on making it GENDER neutral, socially neutral, making it A WINNER because ALL CHILDREN ARE WINNERS. When you actually finish reading it doesn't sound as an educative piece per se, it looks like an official study focused on the character.

There is great effort shown on avoiding any exercises or homework that could mean at some level some competition, they want to avoid scores that would mean some student got some A and another student got some B or F. Nope, they are putting a lot of effort on making everything appear as if ALL CHILDREN ARE EQUAL WINNERS and avoid any sort of spirit of competition.

If you are a parent who reads, or if you are not a parent but you do read you might be familiar with the negative effects on making every child a winner. Not to mention the pieces are supposed to be teaching something other than gender neutralism and everyone-being-a-winner.

To me, there is a big link to intellect development there. Perhaps the not so smart ones aren't the children who are the target, or the "professionals" producing this pieces, but perhaps it's the people supporting the project with their money. I bet it's filled with good intentions.

I want to make very clear it's not a personal interpretation, the difference of efforts invested on the fictional characters are out of proportions considering the pieces promise to teach something else, a main topic, instead of the character.
7:06 am on July 14, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@explorador ... valid stuff ... but not quite the same thing as dumb people ... you are comment on dumb stuff. Something a bit different.
2:23 pm on July 14, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@explorador - that seems to be (another) typical sign of the times and the fact people are so cautious about having to be politically correct and doing everything from an approach of fear of someone being offending. It is something that has an extremely negative effect on so many things, stifling creativity and making people think twice about giving their opinions.
7:10 pm on July 14, 2019 (gmt 0)

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One has to remember that as more and more people come online (currently about half global population) reversion to mean results in an increased probablity of ignorance and incompetence, bigotry and corruption.
And that applies not only to visitors but to those providing content and doing business, regulating and pontificating.
There is always a shock shift from early adopters/pioneers to general population.

Know your market and segmentation, your audiences and congregations, and how best to meld the two with one's offerings to mutual advantage. It's all one big join clause: combine using common values :)
10:03 am on July 15, 2019 (gmt 0)

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A fascinating discussion that seems to be bouncing around in several different directions.

I have certainly had people phone me in order to ask me things that are on the same print or web page as the phone number. I made a point once of emphasising that prices had been unchanged for 2 years and had a flurry of calls asking for the up to date prices.
3:08 pm on July 15, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@explorador ... valid stuff ... but not quite the same thing as dumb people ... you are comment on dumb stuff. Something a bit different.

@Tangor: It's debatable. From the angle of educative psychology there are levels, and people must adapt, learn and overcome certain challenges. In terms of what's going on right now most are doing the opposite: they are working hard to adapt production (products, books, websites, content) to people who can't overcome the challenges. The level of quality is being reduced to reach more audience, even if that supposed market doesn't buy (doesn't qualify as a market).

To me, demographics are changing in terms of what's important. It used to be age, social status, income. Then it became more about lifestyle because income doesn't reflect spending habits (you know, poor people consume high end and high price products) this is described in marketing where people go up, not down, and if their income goes down they usually refuse to go down in expenses and lifestyle), and now it seems the old group of indicators such as education is changing, being the ability to read something more important than in past times.

I hang around (and been hanging around) in psychology forums for years and I notice a terrible trend, it's been evident since... in my opinion around 2005? and changed a bit recently: there are lots of people with mental issues, diagnosed, under meds, and having problems relating to others, to work, to society, to products, to news, to newspapers, to media. Despite their low IQ? it's not exactly an IQ thing but they just can't understand the context and message and go off topic, usually turning everything into "it hurts me". Anyway, despite this issue... now people are taking them seriously. A lot has to do with psychosis. Some people consider they shouldn't have rights (it's a long story because many of them want to get married despite not being able of keeping a job... OR a conversation) but it's alarming how many take them seriously, as to have people acting like activists.

There are different levels, granted. But things are working upside down. There are lots of instances where people producing content consider the audience normal, when they ignore all sorts of learning issues and mental health issues. Many times the same ignorance makes people think these issues have solutions. A lot of people who appear normal... are not normal. And now we can't say "normal" because it's not a good term. My point in the long story is a huge amount of people are even afraid to call others dumb when that's exactly the case, and we will go diff paths talking about many diff things as to avoid the reality that many people are actually dumb, pretty dumb.

