Saturday, April 30, 2011

Polluting the News and wasting everyone’s time:

I’m very interested in how the Wilpons will deal with their finances, and whether they will sell all or part of the New York Mets. I set up a Google News Alert on this story, and I’ve been getting notifications for months. I cannot believe how many people have rewritten this story for their own websites or newspapers. The same few facts show up over, and over, and over, and they show up all over. There’s speculation, too, usually the same old speculation, about the same scant facts. If news stories in general are treated like this, then “news” must be an industry that hires and supports far more people than the world needs, to write the same news over and over again.

Of course, that’s good news for those news-writing people.

And it’s a familiar story to me. I spent my career in software, well aware of exactly why there was so much demand for programmers: companies need them to write the same software, over and over, and over, all over. Programmers exaggerate this trend with their innate “Not Invented Here” feelings. Companies drive this trend by rushing to create “me too” products, just like their advanced competitors, to stay in business. Pick a recent app that you like; chances are that ten groups of programmers are being paid to emulate it and add a little something, to steal away some of the business.

Mankind is an awful thing to waste, and this is one way it’s done. Let’s not even talk, as the New York Times does this week, about how research scientists spend more than 40% of their time trying to raise research money, and how the people who give away the grants prefer to play it safe rather than fund something that might be a spectacular advance. I'll get back into a good mood as soon as I can.

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