For most, I think this will yield an unsuccessful outcome. By the end of the fast, you’ll be so eager to plug back in that — like a food fast — you’re likely to binge as soon as you get the chance.
Regardless I am sticking with my fast plan. My idea is to break my diet down and build it up from scratch, using the guidance from this nice little red book.
Johnson uses the metaphor of healthy eating to communicate his idea of the ills of “junk” information and information overconsumption. Much of the book relates his experience in the DC beltway, witnessing the FUD spread by the political information production-consumption machine.
The authour advocates battling information “obesity” and the three types of ignorance (agnotology, epistemic closure, filter failure) with an information diet consisting of low ads, information diversity, balance, a sense of humour and data literacy, which he defines as the abilities to:
search, filter and process data
These last two really struck home. As I mentioned in my Information Fast post, I find I am constantly consuming other people’s opinions without properly synthesizing them and coming up with my own. I don’t blog as much, and if I do it is rarely original.
I pine for the time when I was writing my Master’s thesis, when I was forced to think and write out of necessity. I would periodically come up for air and see what was going on in the outside world. It was difficult, but much more satisfying.
Johnson writes about the ability to focus, and coins the term “attention fitness”:
Attention is something that requires cognitive energy, and it’s something that we must build up. You don’t train for a marathon by sitting on a couch and you don’t help your attention span by giving in to the temptation of every distraction that comes across your eyeballs.
Recently I’ve found it difficult to concentrate on a (printed) book for any length of time. Most of my reading is done through audiobooks. It normally takes me 2 months to read a print book during which time I can finish about 4 audiobooks. Reading books has become difficult, a chore. At night I would rather sit back and listen to a book, or watch a TV show (passive consumption). Furthermore, I usually read four books simultaneously. This is a symptom of my SNS/Blogs/HN/etc.-media-overconsumption-induced ADD. I can barely remember any of the books I have read in the past year. My short term memory may be suffering too… I can’t remember. I need to get back to when reading was relaxing. But there is too much to read!
In the tech world, curation is all the rage. But Johnson warns against this:
… the information overload community tends to rely on technical filters — the equivalent of trying to lose weight by rearranging the shelves in your refrigerator. Tools tend to amplify existing behavior. The mistaken concept of information overload distracts us from paying attention to behavioral changes.
Rather than filtering the aggregated curators, it is better to gather your information from primary sources. Johnson uses the metaphor of an information trophic pyramid. Cut out “processed” information from the punditocracy and read the source material, consider it and synthesize it yourself. Being an “activist” Johnson encourages readers to seek out data catalogues of public information provided by federal, state and local governments. If your city doesn’t have one, lobby for one. You are paying for that data with your tax money.
I found Kelowna’s Open Data Catalogue, which I plan to take a look at and think about uses. It would be great to get some people together for the next Startup Weekend Okanagan and use this data to make something cool and useful. I wonder who is responsible for making this data available, and are representatives from the local tech community in touch with this person? I know who to ask.
Anyways, trophic pyramid. Consume lots from this category. It is healthy for you. With that said, I encourage you to read The Information Diet. Although it probably should be a long magazine article, it is short enough for you to finish in a weekend if you are willing to ignore Twitter for a couple of days. I am going to consider this book a lot over the coming weeks as I plan my own information diet.
For the month of September I pledge to limit my media consumption. This means no Twitter, Google+, Path, Tumblr, Hacker News, Popurls , Intigi or Zite. It means no Apple blogs. It means no football podcasts or watching MOTD. I am limiting myself to 1 of each of the following sources:
1 Non-fiction book at a time
1 Fiction book at a time
1 Social network for interaction (App.net)
1 Podcast per week (The Incomparable, approx. 1hr)
The occasional movie
My goal is to throttle my media consumption to:
Find out what media sources are truly valuable to me; and
The result will hopefully be more blogging of original material.
One caveat I reserve is to check mentions from social networks. I do not have comments on my blog and garner reactions from my posts on Twitter and Google+. I get notified when I am mentioned and I pledge to only check these mentions, and not to wander down the ratholes of other people’s conversations.
Having time to think is precious to me and it’s also incredibly important if you want to achieve anything close to original thought. … Once I realized the power of this I went on to delete more than just email. Facebook, Twitter and Quora apps have all been removed (for me Twitter has been the one I’ve missed the most). It’s been the best decision I’ve made this year and would highly recommend it.
