HN has maybe one article every two hours that pops up to the top that I find worth reading, and maybe half the time worth upvoting. And that's the only good source of noise I have. Everything else is shit.
I don't care about politics. I don't care about the tech scene, or gadgets, or games, or celebrities, or sports, or this quarter's fiscal projections for a multinational corporation. You name a "news" story and I probably would hate to read about it. Even if I want to read it, it has almost no background information or anything more than the re-cutting of a press release with a paragraph describing why the press release was released. Regurgitated stock information with nothing of value.
Here's some choice excerpts from Google News, which I guess is supposed to be some representation of what's happening in journalism today:
* Microsoft unveils new, more window-like logo for Windows 8
* Robin Thicke Arrested for Pot Possession
* The mostly good and sometimes bad Top 10 moments of Tim Wakefield's Red Sox career
* [John] Glenn worries the US is ceding its space leadership
* Ohio AG DeWine switches from Romney to Santorum
* Identity Theft Tops IRS's 2012 "Dirty Dozen" Tax Scams
* GOP candidates fighting over Michigan
* Anthony Shadid, New York Times foreign correspondent, dies at 43
* FDA Still Wary of Diet Pill's Side Effects
I would recommend Instapaper's curated list of articles, which tend to be long-form and more interesting than most, as well as The Browser ("Writing Worth Reading") for curated quality content. http://www.thebrowser.com
But you're not going to find quality content many times a day, no matter where you look.
Creating writing that's thoughtful, attractive, linkable, rewarding, and current is, apparently, a hugely challenging activity that even a billion people only manage to pull off a few times a day.
Quite how you measure that though... I always liked the idea.
Then I think you may be on the wrong news site. I'm not saying that to be a jerk, I'm just saying that HN is a community-curated news site where the stories that the majority of users find interesting gets to the top. If you don't fit into that majority then maybe it would be better to find a new site that is more suited to your tastes.
Random Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
Ask.Metafilter (with accepted answer): http://ask.metafilter.com/home/answered
Hack a Day: http://hackaday.com/
LifeHacker Top posts: http://lifehacker.com/top/ or http://lifehacker.com/tag/top/index.xml
Wood Gears: http://woodgears.ca/
Cool Tools: http://kk.org/cooltools
I did make something recently, but with my free time and not at work, because basically work didn't feel it was important enough to pay me to make it. So instead of making it at work I look for other noise to fill in the gap when i've been coding for 5 hours and need a break.
But making something for the sake of making? I'm sorry but i'll never be one of those people. (Well, anymore. I have a directory full of 1/4 finished projects as proof of how productive it is to just make stuff for no reason)
...well, you get the hint. There are very many hours of great quality reporting there.
I loved Americana... until Radio 4 removed it and replaced it with an interminable panel game featuring four of the usual suspect "comedians" who seem to take up an inordinate amount of the station's airtime.
Now, I go the other way, and listen to a lot of stuff on NPR stations from the US.
There's lots of great journalism out there, and I mostly don't see anything wrong with that list you have there. Maybe little of interest to you, but all still news.
Go solve this one:
You sound like a typical bored teenager, with too much time on their hands, wearing their boredom as a nihilistic badge of honor, expecting everyone to entertain them, while simultaneously acting as if they know everything, thereby supposedly being superior to the entertainers. If you can't find anything good to read, then use your apparently copious time to write something which you would want to read, and then anyone who responds positively to it will probably be someone like you. Find enough of these people, and you'll have created a self-entertaining community. Hackers build solutions.
You're right. I do know everything. Everything except how best to use my time when I occasionally want to waste it broadening my horizon with unusual and interesting information. I typically walk around the house in underroos bragging about how bored I am. Then I zone out to American Idol.
I'm not sure what kind of parallel universe I'd have to exist in where writing about things I don't know anything about is possible, but once I find that reality, by golly I'll take your suggestion to heart.
What I don't understand about your comment is that you seem to believe that nobody ever gets bored at work or needs a break from a grind of meetings, coding, red tape, conference calls, etc. I envy your steadfast dedication. I, however, do actually need a break once in a while and enjoy reading about things that are interesting and new to me, or just enlightening in some fashion. Forgive me for crying about it into a thread about distraction.
No, they are pretty interesting. The teachers are boring, may be. History? The civil war? The Isreali-Palestini conflict? The poverty in the world? Water distribution in the world?
Go and look for the interesting parts. There are lot of interesting stuff in the world, apart from the tech scene. I wish I spent more time when I was your age reading about politics.