Just keep in mind my main angle on the topic is not about dumb content, it's about people who can't understand rational, average, clear content.
3:20 pm on July 15, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Milchan, yes. And the political correctness (on an alternate situation) is making many content creators, news reporters and even filmmakers into apology-giving attitude, a "too pleasing production behavior".

@iamlost: common values, yes. Sometimes that's also difficult given the context.

@piatkow: I had some interesting experiences on customer support where people behave in irrational ways.

I have some interesting stories, at some place... customer support, the company sold this product with very low marginal profit, but earnings relied on volume of sales. It's a common situation, not a problem, many companies rely on this kind of business. In short, each client represents a small amount of earnings. Giving each client 1 hour of support (if that ever is the case) would mean a terrible waste of time. Doesn't take much to realize of such situation.

Yet... some customers couldn't speak (that's fine, there are support forums, Q&A's, email and live chat for support, right?. Well, suddenly there were laws giving people the right to be given attention and interaction on business using their preferred way. Hang on there..., I'm talking about people who used written media that an operator would read as "their voice". So instead of using email (like I do), or using chat (like I do) or interacting on a forum (exactly the same way I do) because I can read and write and they can also read and write... they would interact with some service and such operator would call you and READ their messages because they want to use this, as a replacement voice. The amount of time such calls consume meant a waste of time. The company couldn't reject such calls because it would offend their rights. That's pretty dumb, regardless of anyone taking offense by the comment.
3:32 pm on July 15, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Here is an interesting situation in terms of human interaction: I've been around several readings and forums for years, let's mention photography and also psychology forums, in some way those are the Webmaster World forums of another dimension: different topic. Photography forums to me, constantly crossed paths with creating websites and content, oh yes.

Psychology forums rarely crossed paths with creating websites and content, except for very specific cases of human interaction and how some people react to certain topics. But lately... since 2 years ago I just can't avoid the evidences of impact regarding the HUGE range of autism manifesting on people. Reading their stories, their challenges and many times pure waste of time failing to understand simple things, literal meanings causing disruption, offense. In the past specific forums described testimonials and people having issues telling their stories or how X company or service failed to serve them, I repeat: separate specific forums.

Teaching, discussion and learning forums were different. Well what doesn't seem the case anymore. Today it's easier to see people with issues having their degrees and working, but failing over and over, getting fired because they can't adapt, getting a new job and failing again. Now several forum branches talking about learning issues are written by the authors themselves having those issues, and the repetitive experiences of failed and terrible interaction where you say "what the hell is going on" are overwhelming.

In the past we could write "Cow for sale, produces good milk". Today it's about studying how that goes and the amount of people who don't understand what cow means, the people who suddenly get offended because someone uses a cow for exploitation, milk is not healthy, or yes it is, etc etc etc. It makes no sense. What I'm describing here might sound alien or difficult to believe, it doesn't matter, it's real. Yes I also had issues believing this. And believing the amount of people alike who are now managers. It's alarming.

Mental issues, mental challenges or not... there are limits to how we can discuss around someone who keeps asking how "much is the US$135 widget". To a lot of people it's the algos, adapting to the dark boxes algos, to other people it's about adapting to larger audience (even if this doesn't convert into business) and to me it's about drawing lines, limits and avoid wasting time to become more efficient.
3:46 pm on July 15, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hey forum... this is something I can't avoid posting. It's been posted on Youtube (not as a video but as comments) on dumb audiences. It doesn't seem like a problem for USA citizens as it's been mostly posted by people from other countries (or so it seems in certain contexts). I mean people stating this is a problem (I believe this is a problem), and I don't live in the US.

It's about personality (film) interviews. You can't compare past interviews to present ones. In the past people would get asked about their acting performance, preparation, challenges, special effects, how such roles impacted their lives, etc.

