But ultimately, I think that good design is typically subtractive, not additive. The best digital products improve our lives--our lives in the physical world--while sucking up as little of our attention, mental effort, and personal information as possible.
I think it's only a matter of time before we see these attitudes become more prevalent (precisely because they are controversial/reactionary), and the general design ethos of Silicon Valley shifts as a result.
One of the key tensions of the near future may be between minimalism and maximalism in this way: should we throw more and more computation power at every single "problem", brute-forcing a solution to each for its own sake? Or should we optimize, and find the smallest, least intrusive, most elegant and simplest solution? I know which one sounds better to me. But will that drive business revenue? We'll see.
Perhaps more importantly though, at a certain point--by creating so much digital detritus and complexity, our brute-force solutions and ever-present computation create a new set of problems (such as the need to filter information aggressively to get any useful value from it--which is what minimalism is all about). So maybe this is just the realization of that. We need a new layer on top of the computation infrastructure to __reduce__, to complete our maximalist designs. Either way, interesting.
The trouble is, vanishingly few current products are designed to improve our lives first. We became the product existing to provide more data.
So we ended up with social networks that show us what produces most ad views not what's most helpful to network your friends and relatives. We've got phone "apps" that are just thin clients and give us todo apps that can't trigger an alarm unless it's got 4G.
I've ended up with an eclectic, almost intentionally obsolete, version of digital minimalism. I use old desktop apps, command line, text editors and old widgets. There's barely a web 2 app installed on phone or laptop, and browser visits social media less than once a month. Back to the 90s?
I'll visit here, reddit and one or two others for an hour a day. I need the net far less than 5 or 10 years ago unless I'm working, well researching.
The most interesting thing about the article, some of my tech friends, and where I've ended up is the number of techies who are starting to reject much of what we built!
This, more than anything, is why I refuse to view ads and jealously guard my data.
I'd like to be as optimistic as you. But actually (sadly?) this already happens. Those who want to "improve" their lives at profit-from-advertising are running A-B tests to evaluate the "best"-ness of their design/development based on clicks, ad revenue, conversions etc. Those who wish to promote a political or religious viewpoint ...same.
You may not ever want to have your life "improved" in the way I choose to "improve" mine. There will be some digital technologies that leave the Facebook crowd feeling that they have better lives and others that do so for more niche markets (HN, anyone?).
So glad the 'wearables revolution' is now relegated to dusty bottom shelves of target. Next on the chopping block is 'internet of shit', utility drones.
He gave online dating as an example.
Turned my iPhone into a almost-dumbphone using Configurator and have seen nothing but improvements to daily-life.
First was how to deal with news. I find the 5 minute NPR news briefing podcast from the latest hour is great. Honestly, news just does not change that much, so listening to that briefing once or twice a day is plenty. If I have more time that day, I'll also listen to WSJ tech or Planet Money podcasts.
Next, the Google app on the iPhone does a great job at summarizing things I typically want to know about. I was using the Apple equivalent of this, but it simply does not know me like Google does (for better or worse). I can open the Google app and see the weather, traffic, etc..., scan it and go.
For email, Inbox is configurable to only send alerts for certain classes of email. I get alerts only when they matter, and everything else can wait until I'm at a computer to check.
That's not what minimalism is for most people. I want a lot of things. More than I have time for. Minimalism is about figuring out the marginal value each of those provides and eliminating all but the top x percent.
It's about reducing the stuff you feel you need. Your approach sounds more like you are not doing that.
>I find the 5 minute NPR news briefing podcast from the latest hour is great.
Sorry for changing the topic, but as a former news junkie, I've long wanted to write a lengthy essay on how/why to read the news. If there is one thing I would want people to get out of that essay, it is that when it comes to news, the path of moderation is the one that will make you the most misinformed.
