This Blog Post has Content

I’ve been thinking about the evolution of the word “content” as it relates to creative endeavors. “Content” used to be a quality of a creative work, especially a piece of writing: “this article has no content” means that it’s fluff, a puff piece, filler. Now we talk about an article as content—eliding the difference between a substantive, thoughtful piece of writing (or other creative act), and filler meant to keep the writer visible in their social media feeds. It’s disrespectful of both creators and the works that they produce.

So I now try to consciously avoid the word “content” as a synonym for a body of creative work. I try to use a specific word: “posts,” “articles,” “writing,” or even “creative work.”

I don’t want to get preachy about it, but I put this idea out there because I’d like to encourage other people who think like I do to do the same.

Addendum: Just as I was writing this post, Notion invited me to try their new “AI writing buddy.” Perhaps there is an application here for producing rote form letters or announcements. But the idea of having an AI to help someone write blog posts (a use case they promote) offends me to my very core. “Content,” indeed.

Originally posted to Short Thoughts.

7 thoughts on “This Blog Post has Content

  1. The words that caught me were “content” and “evolution.” I’m reminded of an old joke by the great comic Mort Sahl. It went something like this: “Back at the founding of the U.S., we had statesmen like Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin. Now we have people like Cruz, Marjorie T.G, and D.T. What does that tell us? Darwin was wrong!”

    Seriously, though, you make an essential and distressing point, Nina. Thanks for writing it.

    1. Your joke makes me laugh so I don’t cry! Though it’s also true that the good old days (whenever they may have been) were never as good as everyone remembers/represents them as being.

      But if the devolution of a word leads to a devolution of attitude (about writers and their work, etc.) — well, this is my one candle in the darkness. I hope other people light theirs, as well.

  2. I also think there is a difference between fluffy content (e.g. look at the pretty kitty) and fluff in the sense of meaningless words. A lot of business-related and advice blogs strike me as fluffy in the latter sense. They purport to be helping you, and they actually say nothing (ironically, the most common advice bloggers is to have ‘quality content. …thanks!) That kind of fluff irritates me. Look at the cute kitty? That works fine. No reason every post has to be serious subject matter. If the fluff isn’t dressed up as something else, it often works fine on its own terms.

    1. Oh, I agree. I like fluffy social media accounts, like “Cute Animal” style twitter/facebook accounts, or that account on twitter that posts about nothing but puppies and fried potatoes (darth, but I think he’s gone now).

      I don’t like “fluff” blogs/accounts, like the ones you are describing, and I don’t like the behavior that facebook basically forced on page owners, where maybe every tenth post is useful, and all the others are marginally relevant memes that the page owner only posted so the page stayed “active” and didn’t disappear into the void. Equating the contentful posts and the filler memes as “content” prioritizes quantity over quality, and devalues the whole thing.

      I’d prefer to follow a blog that maybe only posts once in a while, but always posts something contentful. That’s why I’ve gone back to RSS 🙂

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