Today those interviews are becoming something else, the interviewer would bring along some mariachi sombrero, a maracas and will ask the star to try to sing the cucaracha. Others would bring a yoyo and challenge the world famous star to defeat them in their personal yoyo record. Others would push actors to recite something in foreign language that makes no sense.

And the signature: everything is laughter... laughter every 4 to 10 seconds. "So did you... ha ha ha ha, how did you? ha ha ha". Several late talking shows have been criticized for this because the hosts won't shut up and will laugh constantly as some late... night... shows almost compulsively laughing over and over, with acts featuring musicians playing their sons with toy-instruments or the so famous challenges as someone talking with helium voice challenging another actor to do the same.

This is the present generation, or so it seems. If that's not being a dumb audience, I don't now what it is.
8:06 pm on July 17, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Our editorial travel site has always targeted people who like to read, and that's worked for us (especially in a media environment where "short and shallow" seems to reign these days).

Quantcast shows that our demographics are far above the Web average for education and household income. That makes our audience more valuable to premium advertisers, IMO.
8:44 pm on July 17, 2019 (gmt 0)

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just to say that part of the dumb people of today, are the professionals of tomorrow :)

That makes our audience more valuable to premium advertisers, IMO.

Indeed, but I am sure that there are plenty of advertisers also targeting dumb people to sell them things they don't need :)
9:21 pm on July 17, 2019 (gmt 0)

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There has always been the commodity aka quantity market and the luxury aka quality market.
Note: there is a middle ground between the two but it is a tightrope difficult to navigate over time and the area most prone to false negatives and positives both in the SE world.

That divide has been seen over the past decade or so in the Android vs iOS users, Google vs Bing referrals, third party networks vs direct ad/af sales, etc.

Of course quantity has value just that it is less per, volume is all. The flip side being that quality typically has greater cost. The driving power of quantity is its low cost; anyone everyone can afford to play/buy. And, so long as the results deliver all is fine. However, there is a point, well above zero, where results no longer justify investment; this is especially true on the receiving aka publisher side but also, particularly when gamed as with the 2014 outing of the impressions racket, that advertisers decide the quantity is tainted.

There has always been a market for quality. The one good result of the quantity aka commodity race to the bottom is that it increases the value of quality in both absolute and relative terms. Unfortunately those who staked their business on the commodity market of Google traffic and Google revenue simply committed themselves to also being a commodity product; ultimately low value and interchangeable.
11:17 pm on July 17, 2019 (gmt 0)

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In the past we could write "Cow for sale, produces good milk". Today it's about studying how that goes and the amount of people who don't understand what cow means, the people who suddenly get offended because someone uses a cow for exploitation, milk is not healthy, or yes it is, etc etc etc. It makes no sense. What I'm describing here might sound alien or difficult to believe, it doesn't matter, it's real. Yes I also had issues believing this. And believing the amount of people alike who are now managers. It's alarming.


Im offended you used the word cow! The words cow and bull should not be used because gender is fluid. I support the right for bovines to identify as non binary and you should word your comments in such a way as to not offend me or my non binary bovine (NBBs) friends.

That comment is obviously in jest but so scarily close to our current societal reality right now.
2:02 am on July 18, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The real chuckles are the values of old:

"Suck it up, youngster, and grow up!" and "Get off your butt and do something about it!" and "There is no such thing as universal autism and victims... an 'almost made up' mental disability created primarily to keep over educated psychologists in work." (Okay, the last one is not so much old values, but a pretty fair extrapolation of those!

We have several generations of folk out there that have been fed some psycho-babble blarney about who they are. We, as webmasters, are reaping the "rewards" of that "cater to the victim and give them medication!" philosophy. And the increasing elevation of some political/cultural idiosyncrasies of group and victim tropes ... (NOTE: there is real mental illness and that should be addressed with all care and comfort as possible!, but what we see these days is nothing like that)

I deal with the business side of things (common sense). "These are our policies in writing, these are our terms, these are the offered products, these are the results/guarantees promised. Anything else outside of those contract terms is invalid. You are not required to play/pay if any of these terms are offensive. Nor am I required to accommodate any absurdities demanded."