Sit in on some classes, check out the university library, find some clubs that seem interesting and hang out at their meetings, talk to professors and students -- maybe even get involved in some of the projects happening there. You'll get a lot out of this, I guarantee it. I can recommend this to people who've already attended universities too. Many of them could use some intellectual stimulation.
Hell, I could read Wikipedia for 8 hours a day and not get bored.
Interesting aside, I read "... a typical bored engineer..." the first time, which also worked.
Boom, boredom problem solved, plus nice contact network from all the cool folks I contacted and got to write something.
The function of news is to facilitate smalltalk.
I am reasonably convinced of this. News, as such, is mostly just something that you're supposed to have read so that you can get by in usual social interactions. What we read (and are supposed to have read) is very tied to our place in the social hierarchy. Most folks don't actually want news to be too personalized because then it loses its social function.
I stopped reading the news at one point -- for a couple years -- because of its persistent lack of depth. I realized that reading 100 BBC articles on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would leave me knowing virtually nothing about it, other than some factoids, whereas the same time spent reading books would be worthwhile.
There's an interesting problem to be solved here -- one that's been on my mental back-burner for a while. I'm not sure if Pandora's box can be resealed and we can work our way back to mediums with more depth and less distraction, but I both hope we can, and have much interest in the mechanism for such.
I've heard there are studies that confirm this (sorry, no citation handy), and I've also heard it said that Yahoo! Mail's success was due in part to their recognition of this fact. Put news next to email and you reduce the friction of social interaction.
Edit: The Habermas Thesis. http://hpronline.org/specialty-blogs/hprgument-blog/why-both...
It would be nice though if all content had an audit trail, which you could trace through to the original sources. Could be quite enlightening.
I agree - this is the key! I've been really thinking hard about the whole reputation problem. In a way, Google found a way to solve reputation problem on the Internet for website, and therefore their tremendous success.
Would equivalent method work on people - just give reputation points by Citation (or Followers, as Klout is trying to do)?
I don't think that's enough - plus my feeling is that there are bunch of dimensions to a Reputation.
And on top of all that - we haven't even solved Identity issue on the Net yet.
When Techmeme first started I had a conversation about this with Gabe Rivera - the founder of the site. He realized early on that he had to steer away from personalization because a large part of the attraction to Techmeme was the readers all referring to stories featured on it -for eg. 'did you see this on Techmeme'.
It facilitates conversations within the group of people that read the site as they are all literally reading off the same page. Apparently The Druge Report realized this early on as well which is why they go with one major story per day (or did).
When you are part of an industry or group you want to, or need to, know what everybody else is reading so you can 'keep up' and be 'in the loop'. In silicon valley tech is it Techememe (and HN) and in politics it is Druge, etc.
Reading How to do X better articles, on the other hand, not so much.
Case in point: I visit hacker news for the comments.
Not to mention that you would have read 100 articles from a single source that is a government-controlled channel of information from a country that is partly responsible for starting the Israeli-Palestinian mess in the first place.
It even takes itself to task hugely, as shown recently when a BBC reporter was destroyed in an interview about how much better the Sky and iTV coverage was than the BBC during the capture of Tripoli, by another BBC journalist live on air.
It's only the "gold standard" for mainstream sources, which is not saying much. For people shopping for more accurate information elsewhere, it's nothing to write home about. Would you take your technical reporting from the BBC? Well, I wouldn't take my world affair's reporting either.
That said, I have worked with the BBC several times in the past (and other outlets, as a stringer). No mainstream coverage is accurate, and a lot are just used to justify a point the reporter has already made. Don't be fooled by spectacles like a BBC journalist "destroying" another BBC journalist on air.
"His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and
politics he appeared to know next to nothing.
Upon my quoting Thomas Carlyle, he inquired
in the naivest way who he might be and what he
had done. My surprise reached a climax, however,
when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of
the Copernican Theory and of the composition of
the Solar System. That any civilized human being
in this nineteenth century should not be aware that
the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to
me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly
“You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. “Now that I do
know it I shall do my best to forget it.”
“To forget it!”
“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a
man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic,
and you have to stock it with such furniture as
you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every
sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge
which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or
at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so
that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it.
Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as
to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have
nothing but the tools which may help him in doing
his work, but of these he has a large assortment,
and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to
think that that little room has elastic walls and can
distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes
a time when for every addition of knowledge you
forget something that you knew before. It is of the
highest importance, therefore, not to have useless
facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
“But the Solar System!” I protested.
“What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted
impatiently; “you say that we go round the sun.
If we went round the moon it would not make a
pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”
I'm a big believer that what is easy to produce (blog posts, daily news articles) is generally less valuable than what is hard to produce (books, journal articles, working code). If you want to fill your 'empty attic' with high-value information, focus on the latter as much as possible.
