The problems get bigger and the minds keep getting smaller


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam CO2When you think of all the possibilities for human advancement in to a species almost worth calling intelligent, it’s a grim picture. The minds managing the most crucial issues aren’t anywhere near the kind of thinking required to solve problems and get ahead of them.

We could have had Star Trek by now or something like it if it wasn’t for the seemingly endless reduction of everything to tinier and tinier fractions of the big ideas.  The big ideas are too big for the small minds.

I wish this was intellectual snobbery at work. Sadly, it’s not. It’s observation, and the observations truly stink. It’s easy to denigrate anyone or anything on the basis of what they don’t do. It’s far too easy for my tastes. It’s also off target.

For example:

Wanderlaugh, Paul Wallis books, Amazon

My books are set in the England of the immortals, not some dreary little off license. Wonder why? No.

The subject is ending world hunger. The result in terms of actual thinking is a catfight over everything but practical issues. I’ve been watching starving people all over the world for decades, and absolutely nothing has changed.

Meanwhile, imagine the thinking required to obstruct ending world hunger. It can’t be rational, it can’t be even coherent, yet people continue to starve for no good reason. Apply this lack of mental cohesion to:

  • Pollution
  • Health
  • Education
  • Housing
  • Quality of life
  • Unprecedented levels of parasitic crime
  • Human aspirations in general

This is why we have unheard-of levels of technology and unheard-of levels of imbecility at the same time. Nothing is impossible, and yet nothing, or near enough to nothing, gets done.

In the case of human hunger, you can have sophist/regressionist arguments like:

“Why end world hunger? There are too many people. Maybe starvation will make people breed more responsibly.” This load of self-satisfied/we’re so superior (you’re not) crap can actually be considered a rational viewpoint in some areas of gaga land. The fact that population pressures have never been addressed competently at all in most countries, of course, is neither mentioned nor factored in to existing situations. It’s the starving people’s fault.

And so on. Every single damn problem on Earth is fixable, and the chances of them getting fixed are exactly zip or less.

The problem that has to be fixed first is the total lack of objectivity. Small minds have small aspirations. To be head idiot is enough. To preside over adoring morons is sufficient. To do anything, however, is likely to be a very modest attempt at meeting a random selection of “achievements”, however banal.

The randomness with which problems are seen and addressed is one of the big issues. There’s no system. Imagine a type of scientific research where bits of a subject are researched on a “whatever” basis. Consider basic human daily issues. You get fabulous deodorants, but no broad spectrum disease prevention. You get driverless cars, but no working traffic system which maximises movement.

In this case the thinking isn’t just small minds doing small things badly. There’s no thinking at all. Even the idea of systemic progress and development barely exists outside science fiction. The theory and mechanics of them are there, in everything from town planning to economics, but not much really happens.

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas. “Passive voice”, eh?

Humanity just blunders on through a maze of avoidable disasters, and the thinking is no more advanced than the next election or next funding episode. The problems have become gigantic in direct proportion to the smallness of the minds supposedly there to solve them.

The lack of trust in government is based on this observation. Globally, most governments are despised with a contempt they thoroughly deserve.  Those who do nothing/have done nothing aren’t expected to do much. In fact, merely saying that you’ll do something is enough to give you far more credibility than you deserve.

Why such small minds?

It’s interesting, if infuriating, to note that in the past small-mindedness was seen as such. Now, it’s pretty normal. What has happened in the last 100 years or so to cause this degeneration of human thinking in to a slopfest of mediocrity?

A theory:

Environmental factors: If people are raised in a bland, sterile old kitchen sink environment like most cities, their perceptions are based on looking at very dull, unimaginative things. This lack of environmental stimulus has to have some effect, and very low levels of thinking are pretty predictable.

Life models: In the past you could discover a new world. Now, you can discover a new fast food chain. Again, no challenges, no stimuli, no thinking.

A life based on trivia and intrusive problems: The change from self-motivation to force-fed, unspeakably dull lives of paying bills and dodging bullets of various kinds is very mentally time consuming. How brilliant are you supposed to be, if your next phone bill is towering over the horizon, forcing you to stop thinking about everything else.

Half-arse social models: You could be forgiven for thinking that everything is a shop window. The two dimensional nature of human life is basically a commercial. That’s supposed to create a functional society? No. It’s supposed to create the image of a society which has never existed, like a cheap visual teddy bear. There’s no life and commitment to anything in the real society, just a collection of meaningless selfies.

The illusion of personal advancement: Personal advancement has de-evolved in to a collection of possessions and status role playing. The actual people usually aren’t particularly advanced, or even interesting. They’ve been promoted from plodders to paragons, and their thinking is still that of plodders. As people, they haven’t advanced at all; they’ve simply become more smug and insular about the artificial exterior image of themselves. Add to this the Pecking Order of Peasants/ Right to Patronize ingrained in every status promotion, and you get boring, boorish bullshit artists banging their tin drums of the few thoughts they can understand themselves.

The illusion of wealth: Let’s not denigrate wealth for being wealth. It is what it is. Wealth is fun, if you happen to have it. It’s an escape from the problems lack of wealth causes, as the old saying goes. It’s also a sort of insidious personal hallucination. It doesn’t make you somebody else. Your mind, lucky you, is the same accumulation of whatever put your personality together. You can be a billionaire outside, and a pauper inside. No amount of money cures emotional, intellectual, or any other kind of internal poverty. Quite the opposite; you have to hide outside yourself to avoid the issues. You may be the life of the party; too bad about the corpse inside, eh?

