• Daniel Wright

Algorithmic Trickery

Updated: Sep 9, 2018

It's another rainy day here in Geeksville Avenue, Widnes. First order of business is sorting out this weeks advertising, social media updates and general 'Look at me I'm great at what I do' type stuff. It's not my favourite part of this job and I don't think I'm very good at it. Back in the day I used to get most of my work through flyers. I'd print off a couple of thousand using a cheap printer with cheap ink on cheap paper and me and the kids would go put them through letter boxes.

Out of every 100 flyers we delivered, at least one potential customer would call me. After an actual conversation between two human beings on a telephone, arrangements would be made and I would go fix a computer. It was a simple process and it worked. I never paid for advertising, I didn't have a website and Mark Zuckerberg hadn't even thought about Facebook, let alone invented it. It was the most successful, cost effective way of getting jobs and anyone could do it.

Sadly, flyers don't work anymore. An Ad in the local paper is a waste of money and the chances of anyone under the age of 60 using a telephone to talk to a real person is a rarity.

Even professionally printed flyers on shiny, glossy paper are useless. Out of the 5000 we've personally delivered, I've only had one response and that didn't amount to much. So I've pretty much given up on them. It's a lot of time and expense for very little return. Any leftover flyers are now used to print invoices and receipts on.

These days you have to be social media savvy if you want to attract customers. I've been on all the courses and done all the research but I'm still no good at it. The problem is, I don't like social media and I'm not comfortable using it in my work or personal life. Like most forms of advertising, it is highly manipulative and often downright dishonest.

When I mentioned this to the 'Social media Expert' on a course I attended, he stared at me without comprehension and continued talking about formulas, algorithms and planning strategies.

All of these terms are a convenient way of removing Human beings from an equation that is ultimately rigged to sell people products or services without them even realising they are being manipulated into buying them. The better you are at hiding the trickery, the more successful you will be.

The simple fact is, I don't like it. I can't disassociate the manipulation of data from the end goal. I preferred the way things used to be done. You made some flyers or put an ad in the local paper and people contacted you. It was their choice and there was no trickery beyond a catchy slogan and a cheesy clip art image or two. With the strategies employed today through social media campaigns and cynical online marketing techniques, we only have the illusion of choice.

So the truth is, I don't really mind if I'm no good at all this stuff. I am exceptionally good at fixing things that go beep and bing. As long as I do a good job for a fair price and people are happy with my work, that's enough for me.

Getting people to see that is a different matter...

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