Posts Tagged‘click’

The Sorry State of Clickbait Research.

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling an almost irrational hatred towards clickbait headlines. It’s not the headlines themselves, per se, more the fact that they exist solely to trick you into clicking through by attempting to trigger your desire for closure rather than a genuine interest in the content. Indeed after being blasted with these headlines for years now I’ve found myself being turned off by the headlines, sometimes even stopping me from reading things that I would have otherwise been interested in. This got me thinking: have we reached the point of diminishing returns for clickbait? As it turns out this might be true but there’s not exactly a lot to go on in terms of research in this field.

clickbait-rewritten-historical-headlines-xkcd

You don’t have to go far to find numerous articles which deride and lament the use of clickbait but they have existed since it first began its rise to infamy all those years ago. Certainly there’s a subsection of society which doesn’t appreciate the lowest common denominator style writing which clickbait headlines imply but you get that with almost any new trend, so the question then becomes one of magnitude of the resistance. In order to answer the question of whether or not we’ve reached peak clickbait I did my usual search through various sources but found myself coming up blank, even when I narrowed my view to scholarly sources only. The best I could find was this subject line report from ReturnPath which, whilst it provides some interesting insights, doesn’t speak to the larger question of whether or not we’re starting to get fed up with clickbait as a thing.

Essentially the report states that, for email subject headlines, clickbait style headlines are far less effective than they are on other mediums. Certainly in my experience this is somewhat true, clickbait in my inbox is far less likely to prompt me to click, however it’s a single data point in an area that should be flooded with data. This could be because that data is being held by those who are profiting from it and, by that token, since the main offenders are still engaging in such behaviour you’d hazard a guess that it’s still working from them. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s effectiveness isn’t waning but unless Buzzfeed or another clickbait site decides to open the doors to researchers we likely won’t have an answer for some time.

I must admit that this search was somewhat aspirational in nature; I wanted, nay hoped, that there’d be evidence that clickbait’s demise was just over the horizon. As it turns out while there are rumblings of discontent with the trend there’s very little evidence to suggest it will be going away anytime soon. Hopefully though more companies take a stance ala Facebook’s pushing these kinds of titles further down the chain in favour of more genuine headlines that rely on genuine interest rather than novelty or emotional responses. For now though we’ll just need to  keep applying our own filters to content of this nature.

Although I must admit whatever that one weird secret a stay at home mum has does sound rather intriguing… 😉

That Click Moment.

Way back in my high school days, over a decade ago now, I can remember being in one of my English classes studying Shakespeare. Anyone who’s had the privilege of experiencing his works whether through reading, performing or seeing them performed will attest that whilst it’s initially quite confusing (thanks to the language) eventually it will all make sense as if it was being spoken in plain English. For an engineer like me it took a good while and many performances to understand what the hell was going on but eventually I can remember being able to read Shakespeare as if it was modern day English, rather than the romantic gibberish as it used to appear to me.

More recently I had come to experience the same penny drop moments when learning the new platforms I wanted to develop on. I’d been a long time C# developer having cut my teeth on small projects at university but anything past a simple desktop application was pretty much out of my reach. After bashing my head against the wall that was ASP.NET I eventually managed to figure out enough to get by and eventually shift gears completely when I realised it wouldn’t suit my needs. I met with the same issues when I began working with Silverlight as its XML based UI design tools left me wondering how to do things that were so simple in the past. Again though after spending a few frustrating weeks stumbling through the code the click moment happened and development started in earnest.

I had to keep telling myself that I could do the same when programming for the iPhone. After dropping a considerable amount of cash on my shiny new MacBook Pro, registering as an iPhone developer and setting up all the tools I was ready to dive head first into building a program. Cue several days of frustration where I failed to understand any of the things going on (what the hell are all these release/retain things about) and utterly failing to understand why the tutorials I was following were or weren’t working I had almost given up on the platform completely. My loyal Twitter followers would have seen that I was contemplating HTML5 and Javascript as an alternative for a couple days although that just ended me up back in the same spot with a different technology. The click moment happened about a week later after trudging through the CS193P lectures on iTunesU from Stanford University when I got the fundamental base I needed to get any further with this platform.

What I’ve come to realise is that whilst I think I have these click moments when trying to learn new things in reality there’s no real turning point where I go from floundering idiot to competent worker. More it comes from building on previous experiences and using them to further yourself at an ever increasing pace. The click moment is really just that point of reflection when you realise you’re no longer struggling as hard as you once were to take those next steps. Additionally once you have enough knowledge about a certain area you’ll find yourself asking the right questions in order to find the information you require, rather than having to spend inordinate amounts of time dealing with information overload (which has become so easy to fall prey to in the digital age).

More and more I see that determination is the key to seeing something through to realisation. Whilst aptitude (and maybe luck) can play big parts in the process the drive to continue on with something, even when it seems pointless, is what will ensure that idea becomes a reality. I’ve lost countless weekends and nights of sleep pursuing what started off as just a simple idea in the back of my head which has now turned into a full on obsession fuelled by the desire for success, gadgets and not being a hypocrite when I tell people to chase their dreams. The process has left me with many of those click moments where things just started falling into place but the more I look at them the more I realise that it was sheer brute force, not inspiration, that brought me to that point.