(Can’t resist quoting one of my favorite stories: Nathan Rothschild had a furious visitor, a Lord Something, who barged in to his office and demanded to speak with him. Rothschild told him to take a chair, he’d be with him in a minute. Lord Something exploded and asked if Rothschild knew who he was. Rothschild said, “Take two chairs.” A good working example of what I mean.)

Inferior quality insanity: Insanity used to be interesting. Now it’s just another middle class trade. It’s predictable, if ugly, dull, if noisy. The small minds don’t even go insane with any great level of gusto or achievement. Some minds benefit from the spark of stimulus that makes them brilliant. Small minds don’t. They simply become more passionate about very trivial, very boring, things. They don’t even create their own insanity; they copy it from something else. How else do you go insane and become fanatical about tired old ideas, religions, pedantic absurdities, and theories about the sewer of hideous non-facts that make up modern life?

Not all that sorry to take a little time to build a case, but this is the real killer scenario in the saga of small minds vs problems:

Real achievement is based on real thinking. The progress from bashing rocks together to electronics and gene management is based on that process.

To advance, humanity needs people who can do that thinking. There’s no future in thinking which only goes backwards or sideways. Non-progressive thinking simply stirs up the existing sewage.

Small minds can’t, and won’t, handle big ideas. They don’t have the range or the capacity to even understand the macro issues, let alone work on them. The small thinking is more likely to run away than to deal with issues. (See the last 30 years for details.) They’re scared of the big problems and frightened of the responsibilities.

Regression always totally fails. There are countless examples throughout modern and ancient history of small-minded attempts to turn back the clock and oversimplify to the point of madness the most complex situations. None of the regressive societies has ever survived. Tyranny, maniacal fanaticism, and all the clichés of the past, have died out in a flurry of failures.

The moral of the story is simple enough: Find the minds that can solve the problems, and preferably get ahead of the problems. Stop looking for obliging idiots and start looking for thinkers. No amount of fake news, fake people and fake logic can solve what’s coming.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

Users please note: Amazon A-store is being discontinued by Amazon in July 2017. Some graphic image links on this blog for older articles may not work. 

History as psychosis?


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamThe definition of psychosis is: “ A severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.” If you consider that as a description of humanity’s relationship with other people’s realities, psychosis covers it nicely.

Humanity is its own worst enemy, and worst friend, in some cases.  In this time of global disasters, it’s worth looking at how thought and emotions have basically lost the plot.

Psychotic is definitely a word which can be applied to the current mess.  This world is so bad now that losing contact with reality is probably a better option than facing it. Thought and emotions, however basic and delusional, paranoid and absurd, were the mechanisms which caused it.

The mere fact that a collection of brattish fools and criminals of various kinds are now in charge of a disgusting global dunghill should be proof enough.  Poverty, slavery, gigantic pandemics, you name it; it’s the Middle Ages with smart phones.

Psychosis in history

Psychosis, you say, Aarfy? Nah…

This has happened many times before. It’s a textbook case, in fact. The diagnostic pattern couldn’t be more obvious. The more out of touch and delusional a ruling clique, the more catastrophic the backlash. History is full of ruling cliques who were running empires one day and being executed or assassinated the next.

Yes, this type psychosis is stupid, as well as delusional. The bigger, more obvious targets are the first hit. One of the reasons that astonishingly untalented people become “leaders” is that everyone else isn’t quite stupid enough to make a target of themselves, particularly in dangerous times. In the corporate world, the least mentally agile or most trusting are the ones given responsibility for failures, etc.

Power does more than corrupt. It rules rulers. It makes them its slave. The most idiotic actions in human history can be traced to the incompetent being “given” power.  In practice, the “gift” is a trade off with those ruled. Real power exists in its exercise, not in titles like Emperor, President, etc.

Psychoses don’t need conspiracy theories. This book is history. Consider.

The Roman emperor Augustus, one of the smarter leaders of all time, basically disappeared from sight while ruling. It’s an almost unique achievement. He continued to actually rule, but from a safe distance, away from the poisonous and dangerous Roman Senate and the entrenched politics of his time. He became a god, in fact, rather than theory, because he could override the Senate and anyone else. That was a mix of personal and national survival, about as sane as any leader needs to be. He basically dodged the psychosis of power and the psychoses of history. His successors, with a few exceptions, did the exact opposite, and destroyed the empire.

The psychosis finds a home among the stupid, the greedy and the lazy. Those who perpetrate history’s horrors are never truly intelligent, but they are psychotic by any standards. The politics of the cave, the friends of the powerful and the corrupt, continue, and that really defines the problem.  The stupid, greedy and lazy always associate with the powerful. Even if the ruling clique isn’t psychotic by nature, it will become so, sooner or later, because of the corrupting influences on it.

Didn’t know that, eh?

The psychosis becomes the norm. Loss of contact with reality requires a particular type of logic. Some subjects are forbidden. Others are ignored, or ridiculed.  Facts are interpreted, rather than understood correctly. In a truly psychotic environment, there’s little point in understanding facts, anyway. There’s nobody there who’ll be prepared to do anything about them.

The loss of contact with reality, however, includes a fatal flaw in the psychosis; it also means denial of real dangers which can destroy it. The dangerous enemy is devalued. Even actual attacks are downgraded to nuisance value, not seen in their true light. The psychosis thrives on its achievements, whether they exist or not. Therefore, anything which contradicts those achievements is not accepted as fact.

The psychosis, like a disease, also has a weakness. It tends to kill its host. That’s long been argued by biologists as an own goal for diseases; it’s anti-survival. That a psychosis, the epitome in human history of anti-survivalism, acts against its own survival is rather reassuring.

