Ming the Mechanic:
Reverse Importance

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Reverse Importance2006-10-20 23:16
picture by Flemming Funch

It used to be that to attract attention to a message you'd make it bigger, more colorful, more important-sounding. "Danger, don't touch the electrical wires!"

But advertising started to mess that up. Gradually, the most attention-grabbing, big, colorful, attractive messages are simply the ones that want to sell you something, but that aren't important at all.

Then there was spam. When I get a message that says "Important, Urgent" in the subject line, and its priority is set to high, and it has an attachment, I can pretty much just click the spam button right away. The messages that most try to grab my attention are most likely the ones that I'd least want to see.

But it is horrible for good communication. We get used to specifically ignoring the loudest messages. We sort of reverse our instinctive filters. We no longer see the banner ads on web pages, particularly because they're big and colorful, centrally placed, and moving.

What if somebody actually has something to say? How should they get my attention?

Now, recently, I seem to get a lot of junk messages to my ICQ instant messenger account. Some of it spam, but most of it from people who find me listed. I can't seem to find out how to turn that off. Most of them will try something like "hi" or "hello". Which used to mean "hi" or "hello", i.e. a friendly way of starting a conversation. But I don't want a conversation with some teenager in China who wants to practice speaking English. So, I click the block button right away and close the window. That's what it has come to. Somebody says "hello" and I press the button for the hidden trap door right away, without even checking who it is.

If it is somebody I actually know, I don't click 'block', but if they start off with "hi, how are you?", I probably won't answer. Maybe not polite, but I have little interest in starting up a string of small talk messages, to find out if there possibly might be something you want to say. I'm busy.

I suppose, if you actually have something to say to me, don't say "hi". Don't send me an urgent message. Don't make it high priority. Don't print it on a colorful billboard. I don't know what I should advice you to do, then, other than say what you actually have to say in the first five words. Or I'll already have forgotten about you.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy hearing from my friends, and I enjoy new friends. You don't have to have anything fantastic to say. But please say it, and without adding to the noise.

Are we maybe evolving into being able to recognize meaning more quickly, and quickly filtering out stuff that doesn't have meaning? Without being misled by loudness, colorfulness, apparent friendlyness, or stated importance. That could eventually be a good thing, even though it is annoying.

Notice the opposite phenomenon too. The stuff that actually is important to you is often hidden away. Legalese, for example. You start using some new piece of software and it has a long agreement you supposedly agree to when you start using it. Which deliberately has been written to make you not read it, and if you do, to make you not understand what you agree to, while still make it possible to later claim that you did agree to it.

American TV ads illustrate it perfectly well. The ad spends 28 seconds setting a mood, presenting you with a vision in color and sound and compelling speech, engaging your emotions and your imagination. And in the last 2 seconds they rattle off the things you really need to know at 10 times the speed. "Causes irreversible liver damage in test animals. Illegal where prohibited. Not suitable for people under 18, over 60, if who're pregnant, if who have allergies. Made of formaldehyde, refined sugar, enriched uranium, genetically modified lifeforms with unknown properties, by slave workers in a third world nation."

So, now, if we actually got really good at ignoring the loud distractions, and noticing what really is being said, and maybe what isn't being said, that wouldn't be too bad. But it ain't easy. A great deal of our input isn't communication, but pretends to be, and isn't information, but pretends to be. It needs to be descrambled and decoded and color-adjusted, to find the signal, to find out what really is going on, so I can decide what actually is important to me, and what I should or shouldn't do about it. Which most likely isn't at all what I'm being told most clearly. The loud clear stuff is the noise. The scrambled small print and almost invisible cues is the message.

