The Law of Diminishing Opinions

Would you PLEASE stop talking about YASNS/gay marriage/(insert topic of the day here)?

I propose the following:

The Law of Diminishing Opinion

For each additional blog/op-ed/statement produced about a subject, less and less interesting material will be produced such that eventually no more arguments of value will be made.

What I mean is that only so many useful opinions can be made about a subject. Everyone else just piggybacks off those ideas, and people off those ideas, and eventually nobody says anything new anymore. The value of the next opinion is less than that of the previous one due to this repetition/lack of originality, and eventually you hit a point of zero-gain opinion addition.

You’ve probably experienced this in your daily events… You have an argument with someone and eventually neither of you has a new opinion to offer so you end at an impasse. There’s a group discussion and everyone keeps repeating the same sentiment but phrasing it differently. All of the news channels run the same stories and provide the same information and you think to yourself, “Why have I been watching this for the last three hours when the same news is reported every half hour?”

Remember the Internet ideal of a voice for everybody? Well, it backfired. Big time. LiveJournal claimes to have over a million active blogs. I won’t even hazard a guess at message board/IRC/other interactive service user numbers. People want their opinions to be heard, and fuck are they ever doing it. I’ll come back to this in a little bit.

This Law also raises the issue of what I call the “Information Problem” — what most other people consider “Information Overload.” Overstated, it means that more information exists than you can possibly hope to absorb in a lifetime, so why try to keep up with it all? Tools can only help so much. I’m conscious only 16 or so hours a day and I have more important tasks than getting the latest blog postings (such as watching The Simpsons). I still do want to know what they wrote, but I have more interests to keep up with than time needed to keep up with them.

This leads me back to a point that I made in some earlier blathering and noted above. We only have so much time, and opinions are a many varied lot so only a few rise above the noise of the fray. (I dare anyone to read EVERY updated LiveJournal on a regular basis. For that matter, try to keep up with more than 30 regularly updated sites every day.) This is a good thing for the Law of Diminishing Opinion — the fewer opinions that you read, the less likely they repeat. Likewise, you probably pick those few opinions because they seem interesting or original. You can only hope that the noise is repetition or useless ideas, but you never know when a voice trapped down there should be broadcast because it’s actually interesting and is not being heard.

That’s the price we pay for our limited time and attention spans. This partially explains the music industry. What if the most popular bloggers suddenly turned expressing their opinions into a pay service? Would you pay money to read their blogs? Similarly, would you pay money to listen to music? I bet you already have…

But there I go digressing again… The limited time/limited resources problem leads to many other troubles. I believe more interest (hence $$$) lies in creation and retrieval tools rather than updating and (oh please someday) deletion tools. Think about it — It’s much easier to post to a web log (create) or search on a search engine (retrieve) than it is to go back and proofread your spelling errors (update) or get rid of old posts (delete). I shouldn’t say easier — again, it’s a matter of interest. I would rather spend my time adding new stuff and learning new information than changing old stuff.

Because we have a create-but-not-delete inclination, the Information Problem will only get worse. Opinions will proliferate but not differ, and the Law of Diminishing Opinions will be proven time and time again. I know we all feel the impetus to express our thoughts, but can’t you please keep it to yourself every so often?

The Law of Diminishing Opinion does have a corollary, but that’s the subject of yet another rant…

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