Information Consumption

I don’t have a girlfriend giving me grief about too much time spent ‘on the computer’ like Mat does but still, what he’s saying resonates a lot with my doing and thinking in that matter.

I fail to understand why it could be wrong to want to consume as much knowledge as possible. It’s not as though I’m playing Minesweeper all day, nor am I watching videos of dogs in funny hats; I’m reading plenty of blogs, essays, news, analysis and synthesizing it for what it means for me and where I want to take my career. It’s important, even crucial I would say, that I not miss a beat, lest I start to look around and feel out of touch with the very Web whose future I’d like to help shape. “Old” you can quickly become, when you start neglecting the ever-changing web technology world.

Absolutely, all that information is not only one of the most interesting parts of my job, it’s also very important for the “profile” I have and from which contract often result.

My laptop has become the physical representation of countless stacks of old-media tomes, only more easily searchable, discoverable and digestable. Whole worlds of information, of all types, lie beyond the laptop screen; but the magnitude of that world of learning & exchange is rather invisible to other people.

Reminds me of my feed reading. It’s happened a number of times that if I mention reading up in the morning people are like “whaaa?? freak!”. Then I remind them that they pick up the paper and read news… I fire up the feed reader and read news. Why is it different?

Same if I have my laptop out in a cafe over the weekend. You’re working?? No (ok, sometimes yes), I’m reading. Novel is normal, laptop isn’t because it seems entirely different. Reading the same material on paper is mostly “intelligent time / learning” while reading it on the computer is “anti social”.


mtl3p April 26, 2007

It’s simple.

Can you not check your email an afternoon, a Sunday, or after dinner? Do you?

If not, you’ve got a problem and you can deal with it or not.

All my friends know that I don’t have internet access at home. That’s my solution. Because I found myself not able to resist checking my email first thing in the morning (like before I took a piss) or right before bed. Renting a workspace so that I can have that work/life separation. It also results in my not using the internet for pornography, which feels much healthier.

I think we vastly overestimate the usefulness of most of the time we spend online. As well as deceive ourselves about the reasons why we do it.

Patrick April 26, 2007

“Can you not check your email an afternoon, a Sunday, or after dinner? Do you?”

Why is it horrible to check email in the morning though? Do you answer the phone if it rings in the morning? It’s just a different tool to communicate.

There are two issues here. Addiction. Which I don’t suffer from. And using the same tool for multiple things. I’ll probably have spent 10-11 hours in front of the computer today but I’ll have used it for work, communicating with friends, entertainment and research. Why is 11 hours exagerated on the same device but ok if I’d used; newspaper, phone, powertools, a novel and a movie?

In my example I’d have been doing something more physical at work which you could argue for but aside from that, I’m not more or less living or varied or balanced by using my laptop than something else.

Would it have been a better choice to meet friends for dinner? Absolutely. Has nothing to do with the computer though, it’s vs sending time reading.

Now, if I can’t help myself reading stuff online and reject dinner offers because I can’t stop. That’s a problem but it’s only tengencially related to the tool I was using to read.

What Mat touches on is the stigma around so much time spent using that tool being applied with no regard to the variety of things you might be doing with it.

mat April 26, 2007

Stigma is the right word, and I wish I’d used it in my piece.

It’s obviously rooted in the early days of computers and the Net, when computers were seen, almost uniformly, as the domain of a certain (read: uber geeky, anti-social)slice of the population.

Many of us now, while still decidedly geeks, have rich (personal and professional) lives on AND away from the computer. Old media is precipitously devolving, and we’re replacing it with new forms of consuming the disaggregated bits. That much of that consumption occurs on the computer is not something to be warred against, just because.

Rather, we need to consider how much information we consume, and whether or not THAT is healthy, and what we do with that incoming knowledge stream… The tool of consumption is of little consequence. The fact that such a stigma persists, is surprising. My sense though, is that like online dating, the stigma is rapidly losing steam.

mat April 26, 2007


“I think we vastly overestimate the usefulness of most of the time we spend online. “

That’s a very interesting proposition… I find it really difficult to quantify (or think objectively) about my rate of learning, growth & output in the online world.

Salary seems like the wrong measure. As I’m not a pure developer, lines of code does not either. Nor should # clients, or projects.

How does one put a finger on the expansion of thought, knowledge… maturation… being aware… ?

I’m interested in your thoughts.

mtl3p April 27, 2007

“Stigma is the right word”. Yes. I agree in that it is the response that is often merited for much of our time spent on computers.

I always understood this whole online/blog/gaming/facebook/email/im/spend-your-life-online thing as 60% nerd support group 40% worthwhile output. Mostly it’s a lot of people that for different reasons are more comfortable spending time online that in physical space in groups (myself included). Yes, there’s some wonderful discussion, citizen journalism, art, etc that happens, but for the most part it’s like any other marginalized group. I’ve been in a bunch of socially marginalized groups in my life and this one feels much the same.

So if geeks are spending time together online to support each other, give each other confidence, and pushing away the damaging idea of “normal”, then great. I’m in. If we’re trying to say that the stigma is fine (the idea of normal still exists) but that it shouldn’t apply to us because the computer is just like a phone and my job by myself in my room on the computer for 11 hours a day is just like your job in a company for a bos as a stockbroker/hr/marketing/sales person, then I think we’re deluding ourselves about who we are.
Obviously I’m generalizing here. Lots of computer people aren’t like this. But most of the people I know fit very well.

Patrick April 27, 2007

I’m not arguing wetter it’s different(yet) but I’d like to know what you see as the differences between “my room on the computer for 11 hours a day is just like your job in a company for a bos as a stockbroker/hr/marketing/sales person” ?

mtl3p May 2, 2007

hey – I left a response here. It never showed up.

Patrick May 2, 2007

Did you do preview then submit or maybe just preview?
(I know it’s a pain, it will be taken care of when I go to WordPress)

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