Producers v. Consumers

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about the kind of life we lead. Or tend to lead in this modern culture of ours. It started out with hearing about Google’s OpenSocial initiative which is a way that social networking profiles can be linked automatically and will (one day) allow you to fill out your profile information just once. As you join other networks (or websites), OpenSocial will be able to grab your info and pre-fill in the profile information in the new site. Saving you the time and hassle of typing it in all over again. Eventually, it may automatically update and sync the data.

As Kevin Marks explained at FOWA 2008, Google and others behind the initiative looked at all the different types of data fields most common to popular social networks (such as Facebook, Orkut, and MySpace) to decide what fields they would integrate into OpenSocial in their first round of implementation.

There were four fields common to nearly all profile-type apps: Name, User ID, Photo, and Profile URL. Beyond that, the five main fields he pointed out where these: Age, URL’s (other website links you own/work at/promote), books, movies, and smoker status.

At that point, I sort of tuned out because I found it highly interesting that of the five secondary data fields, the last three were all about personal consumption. Of books, movies, and cigarettes (or not).

And as you look at other profiles out on the net, you quickly see that most folks are broadcasting what they consume in some form or another. Restaurants they like, places they hang out, vehicles they drive, computers they use, clothes they wear, and of course, books, movies, and music.

I thought about how now, more than ever, we and the MySpace generation behind us are not only consuming more than ever, but identifying who they are by what they consume.

At the same time, we are producing less. And what we do produce is less life-changing, less world-changing, less useful.

The tools to produce are ever-more available to the common man. Anyone can write a book these days. People routinely create videos on YouTube of original content. Making music, thanks to the digital/MIDI revolution is easier than ever. Vehicles are more customizable than ever. Computers and their operating systems are more personal than ever.

And I think, and fear, that we are all being hoodwinked into investing our time and energy into all these production, even when no one reads it, no one views it, or only a few friends or family even know about it. In other words, we are all big shot producers in our small circle of friends. But the world is getting progressively worse.

Some of us have big ideas. I do. I have tons of them. But the thought of trying to compete with those ideas in the marketplace of ideas is overwhelming. There’s too much demand for everyone’s attention by not only Fortune 500 companies with multi-million dollar advertising campaigns (”Drink Coke. Save the Whales. Join the Army. Stop Racial Hatred. Etc.”), but I’d have to compete with millions of 14-year olds with webcams, blogs, online videos, etc.

Much of the novice productions out there are merely mass repetition of other people’s thoughts. Witness the Barack Obama campaign, for instance, wherein every fan of Obama thinks they have a unique take on the man, but they are all repeating the same three arguments.

Few of us are producing quality stuff. Few of us are changing lives. Few of us are improving the world. Worst of all, perhaps, is that as I get older I think how little I’ve done in my own life, all the while consuming massive amounts of other people’s stuff, very little of it having any lasting or staying power behind the month it was consumed.

So, I feel purposed to try and produce more - and consume far less. I’m open to ideas on how to do this, and I may share some of my own ideas later if I think they’ll be helpful.

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