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January 28, 2010

Filed under: tech»spam


Yesterday I did something that I arguably should have done a long time ago: I redirected pretty much every tech blog in existence to localhost on my work laptop, effectively blocking them completely. Previously, I'd done something similar using the BlockSite plugin for Firefox, but it'd been too tempting to route around it in Chrome or IE. Not good enough: I needed them gone completely. Nuke their domains from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

I took this step in part because I agree with Anil Dash: I want to believe that I'm better than a consumer for a constant drumbeat of materialism. It's ironic that the digital computer--an infinitely-adaptable, do-anything Turing machine--has spawned an entire subculture primarily concerned with packaging those machines into an infinite array of disposable, plastic packages. Maybe I can't always resist buying more crap, but that doesn't mean I should spend my waking hours planning the next splurge.

It's also in no small measure because tech bloggers are, generally, incredibly silly people. (I know: "this food is terrible. And such small portions!" But stick with me.) I've complained here for a long time about the low quality of games journalism. As I started reading more gadget news sites a couple of years ago, gradually it dawned on me that the lack of good material in that one area was just symptomatic of a sector-wide lack of perspective. The whole thing's rotten: the completely interchangeable writers that substitute "snark" for "opinion," the rumormongering, the wafer-thin technical expertise leading to "analysis" that isn't, the constant churn through the hype machine. For me, the result is a kind of low-grade irritation, and I hear that happy people live longer.

My worst nightmare, actually, is that one day mainstream journalism--in its increasingly desparate grope for cash and readers--will model itself on Gizmodo: high turnover of largely forgettable, badly-written posts cadged from press release wire services. I like to call that the "no self-respect or job security" future, personally.

(Which reminds me--Dear mainstream journalism: we need to talk. I know it's hard, enduring this rough patch of reasonable profit margins, compared to the ridiculously exorbitant profits you enjoyed back in Ye Olde 1990s. But whenever some new tech gizmo comes out, every two-bit visionary and "innovation editor" on earth shrieks to the high heavens, insisting that this time Product X will "save the industry" from extinction at the hands of the blogging hordes. It's funny: I could have sworn we already had a way of digitally distributing news to readers on a wide range of technological platforms, including video and interactive graphics and audio clips of elected officials sniping at each other, but I can't seem to find it now. Maybe it's buried under all these browser windows that I've got lying around, left over from Twitbooking and Facetorrenting and all that other stuff the kids are into these days.)

But the sad truth of it is that the tech news deluge works. It's strangely addicting, this gossipy flood of trivia. Indeed, that's the psychological quirk that powers the entire Gawker network--pump out as much content as possible, crank up the volume, and people will find it oddly compelling. I do, at least, to the point where I wasn't very good at stepping away from it. But when I reflected on what I was actually getting out pounding the refresh button, I felt a bit like a rat at the opium feeder bar--mangy, irritable, and poorly-nourished. Prone to metaphor abuse, too, apparently.

So I'm cutting myself off. And with the time I'll gain, I hope to pick up a new hobby, or rekindle an old one. Maybe I'll finally code that pocket synthesizer I've always wanted, or get back into the online bass scene. Maybe I'll finally get past the first chapter of the book I keep starting. Or even get some actual work done! These are strange new times indeed.

Future - Present - Past