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I'm Giving Up Reading for a Year (curiousrat.com)
293 points by easonchan42 on May 3, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 104 comments



This is as good a place and thread as any to write out some questions that have been bothering me. Maybe HN can help out.

I've seen over the past several years several such posts (leaving facebook, leaving the internet, etc.) and they have a very raw emotional appeal to me. Some sort of a fast or a ritual quality to the entire idea.

Do others here constantly wonder about their internet habits? I may be generalizing, but being uncomfortable or suspicious of gradual habits we develop, does that show characteristics of "getting old" and "conservative"? The get-off-my-lawn type of mentality?

The same argument extends to smartphones, and "new fangled" tools such as twitter/foursquare/etc. Do others also perceive some tension in embracing a new lifestyle.

Or am I overthinking it, and it is just a general equilibrium-maintaining feedback mechanism we develop through life. Because, with the internet (especially reddit and HN) and ubiquitous access to email/information through the smartphone I find myself, for the first time, cautious about embracing new technologies in a way I never felt before (not even when I got my first computer, or the first time I had cable TV ... of course, I was a kid back then).

/end rant


I do not think we are "getting old" and "conservative".

I am 29 years old, certainly not a teenager anymore, but I am also without doubt not old. That we even have to ask ourselves this question goes to show there's something really fucked up about our world, probably because we are losing respect for the elderly.

I love technology and I think it's the answer to most of our problems, but its perseverance also scares me. That teenagers embrace it more than I do, that's only because teenagers are by definition raw and stupid, lacking the experience to foresee long-term problems ahead.

When I was in highschool I used to spend hours playing games such as Starcraft, Age of Empires, Quake 2 and Counter Strike. I was doing that instead of going out to play soccer or to have barbecues with friends. I was logging frequently to local IRC channels, instead of going to the beach. Now I regret waisting my time in highschool.

It's also easy for me to see how intense Facebook usage is actually removing friends from my life. That's because I don't have the curiosity necessary to see how friends are doing, since I find out from their Facebook stream, so one big incentive for asking them out simply disappears. And it is great that with Facebook I got connected to many primary school colleagues, but once past the thrill of seeing how they look like, I simply don't care anymore, as those people are actually strangers to me.

You're definitely over-thinking it ... as we grow older, we start realizing that the important things in life are the same as ever: sex, good food, family, friends, building stuff, earning money, living comfortably, going out, relaxing on a beach somewhere with a tequila, etc... anything that distracts us from doing those and we start seeing it as dangerous to our mental health.

E.g. I love my smartphone, I love how I receive my emails on it, but at night when I'm home with my son or on weekends when I'm taking walks in the park, I turn it off with no regrets.


> I love technology and I think it's the answer to most of our problems

I'd be curious to know which are the problems that technology solves, because I'm actually of the opposite opinion - technology is the answer to all the wrong problems.


A few problems Technology solves:

    Starvation (better agriculture, distribution, storage)
    Pathogens and illness (medicine)
    Environmental hazards (heating, shelter)
    Lack of human contact (transportation + communication)
    Censorship (distributed networks)
    Entertainment (media creation, reproduction, storage)
Now, if you define technology as 'The internet-focused startup world of social media and marketing that the buzzword "technology" often refers to', of which Instagram is the current poster-child, then you might have a point. Might. Slamming all technology because of that is to be willfully ignorant of what modern life relies on.

I'll take a world full of pop-up adds, viral marketing videos and spam email over a world in which my parents both died of Malaria in their 30's and I can barely get enough clean water to live on in my dirt-brick house.


Even social media solves problems (though admittedly much more minor ones than what you describe).

I had a problem keeping in touch with my extended family, Facebook has made this much easier.

I used to have issues with loosing touch with old friends (even ones you make a moderate effort to keep in touch with can become unreachable if you and they both move frequently), facebook helps.

Getting pictures of the kids distributed frequently without digital technology would have been difficult. Email made it substantially easier. Facebook makes it very easy.

I used to have a hard time finding resources for the game Go. Services like DragonGoServer let me play online and Google+ lets me find and talk to other Go enthusiasts.


I'll begin:

1- Since dropping from College, I decided to change friends. Facebook allowed me to get back in touch with older high school friends and also find new friends in the same area as me.

2- The Internet allowed me to work remotely to foreign companies. Skype, Github, basecamp... manages my projects and workflow. These technologies made it possible that I make a very good online income while staying at home.

3- I bought a Nikon D5100 the last week. I'm taking photos of everyday life and events, re-touching them and saving them (not in Facebook, just plain JPEG in computer) for the future as memories.

4- My SmartPhone, Tablet, and TV do a lot for me everyday. (productivity, communication, learning, and entertainment)

The issue is not with technology, but with using it. Some BigCorp makes addictive technologies to boost their earnings (online/social videos games). I play video games, but I'm a light player. Few hours a week.


A stone knife is technology. We as a species are intrinsically linked to technology.