I agree with you, especially in light of your "generally" caveat, but taking the lesson from the Holmes quote above... there are contexts in which the easily accessible approach of a blog post is far more valuable than a journal article on the same topic, along with the ability to provide prompt updates when the situation changes.
Context, my dear Watson.
In other words, the problem is not that we have too many pathways in the brain, rather that we spend too many cycles traveling down redundant ones. Let this allegory warn us to accept the scarcity of attention.
Your efficiency per unit resource may increase, but your total resources are still finite. Therefore, unless your efficiency increases asymptotically fast enough that the integral diverges (ie, infinite area), your total end product will still be finite. And I have a hard time believing that efficiency would increase that quickly.
Okay, I'll stop being pedantic now.
TLDR: BS! Reading good books unrelated to your main work is more necessary than ever. And that'a why closing the pipes of the noise is a good idea.
"Newspapers are a bad habit, the reading equivalent of junk food. What happens to me is that I seize upon an issue in the news—the issue is the moral/philosophical, political/intellectual equivalent of a cheeseburger with everything on it; but for the duration of my interest in it, all my other interests are consumed by it, and whatever appetites and capacities I may have had for detachment and reflection are suddenly subordinate to this cheeseburger in my life! I offer this as self-criticism; but what it means to be "political" is that you welcome these obsessions with cheeseburgers—at great cost to the rest of your life."
You might not find such understanding of people and of the world to be worthy goal in itself, but even so such an understanding is useful as a framing device or an anology store for general reasonsing. In the same way that a mastery of philosophy has value as a reasoning device.
And, there is the value as source of inspiration: pointers towards topics to read up on or ideas to incorporate into one's life/work
That said... I work in politics.
Unless your job is to directly action the news (e.g. if you're a trader, in which case I hope you have better sources than newspapers), "news" makes zero difference to your life, no matter how greatly written it might be. This is true of all papers, not just tabloids.
If you see coworkers chatting over a coffee, do you think, "wow, they're being totally unproductive. They don't need those coffees, they should be working!"? Of course not.
Consuming _and discussing_ news is a social activity. If your life is your work and nothing else, you'd be a very boring person.
Consuming information by choice allows us to express ourselves later with our opinions. Everyone should make an effort to learn about their surroundings to be an informed, contributing member of a democratic society. People say politicians are out of touch, but compared to a lot of Americans who willingly cut off their exposure to news, are they really?
It's actually funny reading your post, because you sound exactly like me when I was your age. As you get older, I think you'll learn to appreciate relationships with people more. The 18+ hour startup days lose their appeal.
If you are not an expert on a political issue. You are uninformed, period. You don't have time to write papers, do extensive research, email scientists. The reality of being humans is that we don't know most of everything and we can't. We specialize, not have uber intelligent men decide the fate of humanity.
This is the problem with politics. It's not that we are stupid, it's just that our brain can't store and think through the vast amount of knowledge needed to decide on multiple complex issues. To believe that we can build our society with informed voters in democracies is extremely naive.
- Sir Winston Churchill
Democracy is a luxury good that rich nations purchase.
To believe we can do anything else is the road back to Dachau.
These are the stakes: http://www.archive.org/details/nazi_concentration_camps
To believe we can do anything else is the road back to Dachau.
I am arguing that democracies can't work due to the impossibility of having informed voters by the way our democracies are organized. The first step to the road of better governance is acknowledging human limitation and nature.
And I am arguing that undemocratic forms of government have been tried repeatedly and found wanting repeatedly.
 I mean your actual social network, in the sense we all used that term before Facebook came along.
i'd like to mention that i wasn't really writing this from the perspective of productivity. i think it's a wellness thing to fade out noise.
My first step was keeping my iPhone out of the bed room :)
If you're not aware of these things, your boss is, and they are going to ask you to implement a screen that informs the user you are uploading their address book. If you've seen a large breadth of products and companies like Kickstarter, you will easily pick up on macro trends like UI/UX paradigms and significant technologies.
If you had some sophisticated filtering like a user has in another popular HN post today to get rid of things you don't like, you might miss out on trends like NoSQL or Node or Redis or Clojure, or you might upload a user's address book without permission and get caught.
If you are not up-to-date with your industry, I think in reality you will always be an employee of or a laggard to the person who knows about those things.
It might be worth it to push the boundaries in the other direction until you get too little information and miss out. You might be surprised how far that boundary is. It was certainly true in the author's case. Until you try, you don't know and you won't be able to calibrate your system correctly.
I don't think so. The Path situation is a problem precisely because we know that it is a wrong thing to do. So if you haven't heard of it you would probably decide not to do it like them.
