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Stop Watching TV and Do Something Productive

March 16th, 2010

I was reading an interesting post from Seth Godin, author of Linchpin, about TV the other day. He says he doesn’t watch TV at all anymore, and here is why:

Things you can do instead of TV:
* Run a little store on eBay
* Write a daily blog
* Write a novel
* Start an online community about your favorite passion
* Go to meetups in your town
* Volunteer to tutor a kid, in person or online
* Learn a new language, verbal or programming
* Write hand written thank you notes each evening to people who helped you out or did a good job
* Produce small films and publish them online
* Listen to the one thousand most important operas
* Read a book or two every evening
* Play a game of Scrabble with your family
None of them are perfect. Each of them are better than TV.

I’ve got a few more to add to the list:
Call Congress and tell them not to pass this health care bill.
Write a letter to Congress and tell them not to pass this health care bill.
Tweet to your followers telling them to talk to their Congressman.
Write a blog post telling people to call Congress.
You get the idea.

In Seth’s post, he referenced a talk by Clay Shirky. He gives some pretty amazing stats about how much TV gets watched and the things that are being accomplished by people who have cut back on their TV consumption and created a surplus of “free time”.

So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project–every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in–that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that’s 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, “Where do they find the time?” when they’re looking at things like Wikipedia don’t understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that’s finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.

Did you catch that? The amount of time spent watching just the ads in one weekend is the amount of time it has taken to create Wikipedia. Pretty amazing. If the world changed it’s TV consumption by just 1%, that would be the equivalent of 100 Wikipedia projects a year. Pretty amazing stuff.

Dream Big Dreams

How about if you want to do something bigger than Wikipedia? What if you want Washington DC to go back to being a Shining City on a Hill instead of the cesspool it is today. Well, the short version is you need to do something about it. Stop watching TV and write a letter to Congress. Participate in a tea party. Write a blog post. Have a conversation with your neighbor. Volunteer for the good candidates we do have running for Congress in November. When you put it into perspective with the amount of TV we waste our time watching, changing Washington almost seems doable.

Author: Derek Clark Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. March 16th, 2010 at 21:42 | #1

    Best thing you’ve written yet, Derek. Retweet!

  2. March 16th, 2010 at 22:29 | #2

    So are you saying that I could make my own Wikipedia in 11,415.5 years?!? My attention span is WAY too short for that! I think I’ll watch TV instead… ;)

  3. March 17th, 2010 at 00:27 | #3

    Thanks man.

    Yeah mine is too. But maybe together we can get it done in half that time :-)