Psychosis  as a living thing

Isaac Asimov wrote a story published by Galaxy Science Fiction in 1951 called Hostess about a parasitic species which existed only in the minds of people and aliens. It was an intelligent species, but it didn’t have a particular form, just a mentality. The parasite can breed by mixing hosts, and then the hosts are no longer required. The parasitic species continues its existence at the expense of the host species. It actually is a typical parasite.

There’s nothing at all unlikely about this scenario. A psychosis, created by chemical actions, is alive by most definitions, if it acts consciously and reproduces in some form. It’s a bit strange, in fact, that humans, so obsessed with their own mentalities, don’t recognize the difference between parasitic behaviours and natural behaviours. The historical psychosis has a long list of examples of itself in genocidal maniacs, serial killers, tyrants, religious nuts, and megalomaniacs. About 10% of managers, in fact, are believed to be psychotic, and they sometimes show all the traits of true human-hating psychosis.

Do you see it?
I see a herd of beautiful wild ponies.
Thanks, Daria.

Much less reassuringly – There’s no credible, survival-based rationale at all for humanity’s seemingly endless psychotic social, military, religious, psychological and economic wars against itself. It’s as if an anti-human psychosis was a sort of plague, acting the way it does, for thousands of years. Whole civilizations have come and gone on the basis of psychotic behavior.

Being anti-human also  isn’t any kind natural human mental state. Humans are basically co-dependent, whether they like it or not. The only reason humanity survived prehistory was because people cooperated.

Humans survive a lot better when they’re not at war with each other in any form. Another friendly human is a major asset. Anything which promotes human conflict is anti-human, anti-survival, and therefore psychotic. Anything which poisons the social environment, like bullies, criminals, etc. is also anti-survival on the same basis, simply because they disrupt valuable natural cooperation.

So – The psychosis is anti-survival, but it’s also a historical fact. There’s a trail of disasters all the way back to the beginning of human history showing how useless this psychosis is and always has been. Did humanity defeat all its natural enemies and simply replace them with itself? Or is there some serious disease affecting people throughout history which is a real risk to future human survival?

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

Still working on the upgrade, sorry, and working pretty much all the time otherwise. It happens when it happens. 

17 reasons why non-writers need to understand writers


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam

Non-writers are as much of a curse to writers as non-artists and non-musicians are to those arts. They know staggeringly little about the actual facts of writing, the need for continuity and are usually 20 years behind the market. (Sorry for the text layout on this blog. Formatting issue.)

To explain:

  1. Nobody can be forced to read, let alone made to want to read, anything at all, online or anywhere else.
  2. “Engagement” is the key to any kind of content. Modern writing isn’t based on style guides, auditing practices, focus groups or anything but interesting content.
  3. The modern audience actively searches for information. It is therefore fussy about what it reads. Ignore that fact at your peril. Fizzy, featherweight copy can be a major non-lead generator.
  4. The commercial audience isn’t clueless when it’s looking to buy products. Many customers are as knowledgeable as, or more knowledgeable than, the sales people they deal with.
  5. Customers can take or leave sales spiel. In practice, they’ll ignore 90% of what they see, and be fussy about the other 10%. They need hard values in sales form, not sales form disguised, badly, as information.
  6. The “I should know everything I need to know in 30 seconds” thing is now at least 20 years out of date. Less can be better, but more provides, well, more. Lack of information, not too surprisingly, looks like lack of information. Worse, it looks suspicious, like obvious questions are being left unaddressed.
  7. Grammar, schmammar. Making sense is more important than archaic usage. Bad grammar may be inexcusable in some cases, but it’s not like lawsuits will result unless you louse up your sales terms. Grammar is not written under oath, and unless the usage and syntax are actually suicidal, it’s not worth nitpicking.
  8. Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, AmazonPomposity is not an asset in business writing or copywriting. You can be as “corporate” as you like, and the readers will simply edit it out. It’s useless to them. They need applicable, relevant information, far more than mere presentation. Friendly/casual works far better than “we’d like to patronize you to death, right now this minute,” as copy.
  9. You can’t pass off “useless” as a synonym for “professional”, either. Filler is filler, however overloaded with standard phrases. (It also uses up space which could be made much more productive.)
  10. Garbage is garbage. “This exciting, innovative, money-making product” doesn’t mean a damn thing until you get down to cases. A lot of long form direct marketing stuff is guilty of this, and it’s a major turnoff for anyone who’s survived puberty.
  11. Portfolios matter to writers. If your portfolio is full of crap, prospective clients will think you’re full of crap, and you’ll be able to prove it to them with substandard materials.
  12. Non-writers have their own problems. They need to work with clients, sometimes at kindergarten level, but failing to understand what better quality writing can do simply devalues their product. Most competent writers can contribute both subject knowledge and value-based writing options. That usually doesn’t happen. (Just look at what’s trying to pass itself off as copywriting online for infinite numbers of examples.)
  13. Writers, like marketers and advertisers, target They write to actual people in context with subject matter. Non-writers may or may not know the markets or the people. In some cases, they don’t know the products too well, either, where most experienced writers make a point of understanding specific markets. If you’re writing B2B, you have to write to business values, not some damn obsolete image. C level readers don’t need pretty pictures. They want dollar values to their businesses.
  14. Depth of information matters to readers. “Whiter and brighter” isn’t the criteria for buying anything any more. Superior product, better value, clear user/buyer information, and anything along those lines, goes a lot further. (Remember customers do check out competitors. So should agencies. You can learn a lot.)
  15. “We’re not experts”. This cliché, invented in the 90s, has a lot to answer for. Says who? Is the assumption that because you’re a writer/agency, you know nothing about your client’s products? Does it sound plausible?
  16. “Writing like a lawyer”. I’ve been accused of this, and it was in relation to stock market-based materials in Canada. What I was worried about was market disclosure, providing information which may or may not be accurate. Not writing dubious/debatable materials which can be used to discredit a corporate client seemed to me to be a good idea, and still does. Caution is advisable when your client’s image is at stake.
  17. Conformity is death. Writing like everyone else is a great way of being totally ignored. Unique writing is as important as any unique selling point, when you’re trying to get a message across.