Exactly. This is our evolutionary leg up on a world that would otherwise eat us alive.


So is a business plan, I want to add.


...you could even argue that technology has introduced a whole range of problems.

My view is that technology is power and power itself is neither good nor bad, it’s neutral. Power just increases the stakes, how the cards get dealt is the important point. As a society we spend a lot of time thinking about who has what power because we know what happens when you get it wrong. But, strangely, we don’t afford technology the same consideration. What happens instead is that whichever technology is just the right mix of popular and profitable proliferates while all others die. The implication of this belief is twofold:

* there are a whole load of great technologies with no means of generating profit that we will never benefit from

* there are a whole load of awful technologies that are profitable that have a negative effect on society that stick around.


I've seen firsthand that the Internet has done a great deal to relieve the social isolation of the elderly and the housebound (physical ailments or social anxiety).


I'd be curious to know how a luddite ended up on HN.


Stand up. Pick a direction. Start walking. Don't stop but to sleep. You'll find the answer soon enough.


> goes to show there's something really fucked up about our world, probably because we are losing respect for the elderly.

I (totally open-mindedly) wonder if that's partially because our elderly are getting older? We're getting better at keeping people alive after their minds have lost their edge.


I think this question is deeply rooted in the zeitgeist!

For me, investigation into it over the years has led me to Zen Buddhism, which though ancient seems to me almost incredibly relevant to our age.

It's a question of attention, awareness, reality & virtuality, mental health beyond the crude categories of psychiatry, desire, comfort, sacrifice, renunciation, virtue...

As someone steeped in internets and technology, this question is like a lens through which I view my whole life purpose and aspiration. And it seems increasingly relevant for everyone I know.

All this stuff is reality. It's affecting our lives, second by second. Our relationships, our selves, our life worlds. Not bad, not good, but profound and worth paying close attention to.

Here's a nice quote by Dogen Zenji:

"Even when you are uncertain, do not use this one day wastefully. It is a rare treasure to value. Do not compare it with an enormous jewel. Do not compare it with a dragon's bright pearl. Old sages valued this one day more than their own living bodies. Reflect on this quietly. A dragon's pearl may be found. An enormous jewel may be acquired. But this one day out of a hundred years cannot be retrieved once it is lost. What skillful means can retrieve a day that is passed? No historical documents have recorded such means. Not to waste time is to contain the passage of days and months within your skin bag, without leaking. Thus sages and wise ones in olden times valued each moment, day, and month more than their own eyeballs or the nation's land. To waste the passage of time is to be confused and stained in the floating world of name and gain. Not to miss the passage of time is to be in alignment with the way.

"Once you have clarity, do not neglect a single day. Wholeheartedly practice for the sake of the way and speak for the sake of the way. We know that buddha ancestors of old did not neglect each day's endeavor. You should reflect on this every day. Sit near a bright window and reflect on this, on mellow and flower-filled days. Sit in a plain building and remember it on a solitary rainy evening. Why does the passage of time steal your endeavor? What kind of enemy is the passage of time? How regrettable to waste your time because of distractions. If you do not know yourself, you will not be able to be your own ally in this great undertaking."


I'm sorry. A lot of this post just reads like a bunch of nonsense, especially this line: "It's a question of attention, awareness, reality & virtuality, mental health beyond the crude categories of psychiatry, desire, comfort, sacrifice, renunciation, virtue..."

I'm sorry, what exactly is "crude" about the concepts of desire, comfort, sacrifice, renunciation, and virtue? Also why is psychiatry slipped in there. That is a discipline, rather than an abstract concept.

As far as Zen and any type of Buddhism goes, if you're worried and anxious all of the time, or flying off the handle at simple things, you could probably benefit some from meditation. But as far as a way of life, it makes a lot more sense to me to try and fix the bullshit that makes modern life unpleasant and alienating, rather than checking out of the whole process.

The human mind is an amazing thing. It can adapt to many different ways of life and find happiness in them. Though i'd much rather spend my life having experiences, connecting with people, and trying to change the world for the better, than spend most of my time doing absolutely nothing.


Is Zen Buddhism more of a philosophy than a religion? Or is it a way of living?


"Philosophy" sounds too much like just a set of ideas. "Religion" sounds too much like just a set of beliefs and rituals. "Way of living" sounds too easy and fuzzy! But Zen does incorporate elements of all those things.

Zen is a tradition that is firmly based on the practice of meditation (zazen) as a way to gain insight into fundamental aspects of awareness and let go of clinging to concepts and self. This sounds very abstract, which is why Zen teachers sometimes prefer to express themselves very concretely, like in this story:

A monk told Joshu: `I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.'

Joshu asked: `Have you eaten your rice porridge?'

The monk replied: `I have eaten.'

Joshu said: `Then you had better wash your bowl.'

