Victus Spiritus


End Information Addiction & Digital Baggage

30 Sep 2010

You can't always read what you want

There's an unchecked level of curiosity which leads to wanting to consume too much information. I should know after visiting that sinister state this morning. Sifting through a few dozen articles and documents left me wondering how much information can we reliably consume and apply. In hindsight of my past year of reading , the answer is far less than optimism would lead me to believe. My digital baggage has only grown.

Here are the current input sources of reading I keep handy:

What to do when your inbound surpasses your rate of uptake

Isn't it obvious? You hop on Reddit, complain about the amount of crap content that is being produced, and then run screaming to the hills. Or you can take positive action, my preferred option.

Consume Info Faster
Yesterday I was determined to accelerate my reading speed so that I could intake light content faster. That would increase my bandwidth for fluff (like tech news or my posts). There's little to be gained from speed reading technical topics or deeper writing.

Documentation requires an initial read, several rereads, and experimentation before it's useful. If I'm always skimming down the center of text columns, never looking back, while forcibly not subvocalizing (speed reading 101), will I comprehend the epiphany the author is trying to convey in a meaningful way? Probably not. I could fast forward films and get the gist, but then I'm not really watching or appreciating the movie. Same goes for Cliff notes and novels. Fast forwarding commercials on the other hand is ok, but suboptimal compared to eradication by filtering.

Relentlessly Prioritize and Filter Content, or Die Automated Inbound Die
Are you reading the most important information first? There's no shame in periodic review of information and source priority. New information is notorious for educating the colossal errors of earlier assumptions^. Once your priorities are consistent with your content consumption queue, then get it done, so you can return to building/creating faster with new inspiration and techniques.

*= CouchDB the definitive guide, JavaScript the good parts, and I'm almost done with Design Patterns in Ruby

^= Mood is another strong influencer on our priority filter. If you're stressed, nothing extraneous or creative is important (frontal lobe thinking). If you're calm you not biased either way (clear judgement). If you're excited or too relaxed you'll look on information quality with a more open mind (FIFO/ADD), "oh sure I'll read that article on radioactive strengthening of artificial enamel".