In the standfirst, I’ll identify a single piece of data from a recently published report and ask a rhetorical question about how it relates to a very specific technological factor that isn’t mentioned in the research at all.

In this paragraph, I’ll talk about the report as if I had read it from cover to cover, when in truth I’m getting all this from a press release. I’ll mention the organization that published it, but I won’t explain who they are, why they decided to commission the research, or what sort of business decision might be based upon the information it contains.

Under no circumstances will an informed discussion of the limitations of the research appear up here, where it belongs, or anywhere else in this whole article.

“This is a quote in support of the research, lifted straight from the press release” said somebody too senior to have been involved in collecting the information or performing the expert analysis that I didn’t read.

There are no facts after this subheading

Realizing that a single data point and my theory about a gadget aren’t much of a basis for a story, this is where I’ll try to contextualize my rambling narrative with the sort of “background” that doesn’t involve any specific information. If I had anything at all to drink at lunchtime, there’s a good chance I’ll use the word “beleaguered”.

“Despite their repeated verifiable statements to the contrary, I think the market leader is in trouble” said somebody with no insider information whose significance is derived entirely from making statements like this to journalists who don’t question them because they represent a convenient way of reframing a simple question of fact as a “debate”.

“This quote doesn’t relate directly to the research at all” said the only senior record executive that still takes my calls, “but broadly speaking there are some good things and some bad things happening.”

This paragraph conflates music and the companies that currently sell it, suggesting that the health of a whole art form is synonymous with the health of a specific corporate entity. It only focuses on the bad things, creating the impression of serious and complex problems that need bold but simple solutions, and that brings us back to my thesis about gadgets.

“Gadgets are important” says a person who sells gadgets. If I was any good at my job, this is where I’d quantify their significance, but, yup, you guessed it.

There are no ideas after this subheading

This paragraph contains an anecdote about an isolated case that seems to be consistent with my analysis, but which tells us nothing about the broader picture.

Here are a series of wordy caveats that undermine the brief mention of a counter-example, included to create the illusion of balance.

When I’m running out of time and haven’t come close to the word-count that I pitched, this is where I’ll add a few ignorant misconceptions about the technological side of this story. It might be a good place to introduce the idea that, as markets change, large companies fail and are replaced by smaller, more flexible ones, which eventually consolidate to form the big companies of the future, but all that sounds like a lot of work, even if it would have provided a great excuse to use the extinction of the pleistocene megafauna as a metaphor, and drop a dinosaur pun or two in the process.

This paragraph contains a series of broad platitudes about the nature of change, and ends with the useless suggestion that somebody had better think of something.

Apologies to Martin Robbins, from whom this idea was completely and unashamedly stolen.



Post a comment
  1. mclaren #
    October 11, 2010

    Wickedly funny.

    One of the peculiarities about the 21st century remains the fact that recording technology has pretty much ground to a halt. After AAC/mp4/mp3/FLAC/whatever compressed formats and broadband and portable music players (which are now more than 10 years old), nothing technologically new has really come along.

    SACD and DVD-Audio represent the final failed attempts to improve recording technology. The lab tests are in: no one can hear a difference twixt ordinary CDs and SACD or DVD-A discs.

    In fact, as your Pepsi Challenge showed (and many other tests have proven) most people can’t even hear a difference between a moderate bitrate mp3 file and a 24-bit audio WAV file.

    Meanwhile, synthesizers stopped evolving sometime around 1995. That was the year Yamaha came out with physical modeling synthesis. After that, what? Nothing much. The hot ticket in synthesizers is still…analog modular synths using Barney Rubble technology from the 1960s.

    And now LPs are supposedly making a comeback.

    People make music with their laptops, of course, but when you look at the programs they use, it’s all digital versions of old old stuff — VAZ modular (digital version of a modular analog synthesizer), fruityloops (digital version of Frippertronics tape loops, a truly ancient technology from the 60s), Reaktor (combines physical modeling and phase distortion and FM and other golden oldies synthesis methods from the 80s and early 90s), Pro Tools (digital version of those old 16- and 32-track reel multitrack machines from the 1970s). Nothing to see here folks, move along.

    Looks to me like technology in audio recording and reproduction has gone as far as it’s going to go. They may crank up the sample rate to 284 khz and start using 32 bits per sample and move on to 7.1 surround sound, but only a mutant 8-eared bat will be able to hear any difference. Looks like the end of the line for audio technology. We’ve hit the limits of the human ear, and beyond that, nothing but con jobs and smoke and mirrors.

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