When Depth Equals Distraction

Doug Belshaw’s newsletter, “Thought Shrapnel”, is always a happy read,  but this week it was fatter and happier than usual. What does that mean?  More dopamine, I suppose, inspired by the distraction factor of all the goodies Doug packs into his newsletter.

I also produce a newsletter. It takes about 30 minutes a day to make it.  I don’t put it in the same league as Belshaw’s. I have 28 subscribers and Doug has 1524.  I enjoy writing and publishing mine. I usually have 4-8 links. “Thought Shrapnel” had 35.

That is just too rich. It’s so rich it might be noise.  It has made me wonder,  “If I am going to produce a curated digital space like a newsletter, then I am obligated to narrowcast a coherent signal.”  In other words, as my son says when playing video games on line, “Less yackin’, more hackin'” Less is more.

Here is a complete archive of Belshaw’s newsletter links from above using Webrecorder.io, a tool for creating high-fidelity recordings of the web. Just below is one of the pages from that webrecording.

The Webrecording is over 100 MB. Belshaw’s newsletter is only 3.5 MB. Is one of these better than another for generating a useful broadcast. Is every call for attention just over the line at this point? I suppose what this means is that I am going to try including signficantly fewer items in my newsletter just to see how it ‘feels’ to me and my few, but fine audience members.

5 Replies to “When Depth Equals Distraction”

  1. Thanks! I guess the signal/noise ratio depends on how many links are going *in* as well as those that make it to the final cut. In my case, that’s about a 10:1 ratio.

    Also, I don’t expect people to read everything I put in my newsletter – just the things that take their fancy. It’s less a fixed menu, and more a smörgåsbord…

    1. It is interesting that we often have both overt and hidden expectations about how we hope our writing will be used. Too true that our creations are like wild creatures loosed upon the world. They will go where they will and do what they will and be used as is.

  2. Terry. You and I have talked about this in the past. I too, put many links in my stories, and point to a web library with more than 2000 links. I only send my newsletter once a month, and encourage people to use it as a study guide. My tracking shows only about 300-400 people open it each month. I’m not sure how many use it the way I recommend. I had someone post a comment on Facebook a while back with a TLDR message. This means “To long. Didn’t read”. I messaged back, “complex problems are not solved with 140 character sound bytes”.

    While I think that’s true, I also recognize the lack of time that people have to dig through this stuff. There’s no way I’d dig through the links on Doug Belshaw’s newsletter, or many others, like I often do your articles, unless they also were focusing on the same issues I was focusing on.

    This is a huge challenge with few solutions in site.

    The one solution I point to is to “stretch” learning about complex problems and solutions over a lifetime, starting when kids are coming through elementary school.

    A web library focused on climate issues could have a person as a regular visitor from the time he/she was 10 to the time they are 100.

    That’s possible with the internet.

  3. Terry and Doug
    Speaking a reader of both of your newsletters, I have to admit: I almost never follow the links. I am more interested in your curation notes. You should play a trick and use fake links (rick roll us) and see who complains. I am not saying your newsletters aren’t of value — they are — but the value is more in the human component – you — than the associative linking component. At least, for me, that’s true. If not, I would unsubscribe.

  4. I read blogs by Keven and Terry regularly, and often follow the links to other sites they point to. I find the additional material valuable. So a blanket rule of not opening any links is not for me. However, as I said above, too many links, that’s overwhelming. Like Kevin said, that does not prevent me from reading at the top level and building a relationship with the writer.

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