Ultraq's Final MooCow

Bits and pieces by Emanuel Rabina

Information diet

Have any of you heard of the Information Diet?

Healthy information consumption habits are about more than productivity and efficiency. They're about your personal health, and the health of society. Just as junk food can lead to obesity, junk information can lead to new forms of ignorance. The Information Diet provides a framework for consuming information in a healthy way, by showing you what to look for, what to avoid, and how to be selective.

OK, so the website is really a big ad for a book about improving the quality of the information you expose yourself to, but the concept isn't too difficult to grasp. Much like a food diet, an information diet is about being selective about what you consume/read/watch. I've found it waaay too easy to find things on the internet to eat-up all my spare time, and it's gotten to the point where it's made me stay up later at night and wake up much later in the morning.

My work may not be too fussed about what times of the day I come in and go home, but I sure am. I like the idea of waking-up at 7, making it to work at around 8:30, eating lunch around the same time as most other office workers, and leaving it all to go home at about 5. However, this basic schedule started going to hell a few months back because of how I spent my spare time: visiting a horde of websites to keep up with the news, drowning myself in cute kitten YouTube videos, and playing more games of Words With Friends and Draw Something than I can count. The simple side-effect of having my sleep cycle moved is that I find it harder to go to sleep when I need to, thus waking-up not as rested as I would like, meaning I get to work bleary-eyed and as oblivious to my surroundings as that awkward flailing-arms kid in gym classes (back in the day, that flailing kid was me).

It's become too much, so I finally decided it was time to go through every RSS feed or YouTube channel I subscribe to, every Twitter account I follow, every Facebook page I like, and just cut that shit out.

Onion cut

The things that received the biggest cut were the number of RSS feeds I was subscribed to (started with 67, down to 55) and the number of YouTube channels I subscribe to (started with 96, down to 75). Twitter was relatively clean to begin with so that only resulted in a handful of unfollows, and I'm not going to go through all my Facebook pages; instead I'll see if a page posts to my news feed, and then be a bit more aggressive with the 'hide all from this page' button.

This was only the first round of culling where I unsubscribed/hid the things that, at first glance, brought me pretty much zero value, or was something that was updated so rarely to the point of being dead, so the information reduction isn't exactly proportional. Maybe all of the stuff that I removed was just 5-10% of what used to hold my attention.

2 weeks without that 5-10%, I've been able to slowly reclaim my sleep cycle and even start knocking more things off my todo list. Those DVDs of The Inbetweeners that my friend Claire let me borrow at New Year's: finished watching 1 of the 2 seasons she gave me. That programming library of mine that I use for this website which I wanted to release to GitHub so that others could use it to: done, and receiving some attention from the relevant community too!

Unfortunately, those 3 little 'success stories' are all I have to boast about so far. It's something I'd like to continue (I still think I consume way too much crap from the internet), so I see another information cull in my near future; I may have started catching-up with my todo list, but I think I can do better.

Just like those DVDs that have been sitting at my place for over 6 months, I've got piles of books to get through (maybe 4 novels-worth) that are reaching their '1-year-without-even-being-looked-at' milestone. And it doesn't help that, when I went to the library earlier this week to return a DVD, I went and borrowed another novel-length book to read...

Maybe it's not just an information diet that I need to go on, but some sort of stop-borrowing-books-you-retard self-improvement too.