There's so much misinformation out there that the only way I could get an idea of what was going on was to spend many hours a month reading up news from multiple sources, and potentially multiple analyses. Only then would you get a fuller picture. Any given single story was highly likely to be missing or misreporting key information. And certain stories would not be covered by some organizations but covered by others. By listening to a given news outlet, you have no idea what important stories are not being told.
I did this for several years before calling it quits (too much time for not much personal value). But I knew from my past experience with dealing with people who only "scanned" the news (or listed to the news summary on BBC/NPR) that they tended to be quite misinformed. So the only option was to more or less quit altogether.
Even then, a few months later, I found myself having opinions on current events. Why? Because I still randomly scanned newspaper headlines while walking or listened to NPR broadcasts while driving. I had become the misinformed person.
The person who doesn't follow news altogether tends to be less misinformed. They are certainly ignorant, but they have fewer faulty notions.
These days, have I really gone cold turkey? Not really. I do still read/listen to it. But I do it while refusing to draw any conclusions.
Long story short: If you want to follow the news, either do it wholeheartedly or quit. No middle ground in this world.
Regardless, what I was really getting at is following the 24 hour news cycle treadmill is a pointless game. It is far better to get summaries and dive deeper when something interesting comes up and/or you have time. At no point did I talk about drawing conclusions. For those, of course you have to dive in a little deeper and even then you have to be aware those conclusions are only valid until the next bit of information comes out.
Learning to summarize and understanding the limitations of that summarization is a learned skill. We all do it every day.
Being informed is a probabilistic game. Every news source is from a particular perspective, with some bias and some error. But unless they are all ultimately controlled by a conspiracy, or have systematic bias / error, consuming more news sources will increase the amount of correct information one has about the world. There is a definite trend towards being more informed when consuming more news sources, particularly if they are from different ends of the political spectrum but with high reputation for accuracy.
Whether being informed is useful to the average citizen most of the time is another question entirely. News as entertainment, hyped headlines, the continuous need for updates that drive 24-hour news - I don't think these things are good for anyone. They always search for sensationalism, always look for a hook that drives an emotional response, outrage, anger, fear, nationalism, racism, bigotry - they appeal to our worst impulses.
No newspaper would ever run the headline "Majority of People Safe and Prosperous" or "Dems, Reps Agree on Most Things". Nobody would ever read a newspaper that gave an accurate depiction of the world around us, because it would be dismally boring. That's the big lie of the 21st century.
Different media sources focus on the fears of different subsets of people, so they'll exaggerate different things. I think these things cancel out too.
Weekly newspapers such as The Economist and The Week are better-than-average news sources.
Even then, the sources you pick have to be varied as you say. Reading solely MSNBC or FoxNews for 12 hours a day is not the same as multiple sources.
Going off another tangent, if I ever write that essay, I plan to address this point.
Why do people follow the news? How much do they need to be aware? For most people, over 95% of the news they are aware of are useless to them. They don't make any (direct) decisions based on them. So why the need to be aware? (Not asking you personally, just bringing up the point in general).
(However, while they do not make any decisions, they do draw conclusions much more often, and this can be reflected in where they spend their money, and who they vote for).
>By your logic, everyone is misinformed because there is literally an infinite amount of news and sources now.
In the pure sense of the word, sure. But the curve is not linear. The shape of the curve is a bit like a shifted sigmoid. If you read a little, you know a little, and much of it may be false. As you read more, you'll hit a threshold where your knowledge goes up dramatically, as well as your ability to remove the false things you heard earlier. When you go even beyond that, the curve becomes very shallow again. You could read forever and keep learning more, but the marginal gain (in knowledge) is minimal. Likewise, the marginal gain in reading just a small amount is minimal as well.
>It is far better to get summaries and dive deeper when something interesting comes up and/or you have time.
Let me ask you this: Think of the times you did dive deep (and I mean very deep - not just a few hours on a topic, but following every bit of news on it for months).
Now compare your knowledge on the topic with the person who only heard it through the NPR sound bites. How often is that person misinformed when you listen to them talk about it?
