Context, context, context

A little context is sometimes too much to ask. The other day, I was listening to CBC Radio and one news story really caught my ear. Oh sure it relayed the facts, but nothing more. Nothing linked the facts, save their proximity, and this is certainly not enough. The news reader basically said three things:

  • Storms are ravaging Florida
  • Two people died
  • Officials are trying to determine if any tornados had touched down

I continue listening, only to hear a new story starting after these facts were given. Wait a second! The three pieces of information are only related because they were given as part of one story. How did the people die? I’m guessing it wasn’t a car accident, but it is possible.

The problem is there’s no context to bring the facts together. Consequently, it’s just an info dump and not a news story.

The lack of context can get even worse … when the need for it is entirely discarded. Take for example a common topic in photography forums. Every few months, a new person will start a new thread saying the exposure count on their camera just surpassed a nice round number. “I’ve taken 10,000 pictures with my camera since last June! How many have you taken with yours?” While I do understand the statement itself, I don’t understand why I’m supposed to care. What real significance does it have? Are you better because you’ve taken more?

One forum reader once wrote that he took some 13,000 photos in one week during frosh week at the university he attends. Further, he culled the poor images and was left with just over 1,000. They were all posted on the web, and he noted apologetically that there was no post-processing of any kind. He normally does at least a little work on the images, but had no time to pay any of them attention. If even the best images have such little value, being lost in a sea of other images, why bother to take so many? If you want my opinion, post the best ten and we can talk. Post 1000 and I move on to the next thread. If you don’t care, why should I?

The thing is, it really requires no skill at all to take many photographs. You want a thousand? Give me four minutes.

It doesn’t end with photographs. A blogger I used to read seemed really proud about the speed at which she could read. She’d happily announce she made her way through fifteen or twenty books the previous month. Not what they were, not which were good, not why she selected them … just the number. You might suggest she can write whatever she wants in his own blog. Of course this is true! You might suggest that if I don’t want to read how many books she’ll read this month, I should find another blog to read. I’m way ahead of you because I did a long time ago.

Numbers and facts on their own are just numbers and facts. Put them together and share with us why they interest you!

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