The bottom line: If you want relevant, reader-friendly material, acknowledge the role of the writer and allow appropriate input.

Good copy can’t write itself.

 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

When society follows media like a sheep to slaughter


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamNobody should be too surprised that America’s recent history has been very much like a lousy bit of network programming. For those who’ve forgotten, media has always been a role model. Monkey see, monkey go nuts.

(Before we start, this is not going to be a media-bashing exercise in the usual sense. In this case, the people who need their heads kicked are the mindless acceptors, not the mindless purveyors.)

Before America became a sort of extended crack house, the basic norm was a sort of sitcom society. Not too dazzling, but pretty much in the nuclear family, “Honey I’ve just invented the computer/ been indicted/fired/promoted” mode.

The good side of America, believe it or not, actually did and does exist. By global standards, it’s a bit middle class, with a level of occasional extravagance few other countries could ever achieve. This is the real innovation-based, really inspired America, now out of fashion for about 40 years.

Media imagery

Ads_Cover_for_KindleThe whole history of America is based on innovation. Its economy was built on it. This is the nation which first really applied mass production in its modern forms. The entire 20th century lifestyle in its famous suburban image, is derived from America. So, however, and rather sadly now, was the media image of America.

Media image is a sort of social template. Fashion, jargon, and even social interactions come from it like a vending machine. Just think how many expressions you’ve learned from it.

A bit of media psychology at this point:

  • Perceived threats or rewards on a screen generate natural responses to stimuli.
  • Perceived groups are joined vicariously.
  • The tendency is to accept, to some degree, the good and bad values in any media presentation, even a puppet show or cartoon.
  • They associate with those values and the logic of the scenarios.
  • Behaviours are contagious; if others are acting in a certain way, more will do so.
  • People tend to accept group norms, at least to some extent, cosmetically or otherwise.
  • In many cases, the behaviours fill a gap in knowledge, making media a sort of reinforcing tool for actual responses.

Is any of this new? No. It’s a range of findings from the 1950s. Media provides psychological stimuli, extended association with what is seen, and a range of norms, depending on the scenarios.

However – What is new is applying this range of known factors to a whole society. On a societal scale, the effects can be horrific.

Consider:

  • The normalization of crime as a way of life – It is, for career criminals, but now it’s a whole media industry, from CSI to The Sopranos. Add behaviours.
  • Greed is Good to the Wolf of Wall Street – A norm which has turned the financial sector psychotic, and is seen as smart business.
  • The Me Generation – A generation of lawyers and accountants, a litigation mad phase in America.
  • The “evil” crap – Any excuse to be a jerk, as defined by Hollywood, TV and some pretty iffy pseudo-psychology. It’s a form of wanking, wearing suits, etc.
  • Dumbing down – The “nerd” theory which so rabidly devalues intelligence, information and innovation has also been responsible for America’s loss of direction in the sciences. America’s intellectual property is worth more than the GDP, and the US is still fretting over the Super Bowl.
  • The Flintstones Effect – Turning everything in to a sitcom, with asking the boss for a raise, and the entire worn-out idiom still oozing along.
  • Youth culture – This so-called youth culture is old enough to be a grandparent. A soggy attempt at the 1980s, with the same boring nursery rhymes and sloppy patches. No innovation at all.

Media as an excuse

It’s all well and good to bleat about decency, good people, etc. and the rest of the social shopping list that never happens. Humans are wired to respond to humans, real or not. If you see people doing something, on a screen in real life, your response is going to be largely automatic.

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas. “Passive voice”, eh?

Media also certainly doesn’t provide any good role models, examples, or much in the way of constructive values of any kind. Why would it? Those things are hardly fashionable, or even comprehensible to some people. Media is a business; it does what sells, and it’s not paid to make “uplifting” materials.

Meaning people rarely if ever see positive roles, situations, or anything else. Quite the opposite, they see stress, and prefer to relate to the people who aren’t stressed. The bully is always in charge, so that’s the best option. The nutcase megalomaniac is running things, so that’s the safest place to be.

Pretty damn predictable, isn’t it?

OK, there are the excuses. Now – Is it any wonder that an entire nation has turned redneck? No reliable information, no positives, no healthy society to aspire to, and a collection of cretins making billions per year out of the situation. Add the lousy wages, the go-nowhere career paths, the corruption, the health black hole, pitiful core education, the apelike animalistic employment culture, and the disenfranchised poor, and you have a true catastrophe waiting to happen.

Now ask yourself – Do you really accept any of it? If so, it’s probably only because you’re stuck with it. Some people, however, do it the other way round. They accept, and are therefore stuck with it.

The problem is that the usual psychological reactions are the default, normal, unquestioned reactions. Whatever two dimensional load of  half-baked crap slithers into view, it’s what they do.  They’re typically all over the old low grade FOMO and Emotional Intelligence stuff, like missing out on nothing and being a total hypocrite was a life goal.

They go to “meetings” like they go to church; they have to believe in whatever they do, because they accept the basic premises as dictated by media imagery. These excuses are lethal at both individual and social levels, and they’ve made the US a very sick place indeed.

Acceptance of anything is a form of trust, reluctant or otherwise. On what basis would you say that the media image of anything is trustworthy? Because it is just an image.

You may be surprised to learn that in the past, back in the late 1950s, media psychology was about positives. A future, fun, freedom, a happy life, and things to look forward to.  Media was breaking down barriers, promoting positives.