I was just talking about this with @scdaustin, telling him about my idea about having a social media free week. My concern was my lack of reading books. I spend all day reading Twitter, Google+, App.net, Tumblr, Popurls, Hacker News, Zite and Intigi… it isn’t like I am not reading anything. Furthermore, I had to up my Reading Challenge 2012 on Goodreads from 30 to 40 books. But it is all an illusion… most of my “reading” is done with audiobooks. For books you want to get really deep into and annotate, you need text.
I learned how to increase web consumption efficiency by using (hundreds of) RSS feeds. I turned my “downtime” into “productive” time by listening to lectures, audiobooks and podcasts while doing chores, commuting, etc. Everywhere I went I had my iPod plugged in. I thought I was learning when I was actually just consuming. I was so effective at packing each minute of each day full of articles and books that I squeezed out any quiet time just to sit and think.
How am I to come to terms with my overconsumption? Why… read another book of course! Check out Clay Johnson’s The Information Diet:
So, I think rather than simply auditing my social networks, I should pause them all for a bit and spend time thinking about my consumption habits so that I may recover more time to think.
If you are moving DO NOT use Universal Truck Rental
If you are moving DO NOT use Universal Truck Rental. They want you to spend your time maintaining their vehicles, and pay for the privilege.
The deal with these guys is that rather than having the overhead of a full truck depot, they have single trucks sprinkled across self storage facilities across Canada. Universal does all it’s business through the net and controls the trucks through satellites. The storage facilities just manage the keys.
The point is: no one is maintaining these vehicles between uses. They leave that for the poor sucker who picks it up.
4 weeks ago we moved to our new home in Kelowna. I picked up the vehicle and it was already broken (half the electrical was gone). I then had to drive into the city and have it repaired, losing 4 hours of valuable moving time. While I was driving to Vancouver the air conditioning unit broke, and two of the three welds on the moving ramp broke off! I limped into Vancouver and had to take it to another repair place. They couldn’t fix the aircon and only bandaided the ramp so I could get to moving. Another 3 hours gone. There were a ton of other reasons this trip was terrible, but anyways, once I got back I complained, of course. (In fact, I complained during the ordeal). They asked if I purchased the $25 insurance which offsets the rate when a truck is “out of service due to a safety item for greater than 12 hours.” I was only out 7 hours. No refund… no cut rate… no apology… no nothing.
It is a bit suspicious to me that vehicles breaking down is a common problem if they offer insurance for it. Talk about not standing behind your product. Not to mention the safety concerns. If that ramp had’ve broken off it’s last weld while I was driving, it could’ve killed somebody.
Anyways, don’t do business with these guys and tell everyone you know. I should’ve clued in when I realized that he was doing all his business using a Hotmail (!?) account. I didn’t check the universally negative reviews either. My bad. I have learned my lesson, and paid for it. Now I want to make sure that you and/or your friends don’t have to go through what me and a bunch of other people have gone through.
I know what it is like to leave a platform. It can be tough, but there are a plethora of communication tools for the Internet. I moved to Twitter as my main conduit, but have always signed up for social networking alternatives (the latest being App.net), searching for the “perfect” app. Part of the definition of that includes federation and interoperability with other platforms. I tried Diaspora* and even called for the federation of Facebook. The solution still eludes us.
I’ve been watching Twitter’s latest moves in the chase for a business strategy with growing concern. Unlike David, I don’t use Twitter exclusively as a broadcast medium. Interaction with friends, internet acquaintances and (internet) celebrities make the platform valuable enough to me to stick around.
The search for the perfect internet communications tool is still ongoing. Status and location updates, sharing short and long bits of text, cloud-like accessibility but retaining ownership and portability… We geeks want to have our cake and eat it too. For most people Email and Facebook are sufficiently easy to manage. Like a landline telephone and snail mail. But the internet can do so much more. Whatever that “so much more” thing is, it’s that which we geeks are waiting for.
With the rise of potential contenders such as App.net, Tent.io, Medium, Branch etc it is pretty obvious that the killer communications platform has not been found yet. Or, the killer combination of platforms at any rate.
Twitter was once the domain of geeks. That is no longer. So we move on. It might be sad, but overall it is a good thing. It means we are pushing for more discovery. I can’t wait to see what new ground we break.