Why Ordinary Blogs Usually Suck

Have you ever wondered why average, aesthetically pleasing blog content sometimes feels lackluster? I couldn't pinpoint why, but I always had this perception that mainstream, "pretty" blog content was somehow subpar. You might think, "Well, making the font look nice doesn't make the content worse, does it?"

Then, I stumbled upon a concept on Wikipedia that shed light on this issue: Lectio difficilior potior. This Latin phrase, meaning "the more difficult reading is the stronger," is one of the principles in textual criticism. It suggests that when manuscripts differ, the more unusual or challenging reading is likely closer to the original. The idea is that scribes would often simplify or modify strange or controversial phrases into something more familiar and less contentious. According to Wikipedia, someone said: "And whenever the Fathers report that there is a variant reading, that one always appears to me to be more esteemed (by them is the one) which at first glance seems the more absurd-since it is reasonable that a reader who is either not very learned or not very attentive was offended by the specter of absurdity and changed the text."

This principle isn't just limited to ancient texts. The internet today is a perfect example(I took this example from here):

  1. John McPhee, a creative nonfiction pioneer, writes a series of essays.

  2. An entrepreneur turns these essays into a high-priced course.

  3. A student summarizes this course.

  4. Twitter users create threads based on the student's summary.

  5. Eventually, someone gets invited to a podcast to summarize these Twitter threads.

Think about it – The original insight reveals that even mere transcription can dilute a text's original, controversial elements. If the text is repackaged, how much further from the original message does it stray?

In information theory, the measure of the amount of information in something is often its degree of surprise. Connecting the dots, the amount of original information it contains decreases as text gets passed on and modified. Over time, even the best ideas can become diluted or eroded.

To make matters worse, the pursuit of 'prettiness' often comes at a cost. To create content that is visually striking and easy to process, writers frequently resort to simplification and repackaging. Complex ideas are broken down into bullet points, nuanced arguments are reduced to snappy headlines, and original insights are replaced with recycled conventional wisdom. The result is content that may be aesthetically pleasing but lacks the depth and substance of the original ideas.

The Takeaway: Even if an idea is widely circulated, there's value in seeking out its original source.

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