It's hard to talk about all of Zen at once --- though I guess any one word is sufficient, even silence says everything, or just snapping one's fingers --- so I think it's better to just look at basic zazen instructions and start practicing, because nothing makes sense until you taste that.

If you look at the formal aspects of Zen practice --- the rigorous monastery schedules, etc --- it can seem like a very stiff and rigid religion. And in one sense it is. But from the inside, this strictness is just a helpful way of intensifying.

Feel free to ask if there's anything you're curious about, I might be able to answer, though I'm really a beginner.


I have heard the same story told by Alan Watts, though his telling made it easier for a n00b like myself to understand the point of it.

In Watts' telling, the monk was at the monastery for quite some time, expecting that eventually someone would pull him aside and tell hike what to do.

After months, he grew impatient and told the head master "I have been here some time, yet I have not been given instruction".

The headmaster asks if he has had breakfast, and when the monk replies in the affirmative, he is instructed to "go wash your bowl".

For me, what the headmaster was saying was "if your expectation is that I'm going to lay out enlightenment in 5 easy steps for you, then you misunderstand zen. It is a mistake to be in the mindset of waiting for me to tell you what to do."

I'm interested to hear your take-away of that story.


I like that interpretation. These Zen stories always have many layers, I think, but for me, it's very resonant just as a simple story. Saying something like: don't go looking for mystical, sophisticated stuff when the proper thing to do is just to wash your breakfast bowl. A child might hear the story just like that: oh yeah, if I've had breakfast I should wash my bowl. But we're conditioned to make everything complicated.

Then I've also heard a more symbolic interpretation where Joshu is actually really asking about whether the monk has had some taste of enlightenment, and washing one's bowl here means getting rid of residues like pride.


Wonderful! I love the way Zen stories and koans invite so many interpretations.

As a casual Zen enthusiast, I have enjoyed two audio books from iTunes, which other newcomers may also enjoy:

* Zen Buddhism Stories (Trout Lake Media): This is a reading of many Zen stories similar to the one above about the monk being told to wash his bowl. Its great for light-heartedly pushing your mind in an unfamiliar direction. Many of the stories at first lie just outside your understanding, and invite you to ponder them a while longer. I listened to this audio book several times while driving the Pacific Coast Highway on a Californian road trip, which was a wonderful experience. Drive, listen, pull over, watch the waves, smell the sea, ponder, repeat.

* The Iron Flute: Zen Koans (Nyogen Senzaki): This is a much drier, academic coverage of Zen Koans. Koans are read and followed by commentary. Many of these are still very opaque to me (the koans are often a mystery, and the commentary only makes me realize they are even more complex than I had first thought). More challenging, but still interesting.

I've been encouraged by others in my zendo to focus more on practicing Zen (sitting zazen) than reading about Zen, but I must admit, reading about it is great fun :)


Questions like this can only be answered by asking what the consequences of the categorization is. Does saying "religion" make it worth dismissing? Does it make it a rival to Christian thought? Does saying "philosophy" mean that it has no consequent prescriptions for living?

Categorization for its own sake is definitively useless. If you want to compare Heraclitus to Joshu, go for it. Alternately, if you want to compare Pirsig with Aquinas or Kant, fine. If you want to figure out how to live, there's not much point to asking, "Is it a religion?" or "Is it a philosophy?": the salient point is rather whether or not there's anything worth enacting in your life.


Probably part of the question you are asking is "is there a deity in zen?", to which the answer is no.


Here are two things worth mentioning.

First, the "OMG EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE I WILL QUIT [insert the forum i am currently posting to/this social clique/the internet]" phenomenon is certainly not new, or unique to social networking sites. People used to say shit like this on slashdot all the time, and in many of the pre-social networking site communities i've participated in certainly.

Second, this isn't an old person thing. Most of the internet forums i grew up in were populated by 15-30 year olds. This is a general expression of frustration or displeasure with the circumstances around their social interactions. And with that, it's never a terribly genuine one. The ones who are genuinely fed up just silently leave the communities they're actually fed up with. And i'd argue that the loud ones are filling out an archetype we see in western culture all around us.


"People used to say shit like this on slashdot all the time"

I think that to myself about at least one HN article/comment every day :)


Take this quote from the original article for instance, "I’m also interested in a sans-internet reality as a technology writer. There was a time when technological innovation didn’t seem intimately linked to the internet." There was a time when using roads wasn’t linked to driving in a car, but there’s not much point in going back to that time.

While I only have an undergraduate degree in Psychology and there are others who can speak to this topic in a lot more detail, I feel it allows me to say with confidence that the main concern is that the potential threat of limited time in our hectic lives being seeped from us by the internet (and technology in general) comes with the responsibility to use self control more than ever. Walking away from the internet for a year doesn't solve issues with self control and in a world so tightly integrated to the "new fangled" technological tools we use each day to make our lives easier, it's our responsibility to manage that, not walk away from it. To each their own and in the end, this was broadcast partially for page views, but embracing changing lifestyles and new technologies comes with personal responsibility. We all assess and compare ourselves with others to make sure we don't get carried away, but that doesn't mean we should walk away from something. I really should formulate my thoughts and feelings on this better before replying, but it's how I view the situation.