In my experience, it was "often enough". I don't want to say "more than 50% of the time" because I didn't do a thorough study. But it was often enough that I don't kid myself about my knowledge when I listen to NPR news summaries. I have to assume everything they're telling me could be wrong.
>At no point did I talk about drawing conclusions.
I hope you've asked yourself why you listen to the news. (Again, no need to tell me if you don't want to, just something you should ponder for yourself).
News comes is a lot of forms. There is gossip, national, world news, and everything in between. Then there is industry specific news carried on sites like this one.
I like knowing some amount world news because I like to have perspective on the rest of the world (traveling is another thing I try to do often for the same reason). I also have some family members in the military, so updates on the worlds hot spots is a nice to have.
National news is much more likely to impact my day to day, so it's nice to have some idea what's going on. This can be anything from what is currently happening in NC, to the latest economy numbers. I have to admit though, the vitriol on both sides of the election has been one of the driving factors in cutting back on my news post election.
Then there is industry specific news and news from sites like HN. Reading random summaries about topics on HN does often help me in my day to day. Many times a problem has come up, and I remember reading about something that may solve the issue. That summary reading becomes a jumping off point for a deeper dive into some new tool or process that may solve problem.
> Now compare your knowledge on the topic with the person who only heard it through the NPR sound bites. How often is that person misinformed when you listen to them talk about it?
Misinformed or underinformed? Knowing that Aleppo is a city in Syria where there is an ongoing refugee crisis, but not being able to articulate the details of all the players in the battle is underinformed. That's different than thinking there are US troops fighting Russian troops in Aleppo which would be misinformed.
I also know that NPR is not going into depth on any topic, but they tend to deliver whatever current facts are out there. Do they have to edit and possibly leave out some facts/stories? Sure, but I do not think they are delivering fake news or anything of the sort. I would love some sources showing NPR purposely reporting non-factual information.
Of course, since it comes out ~hourly, it would certainly be possible to report something that was thought a fact at that time, that then later changed.
This has gotten a bit long, but I would enjoy reading your essay if you ever get to writing it.
I'm mostly talking about political news. What I said applies probably a lot less to tech or sports news.
And don't take me as a news ascetic. I often listen to NPR while driving, too. I just actively try not to have any feelings for what I hear, as well as try to ensure I do not pass what I hear along to anyone (this is easy to do in small talk, and a habit I had to force myself to stop).
>Misinformed or underinformed?
Mostly the former, but it does include the latter. I'll speak more about it below. For the "misinformed" portion, I am not claiming NPR news summaries have (intentional) incorrect facts. However, take the example of people who only browse headlines (be it in a news stand or on a news site). They may read the full article if something sounds interesting enough, but mostly they will just see the headlines.
When I got into heavy news reading, I was completely surprised by how many articles directly contradicted the headline. I mean, many (but not most) of us may be aware that the headlines may miss some very important nuances that can be found in the article. But seriously: So many times the article directly contradicted the headline that I am no longer surprised about it.
That's an easy example of the average Joe being misinformed.
For me, being misinformed is broader: Having an opinion about something based on information that is incorrect. And you can end up this way even if all the facts you heard on the news is true.
Humans, by default, do not like ignorance or confusion. Generally, if they are underinformed, their brains will fill the gaps subconsciously. A minority of us have learned to guard against this, but otherwise, it is the norm. Most people will form an opinion based on the notions that the brain filled. Being uninformed does lead to being misinformed, unless the person guards against this. You and I may do this, but most people do not.
I honestly think even you and I, who may actively guard against this, cannot do a good job.
Take the issue of Muslims, and the opinion people who barely know one have of them. You'll hear a lot of interesting things (and usually not the "good" kind of interesting). It's easy for me to explain it away with "oh, probably some propaganda they heard on talk radio." But I've found that model doesn't hold up. The negative perception holds even for those who've never been misinformed about Muslims. They have, however, been underinformed: Almost all the news they hear/read is negative (terrorism, women's lack of rights, etc), and thus their opinion is negative.