I would even argue that this is actually the stuff you should ignore. The latest Sillicon Valley affairs, bloggers bickering between each other and so on. That's not even news, that's more like celebrity gossip.
The articles that I appreciate the most on HN are about how somebody has done something (which I perhaps thought of doing myself) and writes up precisely how.
"What followed were the most productive three years of my life."
It's become an addiction for sure, but I have had enough. Seeing someone else with the exact same issue, stating the above about productive years, is inspiring. I'm done, it's time to do things, get my life back on track. I don't need to know "everything", and I shouldn't try to build my world around that.
Thank you for making me realize it.
I decided was that if I was going to take the time to read something, I would get something out of it. I would only read things that were genuinely useful, interesting, or valuable in some way. I had to come up with a way to force myself to think about what I was reading a little, so I kept a text file on my desktop with a record of every single article I had read. I started with just copying the URL and writing a 1-3 sentence summary, and even this was enough to make me think twice before opening links - "Is this article worth the effort to think about it enough to write a summary?" That was still pretty quick, so I added two more requirements- a 1-3 sentence critique of the article- just what I thought about it, whether I thought the author was incorrect/lying/exaggerating, etc. - and something interesting in the article- the kind of thing I might bring up if I was telling somebody about it.
Writing these things for every article started to feel a little like English class, but it worked. I got in the habit of pausing to think about whether I should click a link or continue reading, I started reading closely and critically, rather than just skimming half of it and moving on, I started paying attention to which news sites, blogs, and domains had worthwhile content and which had garbage, and most importantly, I would actually remember what I had read, and could talk or think intelligibly about it. Also, even though I was only 'requiring' myself to write a few sentences about each article, I found that I often didn't mind writing more, and trying to put some simple structure into my written thoughts would lead to new insights.
I've stopped regularly keeping the journal, but the habit of thinking about what I'm doing while surfing sites like HN has stayed with me.
I think some people probably do this naturally but I've found that I tend toward zombie-mode.
I've recently taken to discarding my bookmarks and relying on other methods to save interesting links. If I want to save something for later use, I'll tweet about it, write a tiny blog post about it, or jot it down in a notebook. I'm not terribly diligent about it, but it's made a huge impact towards helping me filter what is truly important.
Perhaps we sometimes expect too much. You don't listen to music to remember the lyrics, you just enjoy it. And you can enjoy and discard a piece of writing too.
You can easily idle away time. Right now I'm procrastinating.
For example, how can you judge two presidential candidates' positions on foreign policy when you don't know what other nations have been up to?
The OP doesn't discriminate between junk news, entertainment news, and knowing what is going on in the world.
Argument #2: You probably need something like ten kilobytes of information to make a reasonable decision about which presidential candidate to vote for. This is way less than the amount of information that news-oriented people spend their time and attention to absorb on a single day.
(If you want to overkill, on November 1st you could read the election issue of The Economist cover to cover, whatever political posts are on the front page of HN, and the Wikipedia pages for the major issues. Then sit and think carefully for an hour. This would take about five hours, and I’ll bet $1 you’d vote for the same candidate you would have if you’d read five hours of political news per day for the last year.)
I think I'm going to use this method - it's an interesting exercise, and it's a great excuse to get people to stop talking to me about bread-and-circuses politics (e.g. what's discussed in this blog post: http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/000436.html ).
"Argument #1: Presidential candidates are noise. Unless you live in Ohio or Florida, your vote is foregone. If you want to be a good citizen, your time is probably best spent on convincing your friends to vote in local races. Or doing not-explicitly-political work that contributes to justice, peace and prosperity. A small career choice can do a lot more than the most forceful checkmark on a ballot."
This is an uplifting and encouraging message - and a far better argument in favor of anarchism than torching a Starbucks. Thank you.
One could make a good argument that this kind of faulty thinking is the reason third party candidates can never get any footing, and also the reason that we get such downright evil people elected.
Your vote is not "foregone" unless you choose not to vote. Period.
I think it’s not a problem in the utility equation for an individual voter, it’s a problem in the system. By definition, a vote in a non-swing state is insignificant.
Empirically, a good showing for a third-party candidate has no significant effect on the political discourse, and your individual share of giving that candidate a strong showing is negligible.
Voting in the US is badly broken. I strongly favor equal representation, a multiparty system, and other reforms. Part of getting to them is admitting things like my vote, for one, being foregone.
This is only true in the context of a single election. Over multiple election cycles, small movements in voting patterns can announce the start of a trend. Saying your vote doesn't count is an abdication of responsibility - 'somebody ought to do something about it, but 'they' would never allow it, hurf durf.'
