Bookmarked No End to Content Overload by Amit Gawande

Amit Gawande’s struggle is very recognisable, also after ditching most if not all passive consumption. There’s always more content, and its creation outpaces your intake by many orders of magnitude. In the ’00s I blogged quite a bit about information strategy, one where abundance of information is a given. Most of the information strategies and tactics I learned earlier were based on information scarcity, or at least on a scarcity of access to abundant information. That’s when I assumed information and content abundance, and that my agency lies in starting from my information needs. My agency turns overload into abundance, a switch created by a change in assumed locus of control.

When we say “I cannot keep up!“, what does ‘keeping up’ mean really? At some point I realised it was mostly an outside perspective and projection by others that I internalised. From a time where most information thrown at me was chosen by others (school e.g.). That perhaps instilled the notion that the value of information is determined by the sender. In abundance the value is in the attention I pay to selection and to the hunt for the types of surprisal I want to encounter. For many years now I’ve been practicing (and regularly failing to different extends) an inside-out perspective where my current interests and tasks determine what’s worthwile to take in.

There I see my network of peers as a large scale antenna and a filter that work because of distributed conversations taking place between us. They share with me, I share stuff with them, the feedback loops lift signals above the noise. I’ve learned to trust that if it’s important to me it will surface again, because of those feedback loops. At the very least it made me unafraid to click ‘mark all items read’ daily in applications, and treat my never diminishing unread stacks of books as an anti-library available to explore when I have an actual interest to pursue. Keeping up in such a perspective is ‘easy’, as it is my own speed that I need to keep up with and not the global firehose of everything produced under the sun. There’s no need to see it ‘all’, just enough. It keeps being a struggle though, with all media trying to keep pushing everyone’s ‘pay attention to me’ buttons.

Maybe, I need to make peace with the fact that I cannot keep up. I cannot keep up with the growing list of brilliant books. I cannot keep up with the gifted writers churning beautiful essays. And, with a heavy heart, accept that I am okay with it.

Disengaging from passive consumption has helped me. But there’s too much good content that I can’t keep up with.

Amit Gawande

In reply to [Bookmark] No End to Content Overload by Frank Meeuwsen

Inderdaad er is altijd meer materiaal dan je tot je kunt nemen. Je tip is herkenbaar, focus op de diversiteit in je eigen netwerk en op je eigen nieuwsgierigheid. Aanvullende tip: digitaal is het makkelijker heel verschillende stemmen een plek te geven in wat je tot je neemt en met wie je interacteert. Mijn via RSS gevolgde netwerk is een stuk diverser dan mijn toch cultureel en geografisch sterk bepaalde netwerk hier om me heen in Nederland.

Een tip: omring je met mensen die iets anders lezen en luisteren dan jij en praat er met elkaar over. Zo heb je een leuke dag én je leert iets nieuws.

Frank Meeuwsen

Julian Elve writes about capturing notes from various sources, in response to my new little script to capture web articles directly from my feedreader into my markdown notes. I will need to reply to it more later, but to signal I’m continuing the conversation, I want to respond to one thing immediately, specifically to this bit (only just starting to play with this, but if I can’t see how I can process what I might capture with the tool, there is no point in starting down this track)

Julian Elve

I follow along with Chris Aldrich’s Hypothesis stream in RSS and it’s highly informative for me to do so. Similar to Julian I have concerns starting to use it myself, if it means adding a silo next to my regular workflow. The type of interaction and annotation I have/do with a source text I normally do locally. Unless it can be a PESOS (Post Elsewhere Syndicate to Own Site) flow, exchanging that current value of processing things locally for merely the potential for interaction and conversation is likely a bad trade-off for my learning.

Hypothesis does have an API, which offers a way forward perhaps. A few weeks ago I added at least tracking who else is annotating my blogposts to my list of things to create. Julian’s nudge maybe means reevaluating that starting point, and aiming higher to also fetch whatever annotation I might make myself (I do have Hypothesis running in my Firefox browser, despite not using it much).

