thoughts on algorithms

Thoughts on algorithms

I’ve been trawling architects’ websites for things that I like, and, now that such things relate directly to my job, I can call it work. It’s an interesting experience, and one that is mostly pure pleasure: the photographs, the floor plans, the insights into other people’s lives! But from such heights of inspiration I’m dragged down to the murky depths of words that only architects respond to – or, even worse, over-used phrases that no one responds to. It reminds me of being told that my call is important to you.

If you’ve managed to avoid the clutches of search engine optimisation, then hurrah for you: you’ve skipped a generation and jumped straight to a more mature phase in the making of the internet. SEO has its place, or so Google tells me, but SEO never made anyone a good writer, and in my days as a book editor it certainly took the spark out of writing blurbs. Because the more we chain ourselves to what’s expected of us, and the more we try and make sure we appeal to everyone, the less human we become.

Stock phrases, like stock photography, might help you up the Google ranks, but never persuaded anyone to invest much money or energy. Take this: ‘multi-disciplinary, award-winning practice’. It’s a way of avoiding saying anything while kidding ourselves that we’re saying everything. It’s also a way of speaking to a room full of people but avoiding making eye contact with any of them. How much better to win over one person whole-heartedly.

This ‘top eleven things’ from Coffey Architects did win me over. As did this first paragraph on McLean Quinlan’s ‘Studio’ page. Good writing is, I think, all about making eye contact and welcoming me in with open arms, not carefully calculated responses to algorithms.

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