As prodigal_erik points out in a sibling comment, this is a systemic problem with our electoral system. It has nothing to do with hurf durf.
Seriously, saying the median American’s vote doesn’t count is a statistically founded observation, not an ethical action. In terms of ethical actions, I’m advocating for the opposite of laziness-posing-as-cynicism. I want a kind of intellectual vigor about politics where we care enough to spend our resources where they’ll do the most good. We should care about school boards and our own jobs, not the essentially symbolic presidential vote.
Voting is like buying a spatula with a pink handle. Refusing to work with a company that donates to an irresponsible county commissioner is like convincing a bright student to work in cancer research. It’s way less cool and way more important.
The best way out of this is the (virtual) abolition of the Electoral College or the adoption of true electoral reform. These are more realistic goals than they might seem.
This article has relevance to this problem as well. The vast majority of people won't realize that news is just noise, noise meant to misdirect voters. If you really want to know about the candidates, you can look up their record and do some research. Unfortunately, this isn't taught in civics classes, and most voters are content with what their favorite news channel tells them about how good one candidate is and how evil another candidate is. Then they regurgitate the same talking points with their friends and neighbors and reinforce the media message, entrenching an opinion in non-swing states. The system will work if people would be more willing to participate and educate themselves, like Roshan decided he would do.
And I’m not sure it is bad. It’s the truth, and it’s best to trust people with that. Knowing that my vote is effectively uncounted makes me more, not less, politically effective.
If you read/watch American news, you think you actually know what other nations are up to?
This reminds me of a recent Daily Show segment that showed how Time magazine offers different cover stories for their international and their US issues on the same date. One example was the Arab Spring (international) and something on "doing chores" for us here in the US.
No one is remembered for being well read. - some blog post I've lost, but the quote is still written on my chalkboard, luckily.
when you don't create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create. _why
EDIT: I know it's ironic that these came from online sources. I guess the point is about balance and focused, purposeful consumption you later use.
People don't even read his very early political works much anymore. His new material is what gets most consumed and keeps his name in people's minds.
"RSS is best for following a large number of infrequently updated sites"
(Edit) related HN submission and comments: news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2959928
From 10 or so comics that are pure distraction (but great to steal jokes from), through blogs on fashion and style (at least I now know when I'm terribly dressed) to life-changing, paradigm-shifting feeds like Overcoming Bias (it's about signalling), The Last Psychiatrist (we're all narcissists) or Barking up the wrong tree (science delivered in tabloid style).
So instead of turning the noise down, this advice allows you to pick your kind of noise.
I like Apple products and use/write for them. I used to have MacRumors, 9to5mac, Cult of Mac, TUAW, The Apple Blog, TC, and a dozen more Apple-related feeds in my RSS (among other feeds). When there was a keynote or a new product announcement, all those websites would publish essentially the same thing over and over again, and I had to 'mark all as read'. I was using RSS wrong, and I'm glad I changed my bad habit. You're using it right and I'm sure you derive value from such a diverse collection of blogs!
Might work for you for a bit but if you want to change the world, you have to be aware of it.
History repeats itself more often than we think.
One of the first hacks for the TX-0 was Peter Samson's music compiler, even though the TX-0 was not designed to have such capabilities and to most people the thought was ridiculous.
The first hack for the Altair was Steve Dompier's rendition of "Fool on the hill" using the Altairs radio interference. The Altair wasn't designed for this purpose either.
For some reason, two different people from different decades looking at similar (But very different) machines decided to do the same thing with them, without any prompting.
There are universal concepts that humans try to implement, improve, and expand upon. Keeping these in mind while trying to do cool stuff will go further than most news pieces. (Even the ones about other people doing cool stuff.)
I'm yet to find the balance.
About 4 paragraphs of international news every day, saving you both your time and social dignity.
Democracy requires and educated and informed electorate [Jefferson], and if you don't know what the dots are, you can't connect them. Sure, willful ignorance will give you more time to be productive, but when society at large chooses this route, don't be surprised when things go downhill.
No! It is about politics. Note that most of the examples given are related to political events.
The OP does have a great point (I waste too much time on HN, perhaps); however, the kind of political aloofness desc/prescribed in the post is what, I think, is the root of the biggest political problem (not just in the US, everywhere): the best people who should be involved in politics are not. It is a common adage that the word idiot was used in Ancient Greek for a person who was not interested in politics (unless of course you were a woman, slave, or farmer).
On the one hand: no, my life would be considerably less richer if I did not pay attention to the world around me. This includes knowing who the President is and understanding why that matters, particularly in the case of the US's first black President. I grew up in Texas, and it matters to me to know that he and my father (or his predecessor) would not have even been allowed to attend school together. Regardless of one's political affiliation or outlook, the issues at that level matter, and our opinion matters. To 'embrace embraced not knowing anything about current events and the world at large' is willful ignorance, and that's a value I find distasteful.
