Content-as-a-Homework-Assignment Needs to Die (and maybe AI will help kill it)

CaaHA (Content-as-a-Homework-Assignment) is the dominant form of online creation for most companies. And it can’t die soon enough.

I’m a bit of an education radical, so I have no problem saying homework is generally stupid and trains people in bad habits. Writing assignments are particularly egregious for their forced criteria and demands of feigned interest.

I once helped my friend who was a grad assistant to an undergraduate philosophy course grade essays. To call them “bad” would be an insult to Michael Jackson. They were anti-life.

Nearly all of them hit the stated criteria – arbitrary number of pages, number of citations, specific concepts mentioned, and arguments made. But they were made with soul-sucking disinterest. The kind so intense it lacks all intensity.

Outright disdain would’ve been better, because at least the papers would’ve had some kind of substance or emotion! Instead, they clinically forged interest to placate an equally disinterested professor (who handed them off to a TA who had to also pretend to be interested. He, in turn, handed half of them off to me, who was immensely interested in the same way one would be drawn to gaze at a flaming dumpster floating in a vat of sewage).

When you’re forced to write to avoid bad grades and calls from your parents, you pump out empty flotsam. Sure, it might check all the boxes technically, but it makes all of us worse for having endured it. Just ask teachers during grading season. Or anytime.

Sadly, this habit continues into professional life. Many marketing teams feel the pressure to have an Inbound strategy, thanks to the successes of pioneers of internet marketing who created a whole new approach. Those pioneers mostly made good stuff. So good that it became the new standard. It became a requirement. It became a homework assignment.

The effective stuff got broken into formulas and checklists, and these got handed down from CMOs who mostly didn’t care about content to assistants who were paid to follow orders, and the proliferation of CaaHA began.

The voluminous collection of CaaHA has changed in particulars as SEO and social media engagement have morphed and been turned into sciences, but one thing has remained: CaaHA’s complete lack of soul.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t all about feeling. Creation as a discipline is paramount. You can’t sit around and wait for the Muses to inspire you. You’ve gotta create consistently, no matter the mood. But those daily, habitual acts of creation all don’t need to go on the company blog.

(This is why I love personal daily blogging so much, because you get to develop the creativity-as-a-discipline muscle, but then only choose the best posts or themes to expound into something worth posting elsewhere.)

So yes, create on command. Create consistently. Form a habit. But for the love of all that is lovely, don’t let your company crank out droopy-eyed shite in a panicked attempt to check the content boxes!

This is why telling personal stories is so great. It’s hard to be detached from your writing when it’s about your own life and experiences! And you don’t need to be an expert or appeal to your own authority to do this. Just keep it real, and learn out loud.

OK, so here’s a white pill I’m pondering.

All this new AI generated content seems to have perfectly nailed CaaHA writing. I guess it took a soulless rule-following bot pretending to be human to really capture the style.

At first, this might sound like bad news. Even MORE of this slop splashed across our screens!

But really, it’s good news. The cost of generating CaaHA just dropped to near-zero. This means the supply will inflate so far and fast as to cause the value to drop to near-zero as well. Whatever small, sad part of our brains is still giving this stuff a chance will finally tune it out completely. (Fingers crossed)

That means our brains will be even hungrier for and more attuned to writing with feeling. Halellujah!

That’s bullish for those of us with a heartbeat.

So I, for one, welcome our soul-dead CaaHA generating replacements.