The curse of useless information, or the revenge of the percentage sign.

Believe me, sitting right now at the airport, waiting for my family to arrive from the Netherlands is a blessing. And with that I mean driving to Newark during traffic hours, finding a parking space and then pushing a pathway through disoriented passengers who seem to have to hit the brakes of their trolley immediately once they do not understand where they have to go – usually in the middle of the path. Anyway, finally, when I have gotten my cup of coffee, opened up my laptop, it is a blessing sitting there. I don’t mind the intercom blurting out hardly understandable messages to hardly understandable people walking around, or even the woman yelling to every fresh-of-the-plain passenger that they need to keep moving. I can completely shield myself from those noises of useless information to me; I am used to that anyway.

First of all, on the web you receive a lot of useless information; at least, useless to me. Even this woman who is repeating the ‘move on’ message is shouting that to people for who it is important. Or maybe not that, but it is indeed important that those people keep moving. On the web, on the other hand, I get so much information that is directed sort-or-less to me (it has my email address in the bar at least) even though it is completely useless. But even spam has some reasoning behind it. I mean, I move each and every day 160 spam emails to the deleted items folder (Like some people take the number of ‘friends’ on Facebook as a gage of measuring popularity, I am still of the generation who considers the amount of spam to measure my popularity.

But somewhere, in Nigeria, Russia, the US or the Netherlands there is this kid who spent $15 hard earned dollars buying into a bot-net to send out spams to so many people hoping he will strike rich. But I am actually moving this story towards the worst kind of useless information: Really unsolicited information. I mean, you ask what number comes after ‘3’ and you get an explanation why numbers are in a certain order. And after half an hour of listening to rambling of your discussion-partner, you still did not receive that answer.

Now, how did I come to that?

Today I have spent almost 4 hours working on a report. The worst kind of report; the ‘you have to explain to an investor why your site does not receive the amount of visitors that you have promised the investor’ report. What makes that report even worse; it is not your production but youget the project of trying to explain it. And the explanation is simple; your site is simply not a winner. Pick up the pieces and go on. But of course, since that is not an option, you have to tell the story in such a way that it eventually sounds like it is successful anyway. And then there is, the most horrible element of any language ever; the percentage sign.

Because, if your site earns $1 per signed up visitor, and you had only one out of two, you have only earned $1. Not fantastic. So, you need to ‘sell’ it like 50% of all the visitors to your website actually signed up. Now THAT is an amazing number. Of course, in the end, you only have $1 in revenue. But somehow, that doesn’t seem important.

And to cover that 50% and get anyone’s attention away from the $1, you are going to explain why everything is excellent in your production. And there is where the useless information comes in. It is not lying, it is not bad, but it is a total waste of time. Like said, $1 income on a web production after the deadline you have promised to become a millionaire from it, is a failure. And every minute wasted on it, is money slipping down the drain.

The official report should actually have said that you made $1, the project has not met the expectations. Close up shop and do something else. Find a new endeavor.

Let me take a last sip of the coffee, my family has arrived.

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