Note — Mar 22, 2020

Defining Information

I’m not sure how to qualify this piece by Ben Thompson, a reckon? A thought experiment? An observation? He explains some of his thinking about the variation in the value of information on Twitter, and how it fluctuates as a particular topic gains interest (includes lots of illustrative charts). Take it for what it is in terms of valid data, but it’s interesting to ponder. I’m also including it here for how the COVID-19 information tsunami relates to reading about anything else. It’s harder to find valuable reads on other topics, especially without getting “contaminated” with virus info, if you are trying to keep it at a sane level.

In other words, the utility of social media as a news source is inversely correlated to how many people are interested in a given topic. […]

As for narratives, at their best they appeal to the innate human desire for stories and our desire to make sense of the world; at their worst they appeal to people’s confirmation bias and tribal instincts. Either way, they tend to be polarizing, which is bad news in a world of fixed up-front costs, but exactly what you want when production is cheap and attention is scarce. […]

Again, neither emergent information nor narratives are inherently bad. Both, though, can lead to bad outcomes: emergent information can be easily overwhelmed by misinformation, particularly when the incentives are wrong, and narratives can themselves corrupt facts.