You do all you can to cater to the customer, but you are not required to deal with stupid people. After all, a contract is "a meeting of the minds". If one side has no mind to speak up, you can't really make a contract with them. :)

</uglytruths>
8:03 pm on July 18, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Dimitri:
just to say that part of the dumb people of today, are the professionals of tomorrow :)

That's a terrible sad truth. I'm currently involved in some work along some university, I don't have many issues with the student produced material as I have with the directors-guidelines. It's not even about the teachers at the university, but the directors (the ones above the teachers) and yes: university.

They are teaching students you only need 5 people for a field study, sometimes 3. I have read field studies and work claiming all sorts of conclusions based on the group study, then when you get the specifics you learn... it's only 3 people, and their answers are terrible. I'm not talking about first year homework, but a graduation project that is put into production for a client, for real.

To make matters worse they use Facebook as the preferred platform for study because of the easy demographics. All attention is placed on LIKES, I'm not kidding. The key person in a particular area of the university is a woman preaching FB and she has NEVER EVER WORKED in the field, she graduated and became a teacher, then a director of the area. She is already famous because her projects fail, she claims background over her numbers in FB, but showcases and expositions have taken place with few people, even empty. It's until this 2019 that the team is talking about auditing her work because it's just numbers without results.

My involvement with the work has been purely on the copy writing and editing, and let me tell you: they can't read, they can't write and also build the most terrible conclusions (terrible logic, terrible understanding of the material). It's... a disgrace., unfortunately I don't work there, I do supervision for X (boring specifics).

The dumb audience is real. The dumb teachers are real. BTW, if things sound too extreme, I suggest some reading about the Elmo Generation and the Elmo issue. Sesame Street was an educational TV show helping to stimulate and educate children. It's reach was generational, and it also had impact on areas where people do not attend schools but have access to TV in some ways (also people who leave schools). Then Elmo appeared, it was dumb, constantly interrupting, a rare case of a non-productive child, the purpose was... random, and received lots of complains from educational points of view. The key here was disruption, noise, screaming, chaos. And it was a hit!, the problem is at some point people decided to sacrifice quality over quantity, the same thing happening to the music industry.

So, they started giving people what they want. Yes, we can perform different searches and find articles on Sesame Street characters suffering different disorders, but many had an educational purpose in the long run (their personality was something aside), Elmo had issues, and those issues were the main attractive of the character, what?

@Tangor, exactly what I think: people can think and do whatever they want, but webmasters and content creators should also have a stand, instead of trying to give their audiences everything they ask. A dumb audience is dumb, and a content creator trying to please a dumb audience (to me... ) is way dumber. I believe many content creators need to get back to their chair and reclaim their ownership over their websites. It's been happening on Adsense, people refusing to dance the G song, but I guess some prefer to keep useless numbers, people who are in fact the opposite of smart.
8:07 pm on July 18, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I'm bad at telling jokes, specially outside my native language but...

In the past an autism person and a millennial who can't read and have attention span issues walk into a bar. Both complain about the place, the music, the sounds, the light, the chairs and specially the lack of "menu", stating the signs on the walls and the bar are confusing and should be adapted in color and shape to every single generation, taste and emotional state. Long story short they end up regretting walking into the bar :)

Today: the seem to own the bar. I constantly see people talking about them as victims, people we should please and adapt to. Makes no sense to me. I respect them, but that doesn't mean adapting.
9:13 pm on July 18, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Way back when, before personal computers, word processors, and spell check, in final year high school English class the teacher asked us to pass our assignments around.

I just sat in shock when I got that of one of my best friends. My great grandmother who left school after grade three had better grammar and spelling.

He graduated high school, university, and became a pilot for a major airline, eventually retiring as their senior pilot.

It's always boggled my mind, the disconnects between intelligence, smarts, literacy, functional literacy et al.

And is part of why I designed my sites as I've mentioned and also why I've been especially keen on contextual delivery. However, some contexts are problematic especially given privacy concerns.

It's a matter of doing the best one can within various constraints.
9:45 pm on July 18, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I constantly see people talking about them as victims, people we should please and adapt to. Makes no sense to me. I respect them, but that doesn't mean adapting.