I believe what you are zeroing in on at the end is well encapsulated in PG's Essay: http://www.paulgraham.com/addiction.html


Anecdote: A professor once told me he read that whole essay after I referenced it in a paper for an addictions Psych class and he loved it.

But yes, I agree, I am leaning towards what PG is saying there for sure as I think it speaks to a lot of the mockery of the original article as many see the issues for what they really are.


This is getting awfully off-topic, but I just re-read the essay and stumbled across this: It will actually become a reasonable strategy (or a more reasonable strategy) to [suspect everything new] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic_diet )

I didn't notice this double-meaning the first time around. As a fellow reader of the essay, do you think pg is implying that the Paleo diet is new or that it's a reaction to new food? First time reading it I assumed it was the latter, now I'm leaning to it being the former.


The former. The latter interpretation didn't even occur to me, although now that you mention it I can see how if you were a fan of the paleo diet you would interpret it that way. That's interesting, it is certainly possible it was the latter but it seems unlikely.

I'm still not sure I buy the double meaning interpretation either. pg probably meant to imply only one of the interpretations. He writes pretty clearly and directly. I think the former is much more likely, since that's the simplest interpretation of the sentence and it's accurate. The paleo diet is new (to avoid any argument from paleo fans it doesn't actually have much to do with what paleolithic humans actually ate, so it's not old in that way).


As I see it, it's pretty clearly the latter.


As I see it, it's obviously the former


As a college student, I can identify. I don't use foursquare or twitter even though my generation tends to, because I feel as though they're not necessary.

I think maybe part of this is the community (HN/the startup world) you're a part of. Speaking for myself, I love the ideas that people present here, but often it feels like each website is just another toy. I see no reason to commit to them.

I've always been something of a minimalist though, so maybe it is just me.


I'm your age, I agree, and I'll take it a step further. I think these toys are causing an irrational exuberance.

I'm upset at all the polish, all the ten thousand variations on the same silly theme. They do nothing to advance our civilization. It's disheartening.

It's 2012, so why doesn't my OS know what I'm trying to do and solve problems for me? I wish this money and effort had gone into making a desktop environment that automatically tiled windows for whatever mental intent I have, removing any need for me to mentally do that. Why doesn't the environment know the type of task each process represents? Why can't it learn how I like to set windows up in response to any given input sequence and do that?

Another problem I have--Why do we need 'blogs' and 'websites'? We just share text, images, and video. Let's make a baseline platform for authoring, reading, commenting, sharing, upvoting, editing. Let's make it a hybrid of federated and p2p; articles get a real URI/URN and can be pulled from any server. No need for readability since it would be 'built-in': read everything in your favorite theme / font. Build an interest graph of users on top of this and you have an extensible solution ten times better than Prismatic; a testbed for every ML algorithm and recommendation algorithm we can think of. And it's software everyone can run/extend! Why the hell didn't we build that instead?

Maybe it's just my biology side getting through, but websites suck. Centralization sucks. We got it right with the PC, with the OS, with the internet, with web protocols, but seriously--websites were a step backwards. We stopped making general solutions and began reimplementing the same damn things over and again. Why? Progress just stopped.

I'm not smart enough to solve these problems / I don't research in these areas. I just hope to contribute meaningfully to metabolomics research. If this is something that irks you too, I dunno. Maybe we should get in touch. I'm just so fed up with the status quo / present paradigm.


> It's 2012, so why doesn't my OS know what I'm trying to do and solve problems for me?

I'd (half-jokingly) respond: ‘It's 2012, why are you still using a computer?’

If we're talking future, what you've described is one alternative. Another is not using computers for everything.

Imagine that a long time ago, in a galaxy far away, an efficient and relatively compact electric motor was invented. A revolutionary achievement for those who were aware. Soon engineers professionally working with electric motors appeared. But it was difficult for a regular person to operate one, and—let's be honest—regular people didn't really care about electric motors. However, people cared about other things: when someone combined an electric motor and a coffee grinder, it was a hit. Many a successful product making use of an electric motor was subsequently brought to the market. </narrative>

We put computers in things for a long time already. Is there a reason at all for ‘real’ computers (with OS, window managers, and all this stuff) to exist, except maybe for scientific tasks and programming?

Yes, today ‘real’ computers are already used by many. Mainly for communication, as well as for specific tasks like text editing, photo editing, video production, DTP. However, it's usually not very efficient. A person needs to deal with a complex generic system, which is intended for thousands of use cases—and as a result not really suited for a single one. It's understandable that most people don't particularly like using a computer, seeing it like a necessary inconvenience.

Perhaps we can figure a way to turn a computer into that magic multi-purpose thing you've described, that can ‘read’ our minds and do everything equally good. It would be fantastic. However, I think it's probably more likely to share electric motor's fate.