That said: of course one should manage one's intake of information. Of course one should counterbalance that with productivity. Of course one should be a source of value and not merely a sink for the news-as-entertainment complex that has gripped our society. RSS and other technologies should enable us to get control of those things for ourselves rather than watch Walter Cronkite for half an hour every night along with the rest of the nation and then go off and do whatever the party bosses say.
I agree with the problem, but the proposed solution makes things worse. Education - formal and informal - has value in making better citizens of all nations.
Or put another way: It is wiser and easier to start from zero and add the valuable things than it is to start with everything and remove everything that is not valuable.
Thinking back on my first year of university is painful. I wasted simply too much time 'browsing' the Internet. Every free hour I had I tried to plug myself in and enter zombie mode. I told myself that there wasn't enough time to be productive and that the day was too short. All while spending hours a day looking at cat pictures for one or two laughs an hour. With that in mind I would encourage anyone reading to self evaluate.
Going cold turkey is hard. Once you remove random Internet browsing you'll find that the day is actually quite long. I would suggest having a project to throw your new found free time into.
Brown v. Board was in 1954. Obama didn't start school until 1967.
I'm quite familiar with the subject, thanks.
Those lawsuits dealt with de facto segregation based on neighborhoods, not de jure segregation based on race. It had a similar effect on the large scale, hence the lawsuits, but that doesn't mean that Obama himself wouldn't have been allowed to attend. Obama didn't live in the 'hood. His grandparents, with whom he lived in Hawaii, were white and well-to-do, and he attended an expensive private school (current tuition: $18,450/year, not including fees).
I guess my rebuttal would be that the news i was reading didn't make my life any richer. it's all so pandoring that it's intentionally not rich, I think.
I struggle with this a lot, as active filtering takes work  (and I'm clearly not the only one ). Curated news aggregators and preferential browsing suggestion (StumbleUpon) try to address the problem. Mostly I think it's a matter of dedication and of degrees. To what extent do you maintain a laser focus (but are boring to hang out with) versus being a worldly-wise life-of-the-party type (but spread to thin to innovate on any one thing)?
This habit of information snacking totally screwed up my sleeping schedule as well. It got so bad that sometimes I used to stay up till 5:00 in the morning checking one board after another and then sleeping till 12:00 pm next day.
While it did not affect my business, it did take a toll on my health (my lower back) and also because of this I used to find nothing of interest any longer because my brain had started picking up patterns in stories, funnies, and everything else i could find online. Worst part was I could see that what I was doing was not good for me but like every addiction I really didn't have enough motivation to stop it on my own.
Anyway, last year I had to shift my house. And for some reason the only ISP in that area took over a month and a half to install the damn internet connection (some legal issues over digging with the gas pipeline company). On top of that the 3G sucked so bad that even opening Gmail took 3-4 minutes to open.
Long story short, call it a forced rehab but because of that one month of life without internet my life totally got back on track. My sleeping schedule was fixed. I found my old guitar again, and now I spend time on a tonne of other interesting stuff instead of hitting F5 one random sites.
*BBC (UK taxpayer) and Economist (subscription) are among the exceptions.
Here's a 2008 article pointing out that news' focus on the moment is also a significant failing: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/03/against-news.html
This 2008 article also points out the social function of news: as a common topic for discussion, particularly for determining compatibility with others (whether of belief, intellectual interest, etc)
The HN article makes a great point about how much this info effects you. If news media let their audience know that nothing happening right now was likely to effect their lives in any way for at least a week (at best, more likely never), then audience would only tune in once a week, which drops viewing figures by 86%. Also, only checking news once a week lets the information settle, and often key details emerge which negate previous reports.
Another useful trick, if cold turkey is too much, is to put a one-day or one-week delay on all incoming news (ie waiting a week to read newspapers). If nothing much is lost by a weeks delay, then its easier to go cold turkey.
I still go on web sites, obviously, but increasingly I see them as less relevant. Forum-style discussion in particular, whether it uses flat or hierarchical threads, encourages a combination of pedantry and the lowest-common-denominator. OTOH real time - or near real time - communication tends to motivate a link to useful long form content instead of a bad attempt to replicate it in context. This post is a great example of such. It should be done up as a full article and then linked around. As a comment, it'll probably be "lost" forever within a few days.
I budget between one and two hours of my self-directed workday to skimming various tech and business blogs. I save HN for last and scan every new title line. I usually read about 15 - 30 articles during this period.