One line I like is "Just because you're offended, it doesn't mean you're right.'" - this is something so many people forget nowadays.
10:28 pm on July 18, 2019 (gmt 0)

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While I could engage in this thread for hours and umpteen hours at a time, I suspect we have moved beyond the original scope ... so I will bite my tongue and just lurk --- unless something really juicy comes along! :)
1:39 am on July 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Ah but tangor, 'tis thee that usually adds, if not the juice, the spice to the juice! :)

Tangor tree very pretty and the tangor flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor hybrid is just too juicy to eat
---apologies to both Will Hart and tangor
1:58 am on July 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Clever @iamlost, but I won't fall for your silly games! No, not I!
1:17 pm on July 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I see not only new audiences, but new challenges (back to the original topic) in the webmaster realm. I believe it's difficult to discuss the topics always from the same angles, people are not just numbers, content is not just about algorithms, specially when we see comments not just refusing but also unable to see the context or trends in behavior.

At some point we have to consider the psychology or the behavior, even if it doesn't sound as technical in terms of webmaster-work as we would like to. I posted on another thread (Adsense) a while ago that I stopped seeing the stats, Adsense performance, income, etc from the webmaster technical point, and I started seeing it from a psychological one. The panorama wasn't pretty and I was matching exactly what others were posting, it wasn't about earnings anymore, it was more a compulsive checking on earnings that didn't get better despite the serious attempts to fix it, we were guessing, random guesses at some G algo and random changes from G.

Audience: target. In many areas the target is studied in terms of qualities beyond "writing better content, or content that engages the audience". I must add I'm not complaining, but yes things don't look pretty. I was just specifically surprised on how today a lot of people can't read, and we find too many evidences of others evading that fact, and pushing towards adapting people who can't read. It's amazing

On another angle, I can say that people unable to read and search results can be mixed together in some situations, and in others it's not connected. We will find situations where people can't read, and they let us know, it's impossible to explain them simple situations on our content and on messages (after all if we put some effort, our content already has all the answers). But sometimes it's the algorithm, it behaves erratically, not as a normal person would, and so we get audience coming from what-the-algo-decided-to-interfere.

But sometimes the algo gives more power to people who can't read, people who are not our audience. Or people who are not a good audience. I don't know if I can be specific on this (regarding the TOS) but while some discussion can come from this comment, it's worth it, I don't know how many people know about this website. It's Digg (it's ok if mods remove it because it's too specific) I will add more information to make the post understandable even if the name is removed.


The example website/portal just as many others a discussion website, an article voting system and some sort of a social network. Their story is quite interesting, to me an study case. I was surprised o experience the redesign many years ago (me as a reader). To many people the site died, to me it gained a new life. They changed the whole thing (social) to a curated portal or interesting articles, they succeed and lots of traffic arrived to the site.

The portal became the source of interesting information, articles, science study, behavior, psychology, tech and entertainment (mainly all of those). I confess I used to read it every day, at least one visit in the morning and another one in the afternoon. I constantly bookmarked and saved content for later reading, it's amazing the amount of information I was reading during that time, daily (I kept track of it). Suddenly the site was a common mention among conversations because other people were reading it, including regional friends, we all found something interesting there.

After the redesign they had huge traffic, and lots of people were sending content for consideration. They will review your content suggestions along with what they find on their usual exploration and set dates for publication, they also found an additional business model selling stuff.

That's were the background ends and the relation with this topic begins. They measure the impact of publications, the numbers, the traffic, and they changed things around. Suddenly the website-portal became "what the user wants" and so it got filled with memes, video challenges and very very low level content. But it was still huge! it's the algo giving people what they want. Did it work? yes! lots of traffic, but you can't compare traffic watching a vine or short video of a meme to an article, they fell into the 8 second attention span of I-can't-read of my head would explode. I mention this as an example of what happens when people are just given what they want in terms of numbers, when the quality of the target is already questionable.

I don't think content creators should follow that.
2:38 pm on July 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I guess in the simplest form the internet is just reflecting society. In the past the internet was used mostly by a certain sector of people that included techies, academics, various professionals and probably overall a more educated user base. As it got easier to access in every way - availability, price,usability etc - pretty much all sectors of society joined and started to use it so the overall intelligence level dropped also.