Black America in particular made more progress in that era than ever before… or since.  It also went straight backwards when all the “street” crap became saleable to a tween audience. Try telling anyone in marketing in America that not everyone in the US is a teenage gangsta, and they simply won’t believe it.

The Big Disconnect – Media reproducing itself.

That’s also a good example of the high disconnect between any socially positive information and “media” as we now know it. The image is making itself. Innovation in marketing is relatively rare, and the usual pattern is to stick to the script, however insane.

Call the 2016 election campaign exploitative, sick, nuts, whatever – It’s an accurate reflection of the psychology of media at its worst. Change that, and things will improve, probably drastically.

 

 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

I’m rebuilding SMJ, but have to track down my files first. Don’t hold your breath.

Hey morons – You call this slop web content?


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamI’m one of the lucky souls who has to clean up alleged web content writing. I’ve been doing this for a long time. The global standard is getting worse by the second. Given the nitpicking, ponderous and counter-productive nature of some web content writing organisations, it’s fascinating.

So many organisations put so much emphasis on attention to detail. They then prove conclusively that they don’t even know what that expression means.

It would be laughable, if large amounts of potential damage weren’t being done every second by lousy content.

Commercial web content writing basics

The most notable thing about lousy web content writing is the sheer lack of interest in quality of information. Content is King, and this rubbish barely qualifies as a pawn.

Let’s lay out the basics:

  • Anything you put online can be called advertising, particularly if it relates to products, services, or transactions of any kind.
  • Advertising is covered by law and consumer law.
  • These laws expose your clients to significant liabilities if information is incorrect, misleading, or otherwise false.

So, bunnykins, who would you say is liable for massive cluster slop fests in content production? Could it be you?

Interesting question, isn’t it?

Professional web content writing 101

Now let’s get down to the professional side of it. I’ll use small words so that the sadly educated and otherwise brain dead can understand what follows.

What you would you say constitutes professionalism in web content writing?

Could it be:

  • The slightest attempt to understand the subjects, the products, and the information required?
  • Some level of vague interest in whether or not what you’re writing makes sense?
  • Perhaps even some despairing attempt to punctuate and keep content in context?
  • Maybe even some wild, irresponsible attempt to find out what you’re talking about?

web content writingIf that’s too much trouble, get out of the game. You don’t belong here. You are working with other people’s businesses, their livelihoods, and God help us all, their futures.

If you don’t have the decency or the basic personal and professional integrity to try and get your work right, get lost, now. Go into Wall Street or some other mass murdering, insane industry where your skills, or rather the lack of them, are desperately needed.

Typos and grammar be damned. We’re not talking about trivial mistakes here; we’re talking about absolute crap. If you don’t know how to do a job, why are you doing it?

Why are you even pretending that you can?

I can forgive inexperience, lack of information, problems with gaga/illiterate clients, and the usual flora and fauna of web content writing. I cannot, however, see any reason why anyone would forgive writing at a level which even a grade school for cockroaches couldn’t overlook.

You’re also doing nothing for real writers or the writing profession. It’s no wonder that an organisation like Fiverr can charge peanuts for writing work. Expectations are so low, thanks to you clowns, that $5 is what people think web content writing is worth.

Frankly, I think that $5 is overcharging for some of the stuff I’ve been seeing lately. How the hell can anyone pretend to be a writer, and write rubbish like that?

Get your fingers out, try to take your writing seriously, (I’ll be interested to hear how that pans out) and do your jobs properly. This level of global slop is absolutely inexcusable.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

Think you’re in the wrong world? You probably are


 

Didn't know that, eh?

Didn’t know that, eh?

Two of the best known people to refer to the world as a non-place were Jesus and Buddha.  Jesus referred to the world as “a carcass” (Gospel of Thomas) and Buddha  as an illusion. There are, however, plenty of non-religious reasons for thinking you’re in the wrong world.

Consider-

  • A supposedly intelligent species which has the stupidity to claim to be the only intelligent life in the universe. When questioned, the excuse is that no other intelligent forms of life are known. Meaning that ignorance is the basis of the claim, which is baseless by definition.
  • A world where whole schools of philosophy can’t even find a reason for anyone being alive at all.
  • A world where science progresses every micro second, yet a 100 year old theory like the Theory of Relativity is assumed to be unchangeable forever, and anything which contradicts it is shouted down.
  • A society which upholds democratic values and yet does nothing when those values are abused.
  • A society which passes endless laws against endless crimes- And merely creates more rich criminals, lawyers and a prison industry while never actually putting an end to crime.
  • A society in which it is assumed that the only answers to the future are those of the past, however hopelessly out of date they’ve become.
  • A political system based on a dichotomy of representation of the rich and the poor, which simultaneously claims the equality of all people.
  • A society in which religions actively promote wars and are parties to crimes for millennia.
  • An economy and employment market mentality which actively prevents people from using the talents that create economic prosperity.

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Client knows best? Not in advertising


 

Ads_Cover_for_Kindle, advertising, online advertising

A tale of advertising, fun, and love.

It constantly fascinates me that people who aren’t in advertising consider themselves experts, particularly online. In online advertising, you’re not working with a “turnstile” audience.

This audience goes where it wants to go, watches what it wants to watch, and reads what it wants to read. (Forget FOMO, that’s for people who have no lives. Imagine not missing out on the latest Direct Marketing light opera.) Compulsory, whole page pop-ups simply annoy them. This is about as close as online advertising can get to old-style, compulsory TV commercials, which appears to be the point at which everybody stopped thinking about audience access.

