Wednesday 25 July 2018

Too little content

I was still a student when the Internet started, or at least when it started to be available to ordinary people, but I never used it. I didn’t know how to send an email and anyway I had no address to send to send it to. I didn’t know how to search, because I didn’t know what a browser or a search engine was. So I left it all alone thinking it was something for the computer scientists. I sent letters by post and put messages in the college pigeon hole.

It was only sometime later, I don’t know quite how, that I discovered dial up modems that monopolised the phone line. I learned that I could buy silent movie DVDs from America using Amazon. A bit later I set my homepage to Google, joined blogger and sold my soul to Twitter.

It’s far too early to judge these things. We are in 1460. It’s twenty or thirty years since Gutenberg started printing. The Reformation will soon come and also the Enlightenment, but there are not that many signs yet that everything is about to be overturned. But it’s already happening.

I haven’t bought a book from a physical bookshop for maybe ten years. I tend to buy out of print fiction, books in Russian or the sort of non-fiction that I’m unlikely to find in Aberdeen. So I just stopped looking. Amazon can get me almost anything I want, but what happens when all the city centres close down?

I have hundreds of friends on facebook, but I haven’t met one of them. I have more than ten thousand followers on Twitter, but I can imagine a future quite easily where I spend most evenings alone.

People sit on the bus scrolling on their mobile phones writing and reading trivia. Students no longer read books, but rather skim their lap tops scanning the lecture notes they’ve been given divided up neatly with bullet points in large print. Their eyes flit between their devices trying somehow to keep up with the ever changing information. Nothing is missed, but is anything more than something fleeting?

Mental health problems increase as we become addicted to a technology that doesn’t satisfy as we lose all sense of what we seek. Meanwhile those who control the technology we depend on are distant, enormous and impossible to contact.  

 Have you ever tried to contact Twitter? I had to a little while ago. Suddenly what I had done on thousands of occasions I could no longer do. A message appeared when I tried to share a link from my blog. No matter what I tried, I could no longer share. Someone, somewhere, or perhaps it was merely a computer programme, had decided that my site was spam. Who knows why?

It was quite literally impossible for me to reach a human being. All I got were forms to fill in. They always gave the same answer and carefully explained that we can’t deal with individual inquiries.

So I gave up and decided to get a new address. After quite a lot of difficulty I set up a new domain. My site is exactly the same. It’s still blogger, but I have a new address linking to it. But suddenly my Google Adsense ads no longer worked. It’s not that big a deal, but it’s an annoyance.

I fiddled around with things as best I could and then filled in a form on Adsense letting them know my new address. Google in their wisdom replied back that I have “Too little content”.

I have exactly the same content as I did before, except I now have a few more articles. The site is the same site. It’s Google own blogger site, which they approved for ads some years ago. The only thing that has changed is the address and that not by much.

I go to the Adsense help section. I get a trouble shooter that takes me nowhere. I get a form where no-one answers my query, but I never get a human being who can answer how three hundred plus original articles some of them very long indeed can amount to too little content.

I am grateful to Twitter and to Google. They have enabled me to reach more readers than I could ever have dreamed of reaching, but then why do I feel like Kafka stuck in Mitteleuropean bureaucracy where all is arbitrary, where some Austro-Hungarian functionary censors because of a whim and where you never quite know what you are on trial for?