Seth Godin most of the people chart


The road to treasure is literally littered with the trash of failure.

Seth Godin deconstructs this notion in his post, “Most people, most of the time (the perfect crowd fallacy)” which makes the case for open systems.

  • “That means that the old systems, the ones where just a few people were anointed to be the chosen authors, chosen contributors, chosen musicians–that system left a lot of people out in the cold. The new open systems embrace waste. They understand that most people won’t contribute and most contributions won’t be any good. But that’s fine, because this openness means that the previously unfound star now gets found. The curated business, then, will ultimately fail because it keeps missing this shoulder, this untapped group of talented, eager, hard-working people shut out by their deliberately closed ecosystem. Over time, the open systems use their embrace of waste to winnow out the masses and end up with a new elite, a self-selected group who demonstrate their talent and hard work and genius over time, not in an audition. Go ahead and minimize these open systems at your own peril. Point to their negative outliers, inconsistency and errors, sure, but you can only do that if you wilfully ignore the real power: some people, some of the time, are going to do amazing and generous work… If we’ll just give them access to tools and get out of their way…The curated block isn’t reality, it’s merely what the curator claims–that his magical powers will find all of the great talent, without error or waste. Of course, a quick look at Hollywood or even an expensive mutual fund shows that this is a fable. The ‘open’ block includes the low-quality stuff as well, but since that work is created without a lot of expense, pruning it is no tragedy. The secret is embracing the talented and dedicated people who choose themselves.”

I find Godin’s point particularly true in the field of journalism. I have many good friends who are “professional journalists” and I in fact started my career as ‘one’ as a travel writer in Togo, West Africa. I worked especially closely with the profession during my time in Microsoft which involved lots of press work. I constantly witnessed the ‘pros’ phoning it in with regurgitated press releases, prostituting their column inches with sponsored supplements, and churning out anodyne features on demand for a quick stipend. I started my own website, Maldives Complete, mostly out of utter frustration for the pervasively tedious copy more shallow than their characteristic lagoons. So the “pros” who decry the rise of independent, amateur, long-tail, and ‘wasteful’ content creators doth protest too much methinks.

As it happens, this week has been a bit of a run on the subject of “trash” and the topic has come up many times prior. Embracing failure by turning trash to treasure. So much so that I’ve decided to add a new category for “trash” to the blog. Or a “Trash Tag” if you will.