It’s also obsolete. Modern audiences also only pay attention to ads which are of value to them. Like Claude Hopkins said in Scientific Advertising all those years ago, advertising is about customer values. It’s ironic, in the days of SEO as a science, that advertising is still a lumbering plodder in a highly specialized range of market segments. See also “YouTube couldn’t hit a keyword with a dictionary”, a slightly less than idealistic view of ad targeting.

It’s a matter of opinion whether any otherwise normal, rational, client really gets it about advertising realities. They’re experts in their own fields, know their markets, etc., and still miss the obvious. Online advertising is where the wheels fall off.

The immortal Celts in EnglandDealing with a discretionary audience is a very different business. Many people complain bitterly that their expensive online advertising isn’t delivering for them. Despite ridiculously complex algorithms, bizarre bidding rituals, pubescent fantasies about Facebook likes, and other fascinating dalliances with the futile, they don’t get conversions.

A dismal dribble is the usual result. It’s predictable, it’s expensive, and it doesn’t really achieve very much. Clients, bless their masochistic tendencies, understandably think that because they know what they want they therefore know what the audience wants.

It doesn’t work that way.

Let’s start with a very basic bit of LEGO-level psychology thoughtfully glued to a marketing no-brainer in shopping list form:

  • It is better for the market if motivated buyers can get to their goals ASAP.
  • Motivated buyers do not need to be told to buy products or services.
  • They need information confirming the value of their decisions.
  • They need hyperlinks, content, and straightforward purchasing options.
  • Anything outside this very simple, effective dynamic probably won’t work, simply because it distracts buyers from purchasing.
  • If you’re given 100 million alternatives when you only need two or three, your decision making process is not going to be very efficient, is it?

American Valhalla page 26… All of which calls into question the multilayer song and dance act which basic “get sales” advertising has become. Add to this the fizzy excitement which accompanies anything going viral, which is a synonym for thousands of times more information on anybody actually needs, and the process is truly stuffed. This is taxidermy, not advertising.

If you’re thinking that the fact is that competition naturally creates lots of alternatives, think again. In practice, the consumer is not going to go outside their comfort zone unless absolutely necessary.

The logic is straightforward, and irrefutable:

  1. For the consumer, simpler is better, cheaper in time and effort, and more convenient.
  2. The consumer will naturally gravitate to a simple answer unless there is a compelling reason to do something different.
  3. The whole process of marketing behavioural psychology is based on verifiable, measurable behaviours, not a lottery system of “Now I get to guess where I buy my groceries next”.

For online advertising to have any impact at all, it has to deliver clear values related to consumer needs and preferences. An online ad may attract some attention, but that’s back in the lottery zone. Even a cheap Google classified ad can have the same impact as a full page ad, in this environment.

… Which brings us back to the issue of your long-suffering, verbiage-besieged, client knowing best.

Let’s ask a few questions:

Didn't know that, eh?

Didn’t know that, eh?

Do you know why a potential customer will read an article containing a backlink? The actual backlink is usually just one link in a 500 word article. Why will that link get clicked, when thousands of online ads are simply ignored?

Why is an image considered high value, when a “spell it out” and is barely noticed?

What level of expertise does your client audience have?

Why are they interested in a particular piece of information, when you have a LEGO-like, dumbed down How To birthday card-type ad which tells them everything they need to know?

Short answer – You don’t really know what they need to know. You can’t. In keeping with the greatest traditions of lazy marketing, the assumption that the audience is comprised entirely of idiots is a massive own goal.

Freelance_writing-_C_Cover_for_KindleThe irony is that the online environment, with its endlessly irritating search capabilities has created another unequivocal demand – The demand for better value information. This is critical, and it is also a major driver for sales. This information creates motivation. It’s the exact opposite of the “People only want to read for 20 seconds” mythology.

When you buy a fridge, a TV, or any other major appliance, you won’t just swallow any old bit of information trying to sell you one of those items. You don’t have to. Quite rightly, you will take your time, look at your options, and get a better deal.

One thing I find hilarious with tech advertising is the assumption that adding bullet points regarding technology people have never heard of will sell that technology. The people who have never heard of it will simply skim over that information. People generally don’t do PhDs simply so that they can read an ad.

Anything may have meaning. Here's a meaningful question - Does reality have to spoon feed people and explain itself, like a lecture? Does it? There's a meaning there.

Anything may have meaning. Here’s a meaningful question – Does reality have to spoon feed people and explain itself, like a lecture? Does it? There’s a meaning there.

People who have heard of the technology tend to be experts, and are therefore much more critical of information of this kind. Ironically, they are more likely to be swayed by old-style price/value advertising than trying to tell them something they already know more about than the copywriter.

This is a classic case of “know your market”, and it is one of the primary factors behind functional online advertising copy.

From the copy and content creator/writer’s perspective, the most basic, and in this case the most ethical, thing to do for a client is to find the strongest selling points. I’ve had many incredibly productive conversations with clients about their business, products, and aspirations.

You can learn more from a client in five minutes on the subject of their business than you could in a 10 day workshop.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the client is an expert on getting hits on a webpage. This is the bottom line requirement, and it will not go away, however bureaucratic, pedantic and culture-driven a company may be.

Advertising psychology

Generally speaking, another type of psychology applies:

American ValhallaPeople are driven by an image of what their content is “supposed to” look like, usually a mediocre, “industry standard” which is simply an average. Average content tends to get average results at best, and to be completely ignored at worst.

Even corporate marketers, who know much better, tend to lean to a minimal image of their content. Standout material is a second thought, rather than the first priority.

I could literally write a book on this, but let’s keep it simple:

  1. Your logo tells people everything they need to know about who the company is.
  2. From that point onward, the client is looking for information.
  3. That information has to be useful, has to provide a valuable perspective, and has to make sense in terms of client needs.
  4. Explanatory information is far more valuable, and certainly far more functional, than “exciting” babble, which is classified as meaningless by default.

