Brad Frost’s “Death to Bullshit” CreativeMornings Lecture

Here’s Brad Frost‘s “Death to Bullshit” lecture, where he talks about the concept of “bullshit” on the web (in particular), how prolific and unnecessary it is, and he points out the growing responsibility of designers, content creators, and the general web-socialites everywhere, to reduce waste. The presentation was given on April 2013 as part of CreativeMornings (“monthly breakfast lecture series”), at the Thrill Mill, in Pittsburgh. The event was sponsored by Cotton Bureau and filmed by Megan Bowers. Here are a couple amazing statistics he rapidly pushes through:

  • In 2003, 300,000 unique ISBN numbers existed; in 2007, it increased to 400k; in 2009, in more than doubled to 1 million; in 2011, it tripled to 3 million; in 2012, it reached 15 million, five times as many!
  • Out of 129,864,880 unique ISBN numbers that have existed since the start of ISBN numbers, 10% of all these books were created in 2012.
  • 4.5 million photos are uploaded to Flickr every day.
  • 40 million photos are uploaded to Instagram every day.
  • 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day.
  • In 1930, 1 billion photos were taken; in 1960, that tripled to 3 billion; in 1970, it more than tripled to 10 billion; in 1980, it more than doubled to 25 billion; in 1990, it more than doubled again, reaching 57 billion; in 2000, that number increased to 86 billion; and in 2012, the total amount of pictures taken more than quadrupled to 380 billion.
  • Of the 3.8 trillion photos ever taken, 10% were taken in the last year alone.
  • 72 hours of video are  to YouTube every minute; that’s 4 billion hours of footage every month.
  • Netflix consumes 1/3 of all the internet bandwidth.
  • 144.8 billion emails are sent every day.
  • 1 million websites are created every day.
  • 500,000 WordPress posts are created every day.
  • 40 million Tumblr posts are created every day.
  • 500 million tweets are generated every day.

Just hearing those numbers is enough to paint a very clear picture about how much data is being generated on the internet every day, and how fast it all adds up to create noise and bullshit.

A report by IBM states, that 90% of all data ever created, has been created in the last 2 years. So, can you stop to imagine the next year? The next five years? Or ten years? Imagine how daunting these numbers will become.

One of the most amusing moments in this short presentation, is when Brad Frost shows a slide–3/4 of it is filled with a long-tail metric leading to the ’70s, at which point, it rapidly rises along a steep vertical spike on the remaining 1/4 of the slide. He points to the slide and says, “The kicker of it, is that the term ‘information overload’ was made in 1970, right,” at which point his arm swings straight up, a look of mock shock on his face, “before shit really got real, right? Way to go.”

Brad Frost goes on to define what he refers to as “bullshit”. Other than the obvious definition of bovine excrement, his other three points are summaries of what things face every time they interact with the internet.

  1. Superfluous, unnecessary
  2. Cluttered, clunking or needlessly complex
  3. Intentionally deceptive or insincere

Here’s a quick rundown of his bullshit list:

  • paper (phonebooks and paper forms that have to get digitized later);
  • jargon (using buzzwords “just because”, using 20-30 words when 6-10 are enough);
  • sensationalism (news stations);
  • opportunism (donate to orphanage if they get X amount of likes);
  • QR codes (he calls “robot barf”);
  • disruptions (overlay asking for a user to sign up for a survey, or subscribe);
  • social icons and feedback demands;
  • spam (used to email and web spam, but now it even appears on sms);
  • anti-patterns (auto-checked options ticked by default on online forms);
  • advertising (“you’re more likely to survive a plane crash than click a banner ad” to which Brad Frost says, “I didn’t make that up… it’s on the internet.”);
  • 30 second video ad on a 15 sec YouTube clip; etc. etc. etc.

What sets the real, genuine professionals apart from the 90% of crap out there is this term, “craft”. There are so many opportunities for non-pros to create content that the question then becomes: what makes you–as a professional creator–stand out and compete with the non-pros?

Sir Ken Robinson defines “the element”, as when your passion meets what you’re naturally good at. Regardless of how much stuff is being created, and how overwhelming the competition is, there’s also never been a better time to be in your “element”. It all comes down to what it is you love to do, and what you love to share. And, if you haven’t figured these things out, it’s also never been easier to switch gears to figure your “element” out, find something to put your heart into, and contribute something to the world.

Brad Frost concludes his talk, wonderfully, by reminding us that we’re the creators: we can be the 90% of noise, or the 10% of signal.

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