We need our own Doomsday Clock

The Doomsday Clock is maintained by scientists as a visual representation of how close we’re come to nuclear Armageddon. It currently stands at five minutes to midnight and it swings a minute or two in either direction depending on what’s happening in the world.

Scientists pushed it one minute closer to midnight on January 10, 2012, reflecting their decreasing confidence in global leaders to get on with each other. It was last pushed away from midnight back in 2007. It’s worth reviewing the clock timeline where you have a few minutes. The impact is… sobering. Doomsday Clock Timeline

I’ve come to the conclusion that those involved in content and its delivery need their own Doomsday Clock.

It needs to be broader than just a Digital Doomsday timepiece and if I call it the Information Doomsday Clock, people will just tell me to take more water with it.

Maybe I should start by describing what my Doomsday vision (nightmare) looks like. See if it’s sobering enough for you…

It’s a few years in the future

Digital content has been locked down due to the impact of increasingly onerous legislation that runs to hundreds of pages and has titles such as the Universal Information Storage & Transmission Protection & Security Act.

The prices of newspapers, magazines, books, pay per view (including on demand television), online news and resources have increased substantially.

This is because prices contain a corporate and public libel defamation insurance premium component designed to cover both the publisher and the consumer. (But as this has never been tested in the courts nobody’s sure if it will work or not.) This premium is referred to in the popular media as ‘the McAlpine tax’. Free to view and free to publish are almost unheard of for this reason. 70% of bloggers have ceased to blog.

As part of any job application process you have to list any online media you subscribe to including personal Twitter and Facebook feeds.

You have to sign a liability clause in your contract of employment indemnifying your employer against claims made against you as ‘publisher in person’ the new technical definition of anybody who uses media of any form to disseminate information of any type to known or unknown audiences, either directly or indirectly, personally or professionally, through intent or omission, with or without malice... The actual clause is much, much longer, obviously.

Accessing social media at work, or referring to employers or colleagues in posts, results in verbal and then written warnings being issued and can quickly lead to dismissal.

Most companies have ceased to use social media in a business context. Instead, nearly all marketing is handled via formal announcements published on LinkedIn Lite.

The storage capacity of computers and other hand-held devices is also limited by law and they have to be licensed.

When children are born they’re given a pre-set terabytage of cloud storage and a unique identification number which they keep all their lives.

The security encryption on cloud storage is significant but designated government authorities have the right to go in and review what you hold under the Virtual Criminal Activity & Anti Social Intent Pre-Offence Initiative Regulations.

I could go on but I’m feeling depressed now.

This is a joke, right?

The definition of a joke is something said or done to evoke laughter or amusement. Me? I’m just adjusting the hands on my new clock. It’s currently set at 3 minutes to midnight.

When scientists move the hands on the Doomsday Clock they’re hoping to scare the powers that be into getting to grips with the state of the world and make some changes. If the world explodes it won’t actually be because of a nuclear bomb but because President this and Prime Minister that failed to get round a table and sign up to some workable solutions.

I feel the same way about content (words, images, audio, print…). Forces are marshalling and what we don’t control, risk rate and mitigate these forces will prohibit or bind tightly in red tape.

What’s getting to me currently is that we’re addressing things in silos. Online over there. Offline over here. Governance in this jar. Content creation in that one. Financial compliance governed by this logic. Content compliance by that. In the meantime someone in IT is turning off your firewall so they can work on problems from their home computer (this one actually happened).

It’s not all bad. Yesterday I had a chance to peek inside one major news organisation and was blown away (possibly a bad choice of words, but you know what I mean), by how cutting edge their content governance is.

So here’s the thing. Let’s all start working on organisationally cohesive strategies that take in everything, including the user as publisher. For that I’ll take a good 10 minutes of the clock.