Healthy Information Diets are about Quality, not Quantity

20111105-rnttmwk1axa98hup8d2i7quwtThe best book I read this week was “The Information Diet” by author Clay Johnson. Recently, he posted on an aspect of his book I find interesting…

With information, we seem to have taken the worst concepts of dieting and applied it to our habits. Somehow an information diet meant throwing away your blackberry, deleting your Facebook account, or taking a “social media fast”. This kind of stuff isn’t healthy dieting, it’s anorexia. Banting had it right — we need to learn the skill of selectivity and choice, not the skills of banishment and avoidance. Nobody’s getting obese eating too much raw broccoli.

Our information diets are required to be much more diverse than our food diets are — whereas a college student in June and an accountant in April may require very different information diets, the food that keeps them healthy is roughly the same. That’s why the Information Diet is about habit building, conscious consumption, and measurement and not about telling you specifically how much to consume or what specifically to consume.

The first important habit you need to build to have a healthy relationship with information is measurement. The important thing to do on an information diet is to measure what you’re consuming, and then to start making decisions based on that data — those decisions should usually be to consume more of the good stuff, and less of the bad stuff.

Secondly, there are the important skills you get — the ones I describe in further detail in the book. Cultivating your data literacy to be able to delve deep into source material. CodeYear is a great commitment to make in this regard — learning how to write code will give you the skills needed to sort and look through data.

Finally, it’s about making some decisions about what to consume. And honestly this is the toughest thing for me, as an author, to recommend. My grandmother, for instance, read the bible every day, and I’m convinced that while it was the only book she ever read, she read it more than 1,000 times. I’d never suggest to her that she stop reading the bible — that’d be wrong. Instead though, I might encourage her to dig deeper into the source material there, and go beyond the King James Version.

Source: Information Diet | Healthy Information Diets are about Quality, not Quantity

I was already thinking about the topic of ‘what to consume’ when Clay’s book came along. In my ebook ‘Personal News Aggregation for Fun and Profit’ [registration required] I talk about using email for ‘just in time’ information and Google Reader for ‘just in case’ information, but I had worked my way up to almost 900 sources that I was tracking. It occurred to me recently that just because I can add a site to Google Reader easily doesn’t always mean I should. In the same way that Rupert Murdoch makes some judgments before buying a media outlet to include in his News Corporation, I too must have a set of filters I use before deciding to include a feed in my ‘news corporation’ as a trusted source…

More and more, I’m thinking about the ‘strategic alignment’ of everything I do on the internet – from consumption to production – with the ‘consumer’ in mind. Call me Captain Obvious, but in order to avoid wasting time or risk unmet ‘consumer demand’ it occurs to me that  everything I do – including the sources to which I subscribe in Google Reader – should be in line with my brand which in turn needs to be tightly aligned with solving ‘customer problems’ as my friend Nilofer Merchant says…

If you, like me, are thinking about the way you integrate information in your life, I highly recommend Clay’s book – it stimulated some great internal thinking about how and why I use my tools to support my business and personal objectives by consuming information ‘on purpose’. If you’d like to talk about how this impacts your life, comment below or use the connect tab above to start the discussion…

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