To be fair, there are some tiling window managers that basically read your mind with a bit of configuration. And yet people here use OS X instead (actually, I know two people using XMonad on OS X, but they're rare). Make of that what you will.

Now, of course they don't literally read your mind. Instead, there's some easy to write configuration in a nice language (e.g. Haskell) that communicates your thoughts to the manager ahead of time.


I would very much like to try XMonad honestly. I use OS X because I wanted the portability/power/battery life of a Macbook Air. I tried installing Ubuntu (as a starting point), but I wasn't able to get it to work.

I've been thinking about trying to write something similar (a very small subset) of XMonad that will do the same style of tiled WM on top of cocoa, but I'm not sure where to start.


For ten years, I'd used a series of window managers, but all in the same basic configuration, a non-tiling window manager with about 10 keyboard shortcuts I defined to move around a 2x2 set of virtual desktops copied from when Enlightenment first introduced me to the idea. I wanted to try XMonad after hearing people talk about it so much, but I figured with 10 years of having burned the same workflow into my fingers it would take me some time, so I sort of budgeted some playing-around time on my home computer of a few days before I even considered putting it on my work computer.

It really surprised me that by the end of the first evening I was already pretty good with it and by the end of the second day didn't want to go back. I disagree that it's a big productivity enhancer, I think there's some excitement bias there, but even after a couple of days I did find myself preferring it, which was actually contrary to my expectations.

It helps that I know Haskell well enough to truly understand the configuration file and configure it using Haskell qua Haskell, and not just copy-and-paste snippets from others (I also added some DBus support to manage volumes using Haskell DBus modules, though it's not tested enough to share), so I would say that if there's a tiling manager in a language you already know (Lua has one for instance, I think), you may want to try that one. I would also say this is not all that great a way to learn Haskell, the subset it uses for config is too small, and opaque if you don't already know what's going on. But tiling managers in general work better than I thought they would.


I did use xmonad on OS X a lot, and I liked it. Since I live mostly in terminal emulators and vim, tiling for X11 applications was plenty enough. So, I ran X11 with xmonad fixed to a specific desktop (as OS X allows you to specify that an application should always run on a particular desktop). I used the other desktops for Cocoa applications (without tiling).

Unfortunately, Lion switched to Mission Control, and I didn't revive that setup yet. It should be easy to do, since Lion now provides an option to prevent Mission Control to sort desktops by usage.


Have you tried "Shift it" for OSX: https://github.com/fikovnik/ShiftIt


Care to be more specific about these tiling managers and where I can find them? I've been minimising and maximising for about 20 years and am a little sick of it.



I'd like to also throw i3 into the ring: http://i3wm.org/


One more college student here. You make a few mistakes with your reasoning, but at the same time there's something valuable in your sentiment. The problem with your "baseline platform" is that it runs counter to both how culture forms and to how we process information.

First things first: there is no such thing – none, zip, zero – as raw information. Everything communicable is subjective. That subjectivity might expose objective fact, but even then, there's a subjectivity in which facts are brought up, how they're discussed, and ultimately what facts the communicator knows. You can't separate medium from message. That applies to everything. Rhetoric and information are inseparable.

Your "read everything in your favorite theme/font" assumes that the purpose of publishing is readability, when publishing is just as much about contextualization and "experience-crafting" (too tired to think of the right word). The publishing process lets people decide whether something looks like it'll be worth their time, and it does that in part by creating a certain experience around media consumption that frames the media in question. This process doesn't start when somebody themes a blog or calls an agent. It starts the moment you begin to try to express yourself. There is no such thing as communicating without an audience; every form of communication is a form of publishing.

It's through this process, moreover, that culture forms. From our specific choices we notice and abstract what we believe to be our values. These values then define both how we choose to function within society, and as these values spread they become our society. This is as valid online as it is anywhere else. Gaming theorists refer to a "magic circle" which divides a virtual world's reality from any other; a book I'm reading, Communities of Play, follows online gamers who are forced to migrate to a series of other games, and studies how the values they developed in one game influences their behavior in other games (and watches them try to recreate the original game in scriptable environments like Second Life).

You talk about "authoring" and "commenting" and "sharing" and "upvoting" and, hell, even "editing" like these are all concepts everybody agrees with. But look at the difference in culture even between near-clones like Hacker News and Reddit. Then look at the difference between these sites and sites that are only slightly different – Newsvine, MetaFilter. By the time you get to something two steps changed – 9gag, say, or traditional web forums – you're looking at an entirely different way of processing information, even though you're still looking at essentially the same systemic process. And that's before you look at sites with entirely different purposes. None of those sites have remotely the same purpose as Flickr, and Flickr has little in common with Instagram, and Instagram has nothing in common with, say, TheSixtyOne.