So naturally the fight for attention focuses on the largest demographics and those are the 'everyman' who don't want to read detailed, well research reports, articles and opinions. They want gossip, shock bait, low attention span snippets that don't require much thought or mental processing.
If we take a look at the traditional newspaper media for a comparison. If we look at the circulation numbers for the main newspapers in the UK the top one is The Sun, followed by The Daily Mail and The Mirror before we get to The Times. The Sun and the Daily Mail each both sell around 3 times the amount The Times does , with the Mirror being about 20% more than the The Times. Using quick 'back of a napkin' maths to compare circulation numbers of the tabloid papers versus the broadsheet papers the difference is huge with the broadsheets accounting for about 500.000 daily sales whilst the tabloids have well over 4,000,000 daily sales per day.
So if we assume that overall (and yes of course this isnt entirely the case but broadly speaking I believe it is) the readership of the tabloids are on the less educated side and the broadsheets on the more educated we could suggest this could a reflection on the education levels of the society as a whole (this is very crude I know but I suspect an in depth investigation would fall along similar lines).
So of course when the majority of society start using the internet the type of content that is in most demand then becomes the "tabloid level" type content - so I would venture to conclude not that people are becoming dumber (although it might be the case for other reasons) but that the internet simply became accessible to everyone and, both before and now, most people want their content 'dumbed down' and therefore the market/internet reacts.
6:45 pm on July 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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... people in general are becoming increasingly dumb


My 2 cents:

I don't know that people are becoming increasingly dumb .. I've long held that people, by and large, are extremely intelligent. People are about as smart as they are hungry ... There's "food" content and then there's "junk food" content.

The advancement of mobile goes hand in hand with "junk food" content -- Disposable, fast, and extremely light on the nutritional (intellectual) value.
Plastic fork or metal fork? Therein lies the difference between mobile and not. Do you sit down and eat your dinner, or do you prefer to drive down the road eating out of a paper bag?
Are you writing your sites for mobile? Mobile is limited by it's very nature. Content is light, and simple -- Meant for short reads and fast conclusions. People on mobile rarely ever, or even at all, settle in for the good go of reads any deeper that just a few snippets here and there. Mobile people usually won't ever take the time to follow up on what might have peaked their curiosity -- It doesn't make any difference how synced mobile people are, because what they see on their phones usually only go as far as the bookmark on their PC.

No ... People aren't really any dumber than their phones make them out to be. "Smart Phone" is an oxymoron on so many levels, because though the phone may compute at a faster rate, it's a sure bet that it's meant for people to compute at what might appear to be a slower rate.

Consumption of content on a phone is usually only about a quarter of the consumption experienced on a laptop/PC.

Most can't afford a PC so they'll settle for their phone thinking that it's the same thing, when it's actually not. Those that do know the difference will make the conscious effort to consume from the PC because there's so much more there to be had. People who feel rushed often times make the poorest decisions ... The phone is designed, by it's very nature, to make people feel rushed - Great for advertisers, not great for the creators of content.

More and more these days I'm seeing content creators trying to meet the needs of mobile consumption -- Goes great on the phone, but misses the mark by wide margins on the PC (no pun intended)

We don't call phones PC's and we don't call PC's phones and it's for good reason -- Treating the two as one in the same is pure insanity.
7:18 pm on July 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Mcneely

Thanks for that. Makes a lot of sense.

My 2 cents is that if you write just/mainly for the phone, it's good for the phone user, but doesn't offer much incentive to fire up the PC for a deeper look.

If you write just/mainly for the PC, you might well lose the reader using a phone and looking for a simple answer.

The trick may be to write for both in the same article/info-piece etc.

But how?

Maybe, start with a very basic answer, move on to progressively greater detail as the article goes on. (that has to be someone else's idea, I'm not that bright,, but I like it).
9:44 pm on July 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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... If you write just/mainly for the PC, you might well lose the reader using a phone and looking for a simple answer.


