Too Much To Read

I suffer from this a lot. At least, it seems this way. I offer some solutions to this problem, but I rarely take them. (See (EatingYourOwn)DogFood.)

Also see WebAddiction, ExcusesExcuses, BrainIoBandwidth?, FrontierMindset?, TimeManagement.

Compare TooMuchToDo and its inverse NotEnoughTime.

Now I've found some related (older) pages, I will make a vague attempt to make this page fit the PatternPattern. -- m


Context: The total information output of the world to date is, at any point, more than one human can grok. Unless the human has no interest in learning, this will be true even if he is given some magical process to filter out things which are uninteresting or not sufficiently useful to bother reading.

ReadingDebt
"the set of books that you have promised yourself that you will read someday but haven't purchased or opened yet"
ReadingDeficit
"the set of books that you currently are making an intention to complete. You must have already acquired the books and preferably have begun reading them"
what do we call...
stuff you would add to your ReadingDeficit if you know it was there
drivel
stuff you wouldn't read even if you had time

Fortunately the world currently seems intent on producing a flood of drivel, so I can cheerfully ignore that. 8-)

Problem: I'm only human. My ReadingDeficit, ReadingDebt and the uncalculated list of other things I might want to read are out of control. Things that I would like to read are missed and forgotten. I fail to acquire the knowledge I "ought" to.

If we were talking about food instead, someone might tell me "your eyes are bigger than your belly".

Forces: ConversationsAreRecursive? and even when focussed fairly tightly on one subject they can generate large amounts of information. Following and reading this is possible to some extent, depending on the number of contributors, because reading is (should be) quicker than writing. Cue [link to] digression about time taken to edit, and the improvement of signal over noise.

The more you read, the more you will be exposed to other things you may wish to read. This is a corollary of YouCantLearnSomethingUntilYouAlreadyAlmostKnowIt - your knowledge expands like a balloon, and so the surface at which new knowledge could be acquired is larger. Can I find a ref. for this somewhere? I suspect it's in GoedelEscherBach

Reading new things better equips you for doing things, but time allocated to either doing or reading may come from the same budget (personal or work-related, and the crossover between). Naturally there will be a conflict even if you have just the simple goal of DoAsMuchAsPossible?, since the productivity benefit from reading any item is often unpredictable. This is the ProductivityVsProductivityCapabilityBalance?(!) mentioned in SevenHabitsOfHighlyEffectivePeople.

Reading fiction in order to decompress, gain ideas or become less jaded might also be helpful.

Reading for its own sake is a valid and powerful force too.

...

Solution: Accepting that there is no solution would appear to be part of the problem.

KillFiles?, SpamFilters? and the like, SpeedReading are discussed elsewhere. They don't solve the problem, but they may alleviate some of the symptoms.

ConcurrentReading by use of TabbedBrowsing or multiple browser windows. Oh but this is the problem, not the solution!

SunirsReadingDeficit? might be an example of an attempt to ListYourWayOutOfStuckness, or to apply FeedbackIsControl. How's it going, Sunir? Not well; I'm reading WikiWiki instead! And I started a Masters degree (in wikis), which has drowned out my ReadingDeficit.

Perhaps the FAQ of NetFuture offers the key to jumping out of this loop:

Q29. Will computers give us mastery over information?
Part of an answer [...] realize that the essential contest is not between information management and information inflation, but between the obsession with information (well managed or otherwise) and the habit of quiet reflection. [...]
See http://www.praxagora.com/stevet/netfuture/faq.html#29

Resulting Context: At this point I fail to (take the time to) properly understand the PatternLanguage, and so this looks to me like a placeholder section. -- m

Design Rationale: Well in the absence of a solution...

Examples: I don't have time to read DilBert or UserFriendly every day. I gave up on SlashDot ages ago.

I wrote a shell script to fetch TheRegister's headline page once a week, so I don't miss something interesting when I do my fortnightly catch-up. Ah yes, I think we're getting close to your problem now. Thank you for being so honest. -- my shrink

Related Patterns: How about MetaLearning? There must be others.

Or maybe Possible causes: Apart from rampant curiosity, BreadthFirstLearning sounds like a plausible suspect.


[Description of ConcurrentReading refactored]

The real problem

I'm pretty bright. I finally realised this afternoon that the reason I always have too much to read is that it's barely finite. I'm not planning to ReadTheWholeWiki, but I hadn't actually planned on stopping either. It is like an open road in front of me, and I haven't even conceived of doing anything but follow it.

I've been here before. I have a bookmark folder called "saved state". It's a graveyard of links to things I was interested in at some point, quietly suffering LinkRot. I don't put anything in there now because I know it's a one way trip.

Still, it's time to GetaLife, or at least GetMyFingerOut? and WriteSomeCode? or DoSomeDiy?.


One solution is innoculation.

Some years ago, I was unemployed (and unemployable) for quite a long time. To prevent insanity from boredom, I though that I could capitalise upon all this free time by obtaining a reader's card for the National Library of Scotland. Now, NLS is a copyright library, there's almost nothing published on paper in the UK (ever!) that they don't have or can't get quickly. And some other stuff, too. The first thing I ever asked for was copies of the user's magazine for an obscure home computer that went out of production twenty years ago. No problem! Religious tracts from the 18th century? No problem! etc and so forth. All with a remarkably capable electronic catalog that almost seemed to delight in putting before you items you hadn't thought of that would be more interesting than the one you were looking for. After a few months of that, I hardly wanted to read a book ever again.

Since that time, the idea that (almost whatever the subject) I'm already years, if not decades, if not centuries, behind the curve has concerned me not at all. These days I read what I like when I like (or not) and feel no guilt about it whatsoever.


OpenAuthor authors[] = { MatthewAstley, and others };
See Also: BookStop
CategoryRant. No denying that.

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