Look, if you're a biochem major you ought to understand that minute variations on a micro level leads to profound changes on the macro. Saying that information can be broken down into text/images/video is like saying that life can be broken down into carbon/hydrogen/oxygen. The magic is that a few basic building blocks can lead to ten thousand variations on the same silly theme, as you say. That's not a bug. That's a feature. I'll take that a step further and say that the magic of computers is how they allow ANYBODY to program systemic processes, so we're seeing systems and cultures evolve that literally never could have existed before. Cultures that rely on passing information that never could have been passed before. That break all preconceived notions of how cultures can exist.

From this baseline computing platform came web sites, a primitive but effective way of creating localized systems. From these web sites came cultures – cultures within sites but also between them, like Communities of Play addresses. The web site is still among the most basic ways for people to publish. I'm publishing my thesis this year as a web site, because I can do things with hypertext and javascript and css that I could never do with paper. The book version of my thesis will be the deprecated version in a number of ways. Does that mean the web site is the only way to publish within these systems? Of course not! Newer and cooler things will evolve with time, and people will rely on the World Wide Web less and less and less. But the WWW is a great equalizer. It's given rise to voices that never could speak before.

Protip: if you're feeling frustrated with the "ten thousand variations", stop reading tech news. Stop reading your Facebook friends. Take control of what you read. Don't rely on fucking Prismatic – it means well, but ultimately it's a hedonistic system, designed to show you what you want and hide from you everything else. Hell, don't rely on ANY recommendation systems. No Hacker News. No Reddit. Look for individuals. Search for people whose voices make you think. Create your own magic circle, your own tiny culture. Don't bother coming up with a platform or a startup to contain that culture. Just make the culture, and then build tools that help that culture sustain and extend itself. Maybe it'll never become huge, but it'll be big enough for you and all the people who think like you, and those are all the people you need. That's the purpose of a culture, after all.

I don't check Hacker News very often now (for reasons just stated), but if you'd like to talk about this more shoot me an email (i.am@me.com). I love having this conversation. Or just talk around this subthread without me, whichever. Fascinating, isn't it, how each thread in a conversation like this becomes a whole culture of its own...


The simple answer to your question is that those things are hard. While most of the stuff I see posted on HN is cute, it's rare to see something that has solved a truy hard problem. In reality, must people are content reimplementing the same things in the latest flavor of the month instead of trying to solve truly hard problems.


I'm upset at all the polish, all the ten thousand variations on the same silly theme. They do nothing to advance our civilization. It's disheartening.

"Strange how much human progress and accomplishment comes from contemplation of the irrelevant." - Scott Kim


> I don't use foursquare or twitter even though my generation tends to, because I feel as though they're not necessary.

> often it feels like each website is just another toy. I see no reason to commit to them.

In between these two sentences you highlight something important. At a certain point, it stops mattering what exists. All that matters is what you need.

Technophiles love trying out tools and imagining ways they can put them to use. It's fun, but it's also entirely unnecessary. (The unnecessariness is part of the fun!) If you're not a geek about this sort of thing, though, then all you need are the things which somehow extend your life in meaningful ways.

What worries me more than anything about startup culture is that by emphasizing the creation itself rather than the motive behind the creation, it often leaves people with the impression that the point of making a startup is to make a startup. And while many people do find success with that route, its opposite approach – live your life until you find something out of place, then build what you need to fix it – is much more commonplace, and often much more effective.

Mark Zuckerberg, he of Facebook fame, built a music player in high school because he wanted music recommendations. Released it for free rather than sell it to Microsoft, because it was about fixing a problem, not making money. Now read his letter to investors [http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2012/02/zuck-letter/]. He emphasizes again and again that Facebook was built to solve a problem: "We hope to strengthen how people relate to each other." Whether you think he's going about this the right way, it's clear that he built Facebook with this intent in mind. Its innovations have all been on this front. He didn't see MySpace and think, "how can I tweak this and steal their marketshare?", like many many other social networks did. He saw a social value in networking and sought to make a service that would fundamentally revolve around that value.

I use a number of services; my friends (mostly college-aged) and I overlap and diverge in a number of ways. What matters to us is our friendship. We use the software that'll let us interact in ways that we care about. Some of us even turn off our phones when we see each other in person. It's crazy!


I think it's important to examine your life and decide which things you're doing are positive and which are detrimental to your well-being. As you grow older, you have more constraints on your time and you also know yourself better. Those are going to encourage you to think twice. But there are lots of truly old people on Facebook and whatnot now, so clearly the cost/benefit calculation is different for different people. It's being conservative in the sense that you're trying to conserve your resources and not waste them.

If these fasts sound appealing, I'd say try it. Quitting Facebook, Twitter and Reddit are some of the best decisions I've ever made. On the other hand, I get a lot of value out of leaving feedback on blogs and Slashdot and here. So it's case-by-case for me. Any experiment that helps you know yourself better is at least worth considering and probably worth doing.


