Utility Vs Vanity; Can we create better information flows

This is something that impacts people the most in the online world and what people think least about and as we come to become more and more immersed online, it matters a lot. We follow people and we consume content and what do we differentiate them, well if you are someone who truly thinks in vanity you think in views, likes, quotes tweets, a gamified version of stuff that hits you the most. There is nothing wrong with these platforms that are making a hell lot of money and forcing creators to create a certain type of content but you as an individual are losing on time the most precious resource that you have.

People think that a Youtuber who has 10 million followers will be far richer than someone who has just 100k followers, the answer is the world is not constant even in terms of YouTube ads income, YouTube pays different to different creators as every ad is not 1 dollar so vanity is not the absolute metric. An influencer can have 2.6 million followers yet she can’t sell 36 T-shirts and the way most of us see in today’s world is, followers = wisdom well it’s not wisdom it’s either credibility, ability, or a mixture of both, People follow someone who has made a successful company just because of credibility and then there is an influencer who gain followers because of their abilities and who defines what will get viral. it’s not the companies, it’s people's desires and companies are trying to understand it better and then content creators have to adopt so that attention increases and that company makes a profit.

The creators who don’t change with the changing algorithms are awarded by the social media companies in the form of cutting down their reach massively.
The creators who don’t change with the changing algorithms are awarded by the social media companies in the form of cutting down their reach massively.

Let’s come to Google, it’s literally the worst place to search anything if you don’t know how to search it. When you google symptoms of the disease it doesn’t show you the website is most relevant, it just will show you which pages have the best SEO. Watch this amazing song once to get more context.

There has been a lot of talk around ELI5 content while it’s great but ELI5 is just the top of the funnel you need to dive deep to do stuff and just by consuming this content you don’t become an expert. Many EdTech companies are like this is our flagship course do it and you are all set for life. When people complete these stupid courses and get a useless certificate which they will put in their resume and think all the recruiters will try to hire them at the highest salaries.

People feel they become an expert because in one single video as creators claim that you will know whatever X is and people think they are experts in X now. It’s fine till the person does his/her research and puts the content but it goes to another level when so-called education influencers claim to explain something straightaway copying from a source and not even stating it. There are clickbaity videos on How to become a CEO and yes these videos get a lot of views, well the easiest way to become a CEO is to register a company in your name which requires a few dollars and make yourself a CEO, these interesting videos which are rip off a blog post which is written by a blogger to earn more Google Adsense income or by a reporter who doesn’t know anything about startups.

Most of the tweets of the accounts that you see are just fortune cookie tweets that are on the lines of there are many opportunities and you are the king which is broadcasted through various sources. Everyone sells a promise and most people live in a fake wonderland.

This is what social media in the quote and quote the biggest form of distribution incentivize. If people are aware of this and they are happy then great but the question for the people is if people aren’t happy is there an alternative the sweet and simple answer is no. Can we build one, I think yes but the business model around it will be complex, and if you are building something like this I will love to have a chat with you. The best analogy that I can think of is dilution i.e the high-quality piece goes through multi-layer dilution to appear in your feed and seriously after so much dilution they actually lose relevance when you are stuck in a problem fluff doesn’t actual stuff solves it.

Peter Thiel said very well about the colleges in an interview in 2014 that Universities are in the same position where Catholic Church were in 1514, which was a monolithic body of teaching things, Diploma is the only way to salvation if you don’t get it, you will go to hell, the message that I have is like the 16th-century reformer you have to work out your own, you have to save yourself.

I think it is somewhat true for the internet also. I have written about how to consume content that you actually want in detail in one of my Substack newsletters. We know that we need a better Google but we forget that Google is google because of huge network effects where you can find anything and everything if you know how to search it.

While building businesses there is a lot of talk around building something that people love and very little about how to capture value. Value creation and value capture are entirely different things. You might think well what about curation, honestly, I am not a big fan of curation as the state in which it is. The simple reason is there is no on-demand curation so suppose I want to read a good essay on Layer 2 Blockchain, I google and certainly, I am not going to get these best essays. Most of the curated material is the list of a bunch of links or a newsletter in which a person sends you 5-10 links which the writer found most interesting.

The closest solution to the problem that I have seen is Balaji’s Ledger of Record talk on the Chainlink Youtube channel but it is about source truth, not user-generated content. Yup is trying to make curation interesting but they are in a very early stage. There might be some more companies that might be working on it but the biggest question is how do we create a space where things are ranked a/c to utility, not vanity for each individual user who wants to consume content based on utility.

My DMs are always open, feel to reach out if you want to have a chat on the topic or have any feedback and suggestions.

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