You put the ball back into the readers court -- You write responsive and call it a day.
I used to write 2 sites - The smart version, and the dumbed down version -- Total rubbish if you ask me --

You're always going to have users that wont have the time of day when it comes to obtaining solid well thought out information. These would be those who prefer those sites with 3 big buttons, a larger picture, and a 2 line sentence that says absolutely nothing.

We often times have the tendency to view the world according to our own interpretation of it, so if a content creator generally views the public as being dumb, then that's how that particular content creator is going to write. If a content creator generally views the public as being fairly intelligent, then that's how that particular content creator is going to write.

One of the first things they tried to teach me in college was that "looks are 90% of the sale" -- Never mind whether or not it works, just as long as it looks good -- Phone are much the same as this -- I've got a rather loud and obnoxious radio in my car, so that means it must be going faster right? Or another example -- This PC has got a "huge" HD, 500GB, and we're going to ask $999.99 for it because the HD is so huge ... Never mind that the processor only goes 0.99GHz, because this thing is the Bees Knees when it comes to storage. It's a pretty slick unit that can hold all of your rubbish.

Why would we ever endeavour to write for something that can never work as advertised?

At the end of the day, people are going to write for whatever or whoever they presume to be their target audience. No need to worry about the *phone target if you write responsive. Sure, on the phone they may and often times do see less, because that's how phones are. If you write responsive, then at least they'll have the option of scrolling a bit further in order to get the goods.
I'm reminded somewhat of all of the "above the fold" stuff we used to discuss. The only thing I changed on my responsive builds was to put the side bar on the right instead of the left, so that phone users wouldn't have to looks at all of the ads or menus before getting to the actual content

The basic answer for me is to write how I've always written. Try to stay mindful of the seriousness of the content and don't deviate away from tried and true practices. Write responsive so that you'll view well on any device and let the chips fall where they may.

If I ever thought for one minute that there was a certain advantage to writing exclusively for mobile (or so-called dumb people), I would go back back to the .mobi sub-domain and write entirely separate, complete with rules written into my .htaccess steering each and every phone user to their particular designated area of the domain (like Facebook does). But that's just me, as I'm pretty sure that there may be those of us who think differently about it all.

My stats indicate a 50/50 split between mobile and desktop, and my basic ROI hasn't changed much at all over the past 5 years.
I've yet to see any serious science outside of the mains, like Google for instance, that unequivocally states that phones are the next best only option for internet content.
9:47 pm on July 20, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I have to agree on past discussions taking place via PM, and disagree with an increasing number of posts. Sometimes affirmations are as valid as the arguments people post, really not sustained at all.

The problem doesn't affect websites only, it also affects forums, where you can see a large number of members being absent or not finding any interesting stuff to expand, discuss or elaborate. There is a difference between meaningful discussions and quality content VS educating people. Educating takes a lot of resources, proving someone something they can't see takes too much time and resources, so as usual once bad readers enter the arena, it's often difficult to change the panorama, same as when wrong arguments receive too much support on forums. What causes is usually people finding boring to engage, and leave.

Forum members leave, content creators also find better things to do. I insist: read a bit more on educational psychology and trends. We have increasingly more certifications but less people actually able to do work. It's here if people want to see it, other than that while everyone has a right for opinions, it's often discouraging taking time to write and find some high quality denial. At the end of the day as said, people will find better things to do.
3:14 pm on July 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Im actually now thinking that it is more about people having "dumbed down attention" than actually being dumber. Which when they try to interact with sites it has the effect of making them seem dumb (asking questions already clearly answered on page etc) but really it is just lack of focus, rather than lack of intelligence.
6:18 pm on July 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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... asking questions already clearly answered on page etc


Classic bot behaviour --

I'm not saying that there aren't real people that are actually this dumb, because there are - All I'm saying is that 90% of this happening with us is due to response bots not really being fully prepared to interact in a meaningful way in a world full of real humans.
5:43 pm on July 23, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I'm reminded of a question from an 11th grade student this year.... "how does the water not fall off the planet from the south pole?".

This next generation of graduates is not nearly as well prepared for life as the one from 20 years ago.

Seems to be intentional too, write accordingly or you'll confuse them and AI will see that.
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