Furthermore, while I'm waiting for a build, or for a test to reach the point where my interaction is required, I go back to HN and check the page or two of new title lines.
I consider myself a productive Java programmer, writing about 30K lines of code per year for my startup project. I could create more LOC if I did not read the tech news, but I would face two issues: (1) burnout, and (2) the need to stay current with the technology.
Additionally, I have steered away from possible infrastructure dead ends by observing trends, such as the move to mobile HTML5 apps.
For example, I changed career because I read about how Banks screw people over and how Big Data is becoming important. Also, I decided not to work for a company, because I read it in the news how it's basically slave work and how the owners have it exceptionally good. So now I'm starting my own company, doing machine learning in finance.
It's relatively quick and keeps me informed. I don't watch any of the cable news channels and don't listen to talk radio. And since I've stopped watching CNBC, my stock portfolio has been doing better as well.
the world, life, is much more than work, work, work. understanding broader contexts, understanding where we are going and why is important. even as a founder, to come back to this extremely narrow narrative within these halls.
how do you understand you market, your consumers, your customers? a contracting economy bears different potential than an expanding one. how will you know where we are if you do not inform yourself?
how about reading a book or two, not the daily babble? you mention you've read the news but didn't understand anything. if you do not inform yourself, you will repeat the mistakes of others.
you sound like one of those pretentious fucks that don't watch tv, don't listen to current music and are proud of it. it bears of ignorance, of disregard of the output of other human beings.
IMO, reading several short summaries of current events is a better solution than limiting yourself to 1 or 2 stories a day. That's exactly why I created a website that crowd sources summaries of news articles. People come in, read the news, and get on with their day.
 http://skimthat.com - Crowd sourced news summaries.
Another source for news summaries is http://www.newser.com and if you like videos you can try http://www.newsy.com/
Back in the days I was writing for a news blog so I used to subscribe to 100+ blogs and news website, in french or english, I was alerted of a post more than twice a minute.
My day was, literally, to sit in front of my computer and read, filter, subscribe, unsubscribe.
The only way I found to stop this addiction after a year of up and down was just to stop using NetNewsWire and Google Reader (don't ask me why I was using two of them, more filters...).
3-4 years after, I just check reddit, HN, couple of french websites and know more about american politic than my country's politic.
Someone mentioned in passing that Michael Jackson had died and I thought they were just teasing our lack of worldly knowledge.
I liked this post and I think a concept at play here is that people are afraid of the quiet as they're afraid of themselves. I experimented with different teaching methods and that while I was over in the Philippines and using silence and good questions were the most effective methods I came across outside of having genuine understanding of the person/group.
I'll give AP Mobile a try, thanks!
Almost everything we do in adult life is to make social life easier. We go to college, learn new language, we read news, we buy things. All this has an small practical value but huge social impact. Knowing what's going on the news is a HUGE part of our relationship with others.
Spending 10-minutes a week reading pop culture or sports news, or keeping up on what concerts, events etc are coming to your area payoff huge in meeting new friends, dating, building relationships at work and so forth.
Nothing is frivolous except excess.
Travel forces you to be offline most the time. You don't watch tv or see "news" much at all. After a while you don't even miss it and actually prefer life without it.
At least that;s what I've been doing for the last three years. Works pretty well.
But I didn't write this comment just to agree with the OP. I wanted to add..
<i>Say that you somehow didn’t know we found and killed Osama Bin Laden last year, I claim that your life would be virtually the same if you did.</i>
That is probably true, but let me add something that takes even more of people's (or at the typical american male's) thought capacity and the knowledge of it is DEFINITELY meaningless: The fact that the Giants won the Super Bowl two weeks ago.
With the disclaimer that I am formerly a pretty big sports fan, it astounds me how much detail people know about pro sports. They can talk endlessly, for hours. The amount of time they spend just attaining that knowledge each season - it's gotta be comparable to the amount of time it takes to learn and become proficient in a new programming language. It's the same amount of time to perhaps take and do all the work for not one but several MIT/Stanford online learning courses. It's the same amount of time that, devoted to exercise, would transform an overweight person into shape. Every year! Yet they spend that time watching and reading about the NFL.. - and to what end? So they can be knowledgeable enough about the second-string tight end on the Packers that they can have a locker-room conversation about it?
Of course, the same can be said about entertainment in general - indeed, the OP's point was that news, while claiming to be important, is just entertainment. And while I didn't watch any news or football games this year, I'd be a hypocrite not to point out that I did watch a lot of Star Trek with my son. The consequence of this became clear to me this week - we punished him this week for something he did by disallowing all screens - which meant the TV didn't go on all week (and my wife and I didn't watch TV either.) Without thinking about it, by the end of the week I had come up with an idea and was hacking away at a whole new side-project. I haven't done that in a long time. Feels good. Any my son? He's reading. Got into a whole new series of books he found at the library and has set himself a goal to read every one of them.
tl;dr: if news is a waste of time, what about sports and other idle entertainment?