OK, now a practical exercise – Try to sell yourself some clothes pegs, in 500 words. Try to make this information interesting, something worth considering. You can use images, videos, and its many hyperlinks as you like.

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas.

Next, try to make the content enjoyable and as painless as possible for the customer, preferably a lot of fun to read and watch.

Now try to get somebody else to pay attention to all the content, and actually agree that they would like to buy the product.

(Yes, the clothes pegs can be worn on the nose but be careful- You don’t want too many deaths from your product, and it is just a bit predictable.)

The reason for choosing the clothes pegs is that this particular type of product is considered so banal, and so unworthy of attention that there is almost no commercial advertising. Clothes pegs, in fact, are theoretically obsolete. It is a fairly tough sell.

…But it can be done, and relatively easily- If you know how to do that sort of content and copy.

So here’s the question folks – Do you know best?

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

 

 

Money versus humanity


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam,Money is now the sole possible justification for anything, everyone and everything. People live to make money, right? There is no other reason for you being on this Earth, right? Everything else that makes you an actual person is entirely coincidental? Right?

Money is a medium. It’s a means of doing things. You wouldn’t think so, given the absurd inversion of priorities between money and people.

Continue reading

What the hell do you think you know about writing content?


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamThis is not going to be the most tactful blog you’ve ever read about writing. I’m a professional writer. I have 8 million words online, paid for by other people.

This has been a very mixed experience. I have been lucky enough to write with some real experts, and unlucky enough to write with people who apparently think a phone bill is Shakespeare.

I’m a real writer. People read my stuff voluntarily. I don’t have to hide behind a brand or banner to get hits.

I’ve had millions of hits. I have user awards, not “Everyone’s Little Friends” awards. I don’t need to tell people I’m a “passionate writer.”

So let’s get down to cases –

Words which annoy writers include “fluff”, “professional”, “eye for detail” and similar insults. It’s a bit much when you look at a page full of typos, absurdly punctuated or wrongly punctuated, and then hear about the high standards these people apply to their content. The entire editorial process is based on managing these details, and you don’t have to look far online to see how good the standards actually are.

A few points for the baffled:

  • The whole idea of content writing is engagement.
  • If you write in exactly the same way and same style as everybody else, nobody is going to read your stuff.
  • People can’t be forced to read online content.
  • Like every type of sales content, a unique selling point, like an unusual writing style, is what sells.
  • Humour, interest, expression, and word timing are the core elements in anything worth reading. Take those away, and what you have is basically a business letter or a style guide.
  • Industry standard doesn’t mean a damn thing. It never has. It’s for dummies, the plodders who think a classified ad is a major achievement.
Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas.

Pretty damn technical, isn’t it? It’s basic marketing. If you don’t know that, you should be shot.

Now let’s put this range of ideas in the delightful vernacular of all these hard case “all-business” executives who have never written a damn shopping list:

Get this through your fucking heads, you fucking idiots:

  • Your fucking stuff has to be worth fucking reading.
  • If you write boring fucking crap, the result will be boring fucking crap.
  • Nobody has to, or wants to, read boring fucking crap.
  • Writing content is about fucking business, a unique fucking selling point is what fucking sells.
  • Engagement is supposed to be fucking fun, not a fucking phone bill.
  • Industry standard is for fucking losers. Quality sells, and that’s all you fucking need to know.

Fun to read, wasn’t it? Did you feel loved and respected? Did you feel that your professional skills and life experience were receiving due acknowledgement? Did you feel your career and means of earning a living were doing well?

That, (in case you’re interested and have managed to get your tiny little brain to continue reading through this huge number of 465 words to the end of the last paragraph), is exactly how your patronising remarks sound to writers. Your social skills need neutering.

  • When you start talking about “fluff”, high attention to detail, or things like that, it simply proves to any writer you have never “fucking” written anything.
  • Some writers are real experts. Why do you hire experts, if you are simply going to waste their time (and your own money) with trivial non-issues?
  • Real fluff is based on fluffy information and lousy content requirements from the stagnant depths of real morons. Get your smug head out of your arse and start paying attention to core information requirements.
  • People do not read web content with a style guide at hand. They are looking for information, not some damn grade school exercise.
  • People do not want to be bored to death by shopping lists. Listing has its uses, but it’s not expression. It doesn’t communicate on any particularly persuasive personal level.
  • Annoying writers is a great way of turning over a lot of writers. If you want to be in an endless training exercise, spending unnecessary weeks or months training people to do basic things, it’s costing you a fortune. Serves you right.
  • Annoying writers can be extremely dangerous. Under certain circumstances, if you use those expressions to me, I will either smash your fucking head in, or make you fucking wish I had. Choose between respect or death, office boys.

So glad we had this little chat. Do remember to subscribe, or if you are still inclined to piss-fart around with mindless minutiae, preferably beat yourself to death with a sesame seed. Just don’t tell me about it.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

 

 

 

 

 

England ad oblivia – Mediocrity to the end


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamIt means “England to obscurity”. If you have an atom of English blood in you, not the pathetic England of today, but older, more plausible, England, you don’t even need to ask what happened. The tedious little bastards have finally done it – From super power to car park in 150 years.

England has produced some truly remarkable people. These aren’t them. Look at the leaders of today off camera, and you wouldn’t notice them, or care that you didn’t. They’re nobodies. They do very little worth mentioning except find disasters in which to participate.