Let me put this in a different way. It's always amusing to me to see someone here in the US get so happy when they hear something positive/uplifting from the Arab world. I wish I could think of better examples, but I'll go with these for now: "Qatar held a public, civil debate on some hot topic". Or that the Arab world had their own, local version of "American Idol", but with the competition being about eloquence and poetry.
That happiness is usually due to being misinformed. Their view of that place was something about a backward society, and they see this as a "step forward". They had a faulty perception of that society in their mind - faulty enough to think that this event is a "big thing" in that society, and indicative of something big. They are/were misinformed, and even without being told any lies about the place. It all happens subconsciously.
It is arrogant for me to think "Yeah, but it only happens to them, and not to me!" I may have some control over it, but I'm sure that even if I listen to all my news with a skeptic mind (but without going in depth), I will end up being misinformed on a number of topics.
Moving on: Let's take the Aleppo example: In the 3 minutes where they talk about some new event in Aleppo, NPR will likely state facts. But will they state only news? Not always. It is common for them to end the segment with some context. Such as "Syria has been in civil war since 2011".
That's not news. That's context. What's more, it is editorializing. Why did they decide to include it? And why not include more context? Or even some other context? People who are strongly passionate about a news topic notice this very quickly, particularly when they are not happy with the context provided.
The above example seems benign. But let's take Michael Jackson's arrest in around 2003 on child molestation charges. Suppose they had mentioned the arrest, and then ended the brief segment with "He had been accused and investigated for similar behaviour in 1991".
Should they have said that? For most people, that is sufficient context. But for his fans, they'd be upset that they brought up the 1991 case without also mentioning the outcome of the 1991 investigation (never charged, etc). Others may fundamentally object to it being brought because they'll feel (as I believe the law's stance is) that earlier history is not relevant to the current case.
How often, when casually listening to NPR, do we scrutinize and distinguish between news, hearsay (I did not even get to this topic), and context? Ideally, we should always scrutinize it.
>but they tend to deliver whatever current facts are out there. Do they have to edit and possibly leave out some facts/stories?
If they are omitting (time constraints, etc), then they are not delivering "whatever current facts are out there" They are delivering "a few facts that are out there".
Some random points (not related to your comment):
About a decade ago, Iranian president Ahmadinejad gave a talk at Columbia University, the president of the university, Lee Bollinger heavily criticized him while introducing him to talk. He supposedly said "exhibit[s] all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator."
This made news.
Lee Bollinger really cares about human rights, right?
But that same day another president also gave a speech at Columbia University: The president of Turkmenistan. Bollinger also introduced him to the stage. But he didn't criticize him as he did Ahmadinejad.
Yet they have a horrible human rights record (if you're not aware, you should read HRW reports on Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) - worse than Iran's. I've ended this comment with snippets from Wikipedia to give you an idea.
So how much did Bollinger really care about human rights? Or is it more likely that he was merely capitalizing on the anti-Iranian rhetoric in the country at the time.
Very few news outlets noted this difference in treatment on the very same day. His criticism of Ahmadinejad made all the news. His lack of criticism for Turkmenistan's president mostly went unmentioned.
Do you see how easy it is to state only facts (his criticism of Ahmadinejad), and yet have people view Bollinger as someone who is acting out of concern for human rights? How would an ordinary person ever know otherwise unless he/she digs really deep?
"universities have been encouraged to reject applicants with non-Turkmen surnames, especially ethnic Russians"
"Russian newspapers were banned earlier"
"It is forbidden to teach the customs and language of the Baloch, an ethnic minority."
"banned playing of video games, listening to car radios, performing opera and ballet, smoking in public, long hair on men, and even growing facial hair."
"closure of all libraries outside the capital of Ashgabat in the belief that all Turkmen are illiterate."