At some point in life (I really should write "At some points in every year") I/We feel the need to weed things out. There is a mental weight associated to all these things surrounding us and there is the whole "identity-through-activities-and-possessions" question that pops up every now and then.

As a matter of fact I decided this morning to stop having so much arch/debian/ubuntu/xp/7 installations on all of my computers. It was a mental weight to drag along (that and the loss of two extended partitions holding all of this sutff because I decided to create an new ntfs partition in an empty space, I disgress).

I believe this equilibrium you speak of is personnal. I sometimes ask myself if I am getting old because I don't want to buy "apps" and rather rely on the old paradigm "everything is a file and applications are juste file managing other files" and dislike the facebook timeline and twitter noise but then I remind myself that I am one of the few among my friends who don't think the new crop of teenagers and child cartoons are as doomed and rotten as they think they are (though I really don't like the current european teenage fashion guidelines).

I believe you are spot-on with the notion of "ritualistic fast". Most religions I know put some accents on fasting for the mind at regular intervals.

There are differences between technologies and adopting each of them without considering them for what they are isn't being old, it's being curious (or something like that). Let's be curious, not trendy.

/back to setting-up VM's instead of real hdd OS installations.


I think a lot of people are addicted to the internet. The internet provides a lot of benefit and is very useful but there is also a lot of entertainment available through it. And most of that entertainment is free or extremely low cost. I think that is why a lot of people feel relieved to get away from it from time to time. With other addictions (smoking, drinking, drugs) there is a very clear cost. Your health, and your money. As the addictive parts of the internet are free you don't really notice the negative effects until you stop. It all comes down to controlling your use and as I've said, when everything addictive is free it's hard to stop yourself.


There's an interesting book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which deals with the divide (in thinking) between those who 'get' technology, and those who don't. Quite a philosophical gem, that one.


I feel the same way...but only from a privacy implications point of view. Internet addiction, new fangled tools etc doesn't phase me in the least as long as I can maintain control over it.

One of the reasons why this whole "app" movement unnerves me a bit. There is no way of really knowing what these apps are doing with my info & when it will come back to haunt me.


I get the impression that you'd find Nick Carr a fairly insightful writer.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-googl...

Maybe worth a look, at least I find his insights striking.


Nicholas Carr is a good introduction, but he just touches the surface of this sort of thinking. A lot of his thought is like a popular version of stuff by Neil Postman and Albert Borgmann, though I'm not actually sure how much he's been directly influenced by them. To be fair, most of their work was done before the internet became widespread, so Carr's exploration of the online aspect of the impact of technology is quite welcome, but I think it also may lead some people to think that it's a problem unique to the internet, which is unfortunate. The internet is just a specific case where the issues are more pronounced, but all of these sorts of criticisms are really getting at the sort of thing warned against by Brave New World. There are those of us who think that we're rushing headlong towards the scenario that Huxley depicted because we're so freaked out by 1984 and the like that we're blinded to other, more insidious threats. Incidentally, a lot of these sorts of criticisms all trace back to Heidegger's thought. If you've got a solid foundation in philosophy, "The Question Concerning Technology" is a fascinating read.

P.S. I apologize if anyone finds this post a little too esoteric or off-topic. I just have strong feelings about the way technology is used; I think that those who work to advance technology need to have a good understanding of the ethical considerations related to their work, and that most of the time this is lacking.


For another, post-internet Postman/Borgmann lens, check out Douglas Rushkoff. He's a great thinker and writer, and one of his main areas of focus is on the internet and its role in culture. He's done at least one piece for Frontline on the internet's influence in shaping how we think and how we interact with each other, with companies, and with the world around us.


Not really, I think these authors are just idiots trying to gain readership.


Most of the "general public" that I encounter have already made this commitment, but for a much longer duration.


Unfortunately, the person who this post is directed at won't see it for at least a year.


Or at least six weeks.


Someone could print it out for him to read...


He won't see it either. "No reading" remember?



Ah, this explains it.

Original piece manages to be even more hilarious than the parody!


I give him 2 months.


He'll get cravings soon enough


I love this piece. The Verge has become the philistine's Rolling Stone. It has all the pretentiousness, and none of the cultural value. Everytime I read something on the Verge, I can't help but feel like there's an air of timeless importance being attributed to things that will be forgotten a year from now.

This might also simply stem from frustration over a systemic failure of technology writers to do their material any justice, or the press in general failing to keep people properly informed over the last 25 years.

But maybe I'm curmudgeonyly. Maybe there is value in knowing about a bamboo phone[1] while SOPA and CISPA threaten to turn it into a weapon against us. There could be some good reason for me to know that Kanye is banging a Kardashian while our President is allowed to assassinate US citizens with a simple say-so.[2]

I guess if I get a nice piece of satire like this every now and again, I'm good with it.

[1] http://mobile.theverge.com/2012/2/2/2766670/adzero-bamboo-ph... [2] http://m.yahoo.com/w/legobpengine/news/obama-lawyers-citizen...