It starts I think with playing with the API anyway. I have a day off later this week, hopefully I can use part of it to fire up Postman and explore the API.

In reply to a remark by Chris Aldrich

I think the point of an anti-library is not to read it all. In that sense it is not problematic that it grows faster than one can ever read. Adding something to a personal anti-library is not an expression of the intention to read it. It’s not a ‘list of books to read’. It is a preselection of things that might be interesting to read for future you. When future you is pondering a question, or exploring a topic, they can use that as filter to actually select a few books to read. Adding to the antilibrary is preselection, picking to read from it is the actual selection. For each of those 574 books you preselected Chris, do you write down why you think they’re interesting? Keeping the preselection arguments available to yourself cements its effect, aiding actual selection later. Since a year or two I jot down my motivation and associations with books as well as web articles I clip and save. It helps me a lot selecting things to read later on.

In looking at a target for how many books I’d like to read this year, I realize that I added 574 books to my list of book to read in 2021. At this rate, my anti-library is growing exponentially with respect to the books I’ve actually been able to read

Chris Aldrich

In reply to Social Readers by James G

Over the years I’ve blogged about what would be an ideal feed reader to me, and also mapped it to how IndieWeb standards might help realise it. In the end it all goes back to how I in 2005 described using feed reading as information filtering, and the inputs, reading and resulting actions it is built out of. That is still my approach, and it is as high friction as it was back then in terms of how well existing readers and tools cater to those needs. Plenty of space for feed reader evolution as you mention!

I would particularly love to hear parts of web readers you like and dislike. If you could build a social reader tomorrow, what features would it have?

James G

Extending my note / notion collection in the past three months has emerged a new tagging practice.

I’ve started tagging notes that I encounter with the keywords that led me to wander through the notes and encounter such a note.

A significant difference between my current notes collection and my previous use of Evernote for it, is the ease of linking between notes. Adding new notes means linking them to relevant existing ones. Following those links later means I end up in notes from a thought or association that led me down a path. If one of those notes strikes me as relevant I find myself adding tags based on the thoughts or associations that led me there.

This is an extension of my existing tagging practices, as it adds traces of my searches through the collection of notes, or rather my findlings.

Existing tagging practices already included adding tags naming the reasons and associations why I made the note, what triggered my interest. (An article ‘the 10 biggest tech developments to watch in 2021’ might be tagged ‘prediction’ and ‘2021’ e.g.)
I also use as tags the terms with which I think my future self should be able to find them, tags allowing search in different languages (I write notes in 3 language, but have notes with parts in at least 4 other languages which I can read ok enough to keep the original), and tags denoting some time, status or action (urgent, waiting, sharpen etc, year/month/day of creation) which taken together means usually tags are words that do not feature in the content of the note otherwise (which would already surface in a full text search). I don’t use tags as objective descriptors much, as mostly those terms will be in the article or note already, and they don’t add much meaning for me other than as pretend categories.

The way I look at other people’s tags is how their use of different words than mine for the same things is an expression of socio-professional distance. Others likely will be using their own jargon for things, and the more different that is, the more likely you are part of a different community than the circles I operate in. This lets me use tags as a pivot to find other people and communities of interest and connected to my own current interest. (Allowing me to e.g. extend my feed reading by social distance to additional voices unlike the ones I already follow. This was what I appreciated in the Delicious bookmarking service, as it showed you the tags used for your bookmarks by others, and let you navigate to their collection and profile).

With the new tagging practice, adding tags to a note over time based on how/why I found that note will allow me to see how my own language evolves. This leads I think to a similar measure of socio-professional distance, but now between my past, current and future selves. It will be highly interesting to watch over time if that happens.

Tags to me are a tool to aid associative emergence of connections and meaning, and I think this new tagging practice I find myself adopting will aid in that.