"According to Reporters Without Borders' 2006 World Press Freedom Index, Turkmenistan had the third-worst press freedom conditions in the world, behind North Korea and Burma. It is considered to be one of the ten most censored countries"
But the OP clearly doesn't have enough self discipline (or more likely spends it elsewhere), so perhaps it is a good idea.
The battery life was very welcome too!
I had a Moto 360 smartwatch from day one, and that thing drove me up the wall after a year of use. If anything happened, my watch would vibrate, then my phone, then my laptop would ping, as would my iMac and then my tablet went off.
Even now I have my outlook client on a three hour sync cycle, and I don't keep Skype on unless somebody is working from home. If shit hits the fan, or there is a burning question/request somebody only need come downstairs to let me know.
That must be like leaving in a Tom & Jerry cartoon!
It does have a 5 day battery life now though.
... is an oxymoron.
It is plenty obvious from a quick scan of https://reddit.com/r/minimalism where they struggle with reconciling all different interpretations of minimalism on daily basis. For some it's asceticism, for others it's having just one Rolex instead of 10 Seikos. There's also a separate circus from the "Help, my SO wants to buy a 2nd fork!" variety.
There's no single prominent movement, it's very much all over the place and to each his own.
It's one and the same really. Once you have a bit more money the pragmatic live-in-a-shoebox minimalism tends to transform into the "aesthetic" variety - you still own a bare minimum that makes you happy, but you can now afford a better quality of the same. Be it a larger place or a more expensive pair of jeans.
"Need" is subjective and the rest follows from there.
>Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives.
The movement involves reflecting on your personal values, so of course it's going to have almost as many expressions as there are people doing it.
While it can be taken to the extreme, the underlying premise is true. Buy a new car and you're going to be worried about taking care of it. Buy a used car and you're a bit less worried b/c it already has some scratches. Don't buy a car at all, and you're never worried about the car (maybe how to get places if you don't live in a city...)
The goal should be to only add things to your life where the value is more than the costs. One situation where people have huge differing opinions is kids. Kids probably cost more than anything else someone can obtain in life. They are expensive money wise, time wise, and emotionally, but for some the value is huge, and others not so much.
I still struggle with digital minimalism. The current state of software is unbelievably fragmented. I have literally created over 500 accounts in my life. I have more than 100 apps on my phone. This so-called software diversity makes my life miserable.
I've been attempting to solve this problem for the past 10 years. I came to the conclusion that we need to create a single app that does 80% of things. Somehow, people still don't believe this is desirable or possible. I can't grasp why.
This is called a web browser
Like everything in life the answer is in moderation. I do also tend towards minimalism but as a way to increase my freedom, not the opposite.
These things increases my freedom.
Can you go in to more detail on the stuff you own?
In what kind of climate do you live in? It seems a lot easier to not have a lot of stuff when you don't have to have cloths for multiple seasons.
If you want inspiration, you can find it there: https://www.reddit.com/r/onebag/
Here's a good example: http://tynan.com/gear2017
I live in Canada, so it's not going to be as easy as if I lived in California.
You need to embrace the fact that delegating is ultimately more efficient than the alternative. You can focus a lot more on what matters when you let others cook for you, drive you around, repair your stuff, wash your stuff, etc. Once you realize that, owning a washing machine, a oven, a car, a house, power tools, makes very little sense. Unfortunately, these services tend to be expensive, but hopefully this will change once more people migrate to a similar lifestyle.
Regarding apps, you can't avoid them anymore. I have apps for door locks, alarms, parking meters, taxi, food, pressure cooker, time sheets, messaging (10), etc.
> Do you feel like having a second pair of socks would really weigh you down?
I agree that one pair is extreme, but it taught me that I really don't need more, which is the key here. I will mots likely add a second pair for convenience at some point.
> How is sleeping on the floor acceptable but having less than 100 apps hard?
I sleep on the floor by choice. I happen to sleep next to my bed.