I thought that Rolling Stone _was_ the philistine's Rolling Stone, but then nobody ever mistook me for Matthew Arnold.


I understand the satire, I just would rather see this in the comments of the original article. This feels more like a slap rather a thoughtful critique.


Really? It feels fairly well directed to me. The 'no internet' guy (who's name I've made a point to forget) was really egotistical about it. He even started an IAmA thread on reddit about it (link: http://www.reddit.com/r/tabled/comments/t14p6/table_iama_tec...).


Yeah, that is a very good point. I guess I just wanted to see this conversation die along with the original article. Because the 'no internet' guy was no doubt just doing that as link bait. Now this will be the top post tomorrow and it will have added nothing of real value.


At least he is honest.

. > > If you had to guess what your one cracking point would be, what would it be?

> Porn.


Why does it merit thoughtful critique? Sometimes a slap is the correct response.


In real life, maybe...behind a computer, probably not...in my opinion!



> but being uncomfortable or suspicious of gradual habits we develop, does that show characteristics of "getting old" and "conservative"? The get-off-my-lawn type of mentality?

Sounds like the opposite.

I have over the past 3 years lived abroad for a total of ~4 months, in Italy and France. I helped build a house and a shed. I had my laptop with me, but internet was limited to an hour a day, 56k is still pricey. Once in a while I flip my world upside down, and it always makes me stronger. Sleeping in a 2x2m tower with spiders bigger than you've ever seen before is good for you, and breaks a lot of habits.


I'm also an avid reader, bordering on obsessive. As you described, I read not only devour books, magazines, and blog posts, but signs, labels, billboards, and anything else where words are printed. I just spent four months in South/east Asia, mostly Thailand, and because I can't read Thai script, my eyes and my brain have had a much needed break. I've been able to focus on reading only what I've conciously chosen to read and have eliminated all the 'passive' reading I do by habit. I've also been able to focus much more intensely on my work without distraction. For anyone who has the ability to work virtually and needs to focus deeply onas project, I highly recommend such a trip!


Ironically, Paul Miller probably won't see this parody because he's not using the internet anymore.


I'm giving up on giving a fuck for a year!

Stay trendy my friends.

(I actually started this one quite a few years ago and it's still going strong. Allow oneself to think on it's own a little more easily!)


A bit over the top. I have hope that his being away from the internet will force him to report of the personalities of tech by talking face to face or over the phone. I think in depth personal stories and interviews of tech founders/engineers/designers etc. are fascinating. It's a great opportunity for The Verge to set itself miles apart from the competition.


I actually got a lot of benefit out of seriously cutting back my reading a couple of years ago. I found that rather than coming up with my own arguments and using examples from what I'd read to support them, I was just citing arguments from various books I'd read. It wasn't that I'd lost the capacity for original thought, but my mental habits had changed from trying to come up with something on my own to purely synthesizing and citing material I'd read elsewhere.

Some more extreme but shorter versions of this that I've tried include putting myself in an environment with no words for a few days, and spending a day blindfolded.


I was giving up before it was cool.


Yeah, it used to just be "loser-talk"


Ah yes the I'm giving up_______ trend. I said the same thing in the post Paul Miller made. If you want to give up aspects of your life or stop using certain services – can you even call the Internet a service anymore – good for you. I will not to judge you but FFS stop making public announcements. If you're really doing it for yourself. Keep it to your self.


whoosh


http://youtu.be/EC0TDci9hqg — as mocked by Mitchell & Webb (That Mitchell & Webb Look series 2)


RANT ALERT!!! "No reading"? What do you do to SMS, email, parking tickets, expiry dates on foods, music details, your watch, video games........ Except you're gonna lock yourself in a room and have a maid do everything, quit kidding yourself. And please reply all our questions and comments, 'cos I'm sure you came back to read them.


The article is satire in response to this: http://www.theverge.com/2012/4/30/2988798/paul-miller-year-w...

Perhaps a mod could add Satire to the thread title to avoid the confusion.


hilarious stuff! you should also consider logging your last 3 hours of reading and post it online, like how your targeted audience for this post of yours just recently did! :D


Why? Surely a balance can be made?

I'm giving up reading "giving up" blog posts.


It's satire.


Satire on what?



The Internet is Y-Combinator for sarcastic satire.


You should do AMA in reddit.


This isn't doable... I'll try to stick with "start your day as a producer, not a consumer".


Giving up reading is just "harder" than giving up the Internet.



Yes, I'm exactly referring to this.


Ha ha ha ha, so great.


I don't find this as quite a ridiculous idea as the satire presumably assumes.

Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. --Albert Einstein


I'm honestly surprised it took this long.


So brave


Hi Reddit, welcome to HN :)


I think it's laughable what he does for pageviews. If you read all, you'll notice that's quite the only reason.

Also if you read all, you might have discovered the Readability link at the very bottom. So just when you're done reading, the site offers to make reading it more comfortable.




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