A rantbox

Wed 11 August 2004

The problem with information

Posted by Michiel Scholten in posts   

Ever since I was a kid I read lots; hundreds of books before even turning twelve. The Commodore 64 and our 386 wheren't that great sources of written information. They where great fun [spell: great games], but computers got me reading when I started to learn myself Delphi. You can say much about it, but Delphi's help system is great. So, it was my first lengthy read on a computer; and in English too.

Then internet came along. At first we had a 56k dial-in connection. We had it several years, so if I wanted to do lengthy research I had to do it in the evening [lower costs] or at school [even slower, but at least it was free]. At a moment we decided to get a flat-fee adsl connection; wow, fast, always-on internet! And what a wealth of websites! I started to crawl programming sites, designed the second version of my personal website [first was programmed offline] and started to gather a list of sites I visited regularly. My hotmail address [from before microsoft took over] had long since overflown and Outlook Express [sic] was helping me archiving my old mail. Then we reorganized our network, I got myself a server and a mailserver of my own and I started reading more English written newssites. Then I came across blogs and learned about RSS feeds. Then I was lost :)

I had purchased a palm pilot device in the meantime and was reading ebooks like it was nothing. Plucker was discovered and I carried Slashdot and programming tutorials along with me.

My RSS aggregators now bulk from the feeds and my link dump grows exponentially. As the lower half of this post from Mark Pilgrim is stating, ain't I throwing away my life? It certainly begins to feel that way when I'm reading through the mailings I got daily in my inbox [neatly sorted into folders by the exim mail subsystem and read by using either pine or the neat program called Thunderbird - the only cross platform IMAP client that actually worked for me]. So I'm decreasing the number of feeds in my aggregator [just got me a bloglines account so I don't have to mark posts read _again_ when sitting behind a different computer]. I got sitebar some time ago, and it's a neat little linkdump. It says I've 45 folders already and 217 links. And that's since July 30th, only a dozen days ago. At least it's a lot better organized than my linkdump was.

The problem with information is that there's so much of it. I once heard that a special financial newsletter in New York [a very thick one] contained as much information as a Middle Age person would swallow in it's whole life. And I'm trying to gather that much information weekly from the web in digital form. And the supply keeps on growing. OK, I only read stuff that interests me, but there are so many things that do.

So, what's the reason I'm complaining about this? It's some way of letting myself know I should stop caring that much about all those feeds of information and start living. It's an integral part of my life, but there are days I don't do anything else besides it. Programming is almost entirely done at work. I want to stop that trend.

From now on, I'll try to do the reading at special points in my day, do less of it [filter less usefull feeds out of my collection] and start programming, hacking again. I'll sure feel better. Now if only I shouldn't have to learn for my re-examinations next week...