How is this minimalist by any definition? None of those things need an app and work perfectly fine without one. It sounds like you are adding things in the digital sphere that you don't need and removing things from the physical sphere that you do need (for example a bed). Also - you have a bed, how is sleeping on the floor next to it 'minimalist'?
I've slept on a floor for 6 months - it is terrible for your back. We are not designed to live like that anymore.
- Without the door lock app, I need to carry keys.
- Without the workplace alarm app, I can't go to work early or leave late.
- Without the taxi app, I need to call a taxi.
- Without the pressure cooker app, I can't use half of the functions.
- Without the time sheets app, I need to use the website which is unusable on mobile.
- Without the messaging apps, there are people I can't easily communicate with.
These were just few examples, but I use a lot more apps. With everything now becoming "smart", we'll soon need a lot more apps (roughly 1 app per item in your house). That is, if we don't solve the app problem first.
> I've slept on a floor for 6 months - it is terrible for your back. We are not designed to live like that anymore.
I've read the opposite. I sleep very well on the floor, better than on a bed. Note that I don't sleep directly on the floor, but on a blanket.
Regarding sleeping on the floor - are you just folding up a blanking or are you using a sleeping mat? Also, is the floor concrete or wood and what material is it covered with (carpet, wood, tile, etc.)? My experience was pretty horrendous on a carpet covered concrete floor with a blanket to lie on and a sleeping bag to lie in. Have you noticed any positives from the experience?
Even if it only works 99% of the time, I consider it an improvement. If it doesn't work, I can use the garage door (with a PIN), or get the hidden key. I understand that not everyone have these options, but in my case it works out fine.
> Regarding sleeping on the floor - are you just folding up a blanking or are you using a sleeping mat? Also, is the floor concrete or wood and what material is it covered with (carpet, wood, tile, etc.)?
The floor is wood. Second floor. The blanket is currently an unzipped sleeping bag (cotton interior).
> Have you noticed any positives from the experience?
I was looking at alternative sleeping surfaces. I read about memory foam, air beds, water beds, futons, etc. Then I read about floor sleeping, and I liked the simplicity of it. Imagine not depending on a soft surface to sleep comfortably? I decided to give it a try.
At first my body would hurt, but after a week the pain was gone. I did not notice any big difference between sleeping on the floor and sleep on a bed, which surprised me (I thought it would be more difficult). I don't tend to linger as much as I did with a bed, and getting up tends to be easier.
Ultimately, I'll go with what is more convenient, whether that's the floor, a futon, or a full bed. I'm happy to know that I have this option, but I'm not religious about it.
> I'm obsessed with minimalism. I want all my possessions to fit inside my backpack. I own one pair of socks. I sleep on the floor.
is compatible with that:
> I have literally created over 500 accounts in my life. I have more than 100 apps on my phone. This so-called software diversity makes my life miserable. I came to the conclusion that we need to create a single app that does 80% of things.
I guess the problem lies in "100 applications that do things". What do they actually do? What are the 100 things they do? I don't have any app. I don't have any smartphone. Nobody had a few years ago. What problem do they solve that you cannot solve otherwise?
Maybe you want a color screen for YouTube/photos, but that's it.
If this feels more like a microwave or radio than full computer, this is something that someone like my grandparents would be very content with.
What I have a problem with, is walled gardens and UIs designed by hand. It makes no sense that the UI for hailing a cab, ordering a pizza or reviewing a movie should be different. What we really need, is a better language, a new communication paradigm.
I still struggle with internet addiction through my laptop, but at least the phone isn't adding to the problem.
One nit, the author mentions Orwell to describe today's social media. I would say it's more like what Aldous Huxley described in Brave New World and Neil Postman embodied in Amusing Ourselves To Death rather than an Orwellian world.
I agree, in the case of Snapchat, but I don't see this as a very convincing argument that tools that solve new problems should induce caution because of potentially addictive behaviors. It seems like the author is using a few choice examples to make an assertion when perhaps a better argument (that I am hoping someone can provide) could be made.
Silly argument from the author.