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21 Oct 2006 @ 01:00 by swanny : Media Modeling
Yea I noticed something happening in people trying to be like the only
model they know or assume is legitimate. When everyone starts by trying
to be like the media you wonder okay are we communicating, dictating,
or what and all somewhat "remotely". There must be a better model and better
too then the reverse "lawyers fine print" model. Somewhere in the middle.
Mark Twain was good although somewhat sarcastic and carlos castenada and
there was another one in the states hmmmmm before my time but he was quite popular because he was rather down home. sorry can't remember. Anyway Will Rogers? ???
communicate what? I here what you're saying, it gets a little confusing.
I generatly thus look for "resonance" and intent and gizt. Groking.
Funny I find "images" and poetry more communicative these days.  

22 Oct 2006 @ 01:38 by bushman : Hmm
Now thats serious spam. Ming, just put icq on invisable mode, and then make yourself visable to everyone on your contact list. If your going to add someone to your contact list, you allready must know who it is and then just make yourself visable to them, that way youll get less spams, and you would know that it isnt someone out of the blue trying to get on your list, You can hit the info button also and if the info isnt there its a spamer.  

22 Oct 2006 @ 11:51 by ming : ICQ
Hm, I must look at bit more closely in ICQ itself. Normally I use a combined IM client that gives me ICQ, AIM, Yahoo and MSN at the same time. And the settings on the ICQ website didn't seem to give me any way of being invisible.

I get around 20 a day right now, of people say "Hi" or something like that, which is rather annoying.  

26 Oct 2006 @ 14:59 by rayon : Only 20?
Like the bit about decoding of every message, could almost be a classic statement,; very funny article and true to life. The first five words rule works in other disciplines, but nine or thirteen words are OK too. But these days who knows who is matching and despatching and are they parasital, attaching themselves to other vehicles of destination. Maybe it is just a ruse to get everyone to log onto the internet regularly, and "think web"; then yet others say, them that do this are financial geniuses earning heaps. Luckily its not life or death yet, but a pesky animal not going away. Thank you for permission to drop the H bit - my final decoding of your message!  

31 Oct 2006 @ 21:07 by Petrus @ : Reverse importance
This reminds me of how I wrote to you a while back in response to you saying you wanted a particular kind of email program, and on reflection I have no idea why I did that...I think it was because initially I thought I might have been able to program such a thing, but then on talking to you more about it, I realised, "Oh no. Crap. I really don't know enough to do this at all, and now I've just wasted his time! I'm going to crawl back under my rock now." ;-)

I've noticed that the way I get around that is by not offering to do something for people now before I've actually done it. If someone asks for something, and I've *already* created something (by some off chance) which I think might be similar to what they want, then I'll mention it...but if I don't offer to do things ahead of time, it means I don't end up discovering that I'm not actually capable of doing what I offered to.

I realise that this probably makes me sound as though I'm an extremely dishonest person, or was...I think the reality is that in wanting to help people, I used to have an unrealistic idea of my abilities; whereas now I try to more objective assess whether or not I'm actually going to be capable of doing something.  

2 Nov 2006 @ 17:51 by ming : Doing
Well, I have a little bit the same problem. I can easily imagine a lot of things, and have a bit of a tendency to suggest I'll do it. Particularly when it comes to computer programming. Anything can be done, of course. Doesn't always mean I have the time to do it. So, I'm trying to hold myself back a bit before I generously offer to do something, which often turns out to take way longer than I imagined.

Doesn't mean it can't be very useful to throw some ideas around, and explore what one might do. That's how good projects tend to start. One just has to include a consideration of available resources, like time, and whether it really is worth doing, everything taken into consideration, before one actually commits to doing it.  

Other stories in
2012-01-24 00:50: Intellectual Property
2011-11-03 16:51: Seeing the world through the Internet
2009-06-11 18:53: Blogging/Microblogging and work
2008-02-23 17:19: Web 1, 2, 3 and 4
2008-02-22 11:07: Illusion
2008-01-09 22:45: A Communication Model
2007-12-02 20:41: Give One Get One
2007-10-25 21:47: Static or dynamic web metaphors
2007-09-18 22:54: Rethinking blogs
2007-07-04 23:59: Scrutiny of Information

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