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.
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… 😉
A couple weeks ago I was out and about on a Friday night, having birthday drinks with my brother-in-law-in-law (we both married into the same family, so I guess that’s the right term). Although I’ve met quite a few of his friends before there were a few there that I hadn’t and of course he did the introductions. He started with my name but instead of leaving it there he also mentioned, before anything else, that I was a blogger and the topics that I write about. This was the first time that I had been introduced to anyone in the real world as a blogger and I must say it was both startling and thrilling all at the same time.
For starters I’d never really used the term to apply to myself instead identifying myself by what I do as my day job (IT guy or, if pushed, virtualization specialist) and then usually mentioning that I blog during the week about things that interest me. Blogger in my mind conjures up an image of someone who does this thing at the very least semi-seriously with either the passion to write about something they love or they’re in it for the money. As I’ve mentioned a few times before this blog began more out of a necessity to chronicle my misadventures in joining the grass roots political movement No Clean Feed. However after writing on a few things that interested me and having people say how much they liked them I made it part of my weekday ritual to post about something, sometimes to my detriment.
With the 2 year anniversary of this blog fast approaching it really goes without saying that yes I am in fact a blogger, even if I don’t identify myself as one. Whilst this blog has always been somewhat of a side project it’s still taken up a good chunk of my time over the past 2 years and anyone will tell you that if this site is down I just can’t do much else until its back online again. It’s also works as a great talking point for all the like minded individuals that I may meet in my travels with the added thrill of competition when you start comparing metrics just for the hell of it.
I guess why I shied away from the blogger title for so long was because I’m not really a part of any of the blogger communities. I mean I’ve got quite a few blogging friendsbut they’re all people I know in real life, not ones I made through blogging. Honestly this kind of behaviour is pretty typical of me as whilst I love to dive deep into many subjects I often don’t get involved with the communities that much, mostly because I already spend quite a bit of my time doing other things (which are right now Starcraft 2 and programming). That’s not to say that I don’t want to be a part of them, far from it, it’s probably more that I don’t feel like I’ve got anything of worth to add to the community. At least nothing that I’m not already doing with this blog.
There’s also the scatterbrained approach to my subject interests which makes slotting into a blogging community rather irksome. I write about many things that interest me but I try to do it in a way that would be a least semi-interesting to the wider world. Although the numbers really do speak for themselves with my most popular posts being my game and product reviews, an article about the Internet filter and an aptly timed and titled critique of the iPad. Indeed if I’m honest those are probably some of the most enjoyable posts I’ve written and I’m glad that people enjoy reading them. It does break my heart sometimes when an article I feel really proud of doesn’t generate any responses but it’s part and parcel of any endeavour. All that pain is forgotten in a heartbeat when something I write garners just a single response, either online or in real life.
Does this mean I’ll be introducing myself to people as a blogger from now on? Probably when I’m in like minded company but still I find it hard to say that I am a blogger when its more of a hobby than anything else. I do enjoy the writing and exposure that it grants me and realistically a good chunk of my identity can be traced back to my writings on this site but still I’m just a regular IT guy who takes the time to write to no one in particular almost every day. Maybe one day I’ll take a title like social media extraordinaire when a large group of people start hanging on my every word but until then I guess I’ll settle on saying that I’m a part time blogger.
Yeah, that seems to work 😉
Take anyone from your IT department and have a look at their job title. About 90% of the time there will be at least one person who has the title word engineer thrown in there, usually at the end (Network Engineer or Systems Engineer). Now to someone like myself who is an actual engineer this is a bit of a poke in the face, but the IT industry seems to get off scott free when it comes to abusing registered titles something which gets my and many other engineer’s guards up. We put a lot of work into becoming the people we are and having our title watered down by those who don’t care to look up and recognise its importance is a sore spot for us all.
I first came across this when I started studying engineering. I gleefully called myself an engineer in front of my father (a radio and telecommunications engineer himself) and was instantly met with scorn. He then took me through the history of what the engineer title was, and why calling myself one prematurely was unprofessional. I took this under my hat and didn’t mention again until I graduated. It was a very proud day for me since I knew the weight that my new title would carry when I began my first tenuous steps into the professional world. Needless to say I got a bit of a rude shock.
It’s hard for me to pin down where this whole debacle started, since the IT industry is pretty lax when it comes to defining roles with a standard nomenclature. I can identify with the notion that when you’re recruiting for a position you would want someone with engineer like qualities (which are pretty much standard for most positions within the IT industry) however giving the engineer title to a position is a slap in the face to those of us who have pursued a career in the field of engineering. I guess I should be pointing the finger at recruitment agencies and HR departments, since they’re the ones who are responsible for actually assigning names to roles (and would explain the lack of understanding of what an engineer is).
It may seem like a minor point to get upset about but just imagine the same thing being pulled with the Doctor or Architect titles (shamefully the IT industry has diluted the meaning of Architect as well). The title is supposed to carry with it a sense about the person who carries it, and having people use it so broadly only detracts from its purpose. If anything it shows that we’re capable of putting up with University for 4 years.
I guess it’s the bitter engineer coming out of me again but I do feel a great deal of respect for those of us who have gone through the hoops in order to call ourselves engineers. We form a select group of people who are expertly skilled and I dont like to see the engineer title diluted by those who don’t cut the mustard.