This is the fifth generation after the fools who entered World War 1 and bankrupted the country for the first of many times. Do you think Henry VIII or Elizabeth 1 would have gone to war over a trivial assassination? Hardly. The ancestors of the current useless load of baggage, however, did.  All the rest followed; the slaughters, the blunders, and the economic failures piled up for the rest of the century.

The immortal Celts in EnglandBritain’s passage through the 20th century was only redeemed by its people, who somehow managed to survive some of the least competent governance in history. England, however, did one better – As a tale of conscious, wilful national self-destruction, it’s hard to beat.

England has always been a separate entity, mainly for physical reasons. In ancient times, it was quite successful as a Celtic, then Roman, country. It had enough resources and trade to be at least visibly prosperous. It wasn’t overpopulated, either.

History was a series of invasions, wars, revolutions, the odd relieving plague or so, and maniacal mercantilism. England, then, as now, was as much an economic entity as anything else. The Tudors started the empire, almost by accident, and a progression up to George III did quite well until losing America over a piffling tax.

The City of London, apart from being burned down by Boudicca and the Great Fire, has always managed for itself. During the Wars of the Roses, it guided itself through and kept the business of the city, and the nation, more or less intact. It survived the blitz as being just another unasked-for encumbrance on its business.

The Empire of England – What was and what wasn’t.

Wanderlaugh, Paul Wallis books, Amazon

My books are set in the England of the immortals, not some dreary little off license. Wonder why? No.

The brilliant stage of England at its modern best came after the Napoleonic Wars. This was an uncharacteristically prosperous England. It was truly rich. That rarely occurs in English history. Under strong kings and queens, it was very rich at times, but most of the monarchs were pretty average.

The Empire flourished after 1820 – Mainly because it had no real competition. Europe was a disorganized, neurotic, inward-looking, mess. Russia was a backward blizzard full of the poor and the not-all-that arguably delirious. The Royal Navy ruled, and until after World War 2 it was an instrument of national policy with global reach. That it’s now more of an auditing exercise than a global power isn’t its fault – It’s the fault of substandard Whitehall lackeys who never really understood what it was for, or what it did.

Queen Victoria was a very good ruler in one way – She was the face of a triumphant, very English, not “British”, super power. The money was in England, the power was in England, and the global reach was in London. “Britain” was a sort of geographical euphemism.

Didn't know that, eh?

Didn’t know that, eh?

If the Empire existed today, it would cover North America, Britain, half of Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand, with countless other islands and territories. It would have been unchallengeable, un-fightable, in fact, with 19th and 20th century military technologies. The money would have flowed back to England. It would have been the biggest economic entity in human history, bar none. Even bigger than America at its peak.

If Europe wanted to destroy itself, it would have just meant more business for London. England could have remained aloof, and not much could have been done about it. A fairly rational policy, in fact.

The fact that it didn’t happen is based on one thing only – Politics. This obscene word is now a synonym for insanity, but it’s always been a negative force. Consider a form of government based on division of societies and conflicts over every piddling issue, however instantly fixable. Does it sound like a good idea?

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas.

England, however, managed to avoid global domination thanks to its politics. The big money centralized the real power. The soggy brains of England’s very average politicians were easy to outwit. More big money was made, and hypnotized by the cash, national and Empire policy followed it, not logic. It’s been doing that ever since.

There is no human social dynamic less able to resist money than politics. There is no social structure more able to spread corruption and inefficiencies than politics. The rest of the story is all about politics doing what it does, and doing it so very badly.

The Commonwealth could have worked as an economic entity, and it did, in a largely ignored way, for a while. Putting together decent trade deals and managing all those foreigners, however, was quite beyond the governments of the postwar era.

English culture, apart from the 20s and the 60s, has become more superficial than real. It’s a two dimensional form of England, appropriately enough, a shop window. It’s a sort of reality-mediocrity bit of theatrics. There is a real English culture under the drunks, criminals and tiresome little rich people, but it’s not visible.

Brexit unter alles – England? Where’s that?

An English author. Perhaps that'll be illegal too, in the cowardly, dribbling modern version of England? You have to wonder why this book is STILL so far ahead of "debate" so many years later. A classic case of the norm being so far behind previous thinking.

An English author. Perhaps that’ll be illegal too, in the cowardly, dribbling modern version of England? You have to wonder why this book is STILL so far ahead of “debate” so many years later. A classic case of the norm being so far behind previous thinking.

Brexit is the next to last step in the total destruction of the giant achievements of England. The final step will be actual dissolution of Britain and reversion to a tiny little nation which has escaped from national prosperity yet again.

The Scots don’t have much choice – They need Europe. The Welsh and Northern Irish need their lifelines, too. The self-destruction of English industry and mainstream economics doesn’t give them many choices, either.

Even more spectacular in its utter mediocrity is the fact that England has effectively moved itself to the bottom of the food chain. With one stupid, barely considered move, England has managed to go from a palace to a bedsit. Only England’s least intelligent could possibly have achieved this situation.

I’m not quite prepared to write an obituary for this stupid, insular little country, despite its oversupply of absolute fools. Much of my ancestry is English. I like the place, if not the idiotic national image of it and the pathetic losers running it.

My family worked for the Tudors, set up Wesley Mission for the Wesleys, and participated in most of its wars.  We have a family crest going back to the days when there were wolves in England, pre-1120 AD.

It’s just possible that another English characteristic, knowing what to do with fools, may reassert itself. Parasite removal may come back in style. Someone with a vision may find a way out.

The problem is that the people expected to find the fixes are obviously irredeemable genetic morons. They’re the descendants of useless scum, following the family trade. Nobody with half a brain would have staged Brexit with no idea what to do next.  There may well always be an England, but it’ll be an idea, not a fact, until someone pulls their finger out and gets down to business.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books