My low-information, low-focus dietWednesday, May 26, 2010
Nicholas Carr wrote a great article in WIRED about how the web may be destroying our focus and rewiring our brains to consume information quickly and superficially. Thus, leaving little room for deep knowledge and understanding. In fact, this paragraph may already be too long and you’ve already moved on.
No matter. While I know that what he describes (the bad part) is very true for me and the way I interact with the web, I still want to do my best to continue to grow my long-term memory outside of it. I’ve always thought a low-information diet from a select number of sources would be way to achieve this and save some time. Tim Ferriss started me on this when he mentioned the concept in The 4 Hour Work Week.
In short, I want to stick to a few key sources and avoid a whole slew of others. Just like any other diet, I aim for less carbs, more protein. Below I review my current information “diet” and evaluate the sources against Carr’s article.
Where I regularly gain knowledge
National and international news
I read The Week Magazine every weekend (it comes in the mail by Saturday) and feel like I have a fairly comprehensive and balanced look at the most important happenings. The articles are concise and numerous which may not be conducive to long-term memory storage. I’m not sure how to gain a better depth while maintaining the breadth I enjoy.
Science and technology periodical
I’ve held on to over 11 years of WIRED magazines because it’s, well, the best. From the in-depth analysis of the Microsoft anti-trust case to Chris Anderson’s “long tail”, this magazine has been my must-read for as long as I can remember.
There’s so much every day and very little of it matters. Despite disconnecting for three solid weeks when I was vacationing in Kenya, I missed near-to-nothing of substance. So, I stick to a handful key feeds like Daring Fireball and Techmeme for entertainment and conversational pieces, eg: what can I chat with my friends and colleagues about. But I really stick to them for the longer, in-depth pieces that occasionally come along. Plus, I never consciously click through to Gawker or TechCrunch.
I don’t care. I just talk to people around me, I suppose.
I read roughly one book per month which is probably more than the average person. It’s safe to say I prefer the book experience for information consumption, but read them less than I’d like (hence Carr’s article). Most books I read are related to business, technology, or sociology. I’m not very well rounded in this regard; I leave that to my better half. In short, I should read more books.
**Pass</strong needing improvement</p>
I love watching TED Talks more than anything. They give me something to strive for and broaden my understanding of the world. But, they’re short and leave more to be desired. The really good ones do a great job entertaining and getting a point across, but the take-away is usually only surface-level. Perhaps more follow-up (books to read?) is in store here.
I listen to This American Life on my walk to/from work every morning for about 25 minutes. The hour-long stories around a single theme are an excellent way to gain deep understanding.
Twitter and Facebook
Twitter is like a chatroom collided with a stream of links. I try to look at Twitter only a handful of times a day. But, the content itself is nearly useless (informationally) and the only value I’ve found is social connectedness. Facebook is, well, Facebook.
Fail (but nobody can win)
I need to work on my information diet just as much as I do my nutrition diet. Though I’ve consciously kept the quantity of sources low, the quality could be improved. First step: more books.
Does anyone here still like reading books and hearing about others’ thoughts on them? Any source suggestions for any of the above areas?