Mining Crap

October 1st, 2015

Recently, I heard about a college essay assignment. The class was asked to tell a class 30 years in the future what was, in the student’s opinion, the most significant technological advancement of our time.

One student chose the smart phone, saying that she held a device in her hand that, with a simple touch and within moments, we can access and share the total accumulated knowledge of the human race. She then added, “We use it to watch cat videos and share personal information with strangers.”

As published in The Memphis Daily News, October 2, 2015, and in The Memphis News, October 3-9, 2015

New Yorker Cartoon


Since I allowed Apple to plant iOS 9 on my phone, on my iPad, and in my psyche, my email is a crap shoot, iTunes is no longer playing my song, Siri won’t speak to me, Firefox won’t let me on my own home page and U-verse goes south daily. After several hours of phone fix that left no one satisfied, I’ve developed an unhealthy relationship with several young women who work for AT&T in Mumbai. As I write this, I’m waiting for somebody they’ve teasingly promised to send my way between 4 and 8 to goose my modem. In addition, Tennessee gave up 4th quarter double-digit leads and lost to Oklahoma and Florida, one of my dogs developed diarrhea, my wife has been sequestered in a murder trial, and I have inexplicably run out of both tonic and limes.

It is not a coincidence. It’s a cosmic tear in the order of things. Yet I feel buoyed by recent events.

You see, during this same period, I told a journalism class at the University of Memphis that technology and the so-called information age has not so much enlightened us as burdened us with mountains and mountains of crap 24/7 high that we must dig through, around, under and over in order to find a little shining truth in there somewhere. I told them their choice was simple; either add to the crap or produce something worth searching for and passing along.

Then a friend introduced me to theSkimm, an aptly-named and well-written glance at the day’s news that shows up in my inbox every morning when my email works, capsulizing stories with a sense of humor and a touch of smart-ass and offering links for more depth. Two minutes well spent to determine what warrants more of my time. Thanks, Andy.

Then the aforementioned and defiled iOS 9 gave me an app called “News” and asked me my definition of that term. Last night, I sat in a bar, just me and my iPad – remember, my wife is sequestered – and read The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Time, Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated, The Huffington Post, Esquire, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Beast, and more, while I watched ESPN, CNN, CBS and caught up with the SEC, the NBA and the NFL. All over a salad and a couple of glasses of wine – my doctor reads this, so let’s just say it was salad. All in around 30 minutes. All with links to more, all requested by me and put together under the idn’t-that-nice heading, “For You.” Thanks, Apple.

There are miners out there to help, created by technology to dig through technology for things that matter to us. In the end, it’s up to us to make sure that what matters isn’t crap.

I’m going to worry about that – the message and not the medium – and ask that you do the same. Use the unprecedented access to the world’s knowledge instantly afforded us to learn, discern and advance.

I’m a Memphian, and please let me know if I’m adding to the crap.


I'm a Memphian by Dan Conaway


If you don’t read it, I’ll read it to you.

The book is available in print online and all over town and now in audio online at Amazon, Audible and iTunes, read by the author – columns, comments and character references for a city filled with it and often absolutely full of it. Take a look or a listen.



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