"Buffett generally reads five newspapers a day -- the Journal, the Financial Times, the New York Times, USA Today and the Omaha World-Herald. Make that six -- he reads the American Banker every day too."
You got a high ranking hacker news story. I visited http://www.trybloc.com/ just now as a result of your story.
I am wondering what it is. The page didn't tell me.
Good advice nonetheless.
What I was failing to realize was I had the ability, just not the opportunity. Your ability can only be exercise only at max. 8 hrs if you have a job, and for the most parts it plateaus out, ie your first 100 hrs of programming provides more benefit than your second and so on[but not a excuse not to practice, I leave for another comment]. Your first hour of observing opportunity is good as your 10000th.
The thing about opportunities is that they don't appear to have any meaning at first, only when you go back and connect the dots. For instance, someone ask me how my resume looks so good. I would say I was helping a friend with their programming assignment who introduced me to their flat mate. Said flat mate studied philosophy. I knew a little because I hanged with a guy[while doing my undergrad] who had multiple degrees and he used to talk about guys like Hume and so on. Based on that commonality, we became friends. And what do you know, she was an expert at doing resumes, and helped me finish mines in no time flat.
I know it just a resume, but other bigger gains follow the same pattern. You only notice them in retrospect. Each time, I think I was goofing off, helping people out with their assignments, sitting with some guy talking philosophy and so on.
Sometimes, I see people and they ask for help. Why am I so different than them. They think I'm working with a bigger brain. I tell them you need to relax; get your head out of the book. It's non-intuitive. They tend to respond with you don't need to study, you have an in built advantage since birth. But, really is that the truth? If you get your head out of the book, you start doing things you want to do. You become curious, a positive pulling emotion.
You guys know how it's done. You find something new and interesting on HN, you research it. Then you find something from that new and interesting, and you research it. By the time you would have finished, you would have covered something you needed to study for, all the while remaining curious and looking particularly like a lazy bum. The other way around, things are a drag.
You add on that, the community has common themes coming through[eg. meditation, stoicism]. Raise your hand if you read "A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy." through solid recommendations on HN. And by God, it was a good book. It provides a perspective on life most would never get. With these common themes you can connect with members here, who might not be able to help you directly but indirectly opportunities might come their way that they might not be able to exploit and pass them onto you.
Also, it is not only about taking. It is about giving. How many times have you read a comment that refined your perspective or perhaps you gave an insight. What about when people ask for help on HN. Even if you just gave an up click, that is a massive contribution if you did it in the first few minutes of a post. If you think hard enough you will know these up clicks save/change lives.
What I'm basically saying drinking from the firehose can seem like a waste of time, but over the long hall it works out. Working on your ability alone means that you are trying to create an opportunity, and in a weeks period you can only create one opportunity if you work really hard, and it might not pan out. On the other hand, reading one hour of HN provides you with hundreds of opportunity, most you will not explore, but still you know they are there and can share with friends who can thus building strong relationships.
For instance, you heard it mentioned that one of the ways to create value is to see what opportunities can be exploit from delivering old technology in a knew way. Before, publishing use to take longer. Now, it is short with kindle, people can exploit that. Instead of giving their book one title they can create the same book with different titles and layouts[is this against Amazon policy], maybe even different content to match a different audience to scope a bigger payout. They can now use stuff like A/B testing[looking at paraschopra.] You see what I just did there.
It's either that or you need to tell me Chester go finish up my weekend project and stop procrastinating. But my thoughts are I'm winning so far for the most parts, and I never change a winning team. We observe it in basketball, there is this one guy who doesn't seem to contribute anything, but you are winning and when he is not there you are not winning[HN/News is that one guy]. Some smartass might look at it and say we can do better; lets cut this loser out, he is not contributing, then you start losing. You got too smart for your own good, never change a winner. Some things might be so complicated that you don't even know what is contributing to your success.
If you are on HN, and everything is going fine for the most part, don't change it, don't lose your competitive edge you lazy bastard.[Sorry if I sound incoherent]
So I must disagree with this post. The trick is to strike a healthy balance between consumption and creation, not to cut one or the other out almost completely.
Well, normally college years are the most productive years of anyone's life up to that point. If they're not you're doing it wrong.
Plus, if all you used RSS for is to keep up with "Bush's latest folly", then of course you'll be more productive giving it up.