Inside Out

Notes on seeking wisdom and crafting software.

No news

I am turning off the firehose of news. I feel tired to keep up with the constant set of changes1. My recent wanderings in the Himalayas taught me one thing. My ignorance didn’t make the world any worse; it did make me way more positive. Fear of missing out is an imaginary figment of mind.

I’ll try to leave a note here for self on my tryst with news so far along with specific context in case we revisit this decision later 😉

News and me

I gave up reading newspapers during my undergraduate days. It was too much hassle to get to library for keeping up with the world or subscribe newspaper on my own. Reddit was in diapers then and Hacker News was born a year or two after. Zero news and happy state of mind.

This blog started the same year Reddit was born. I used to dig Wordpress a lot; I had an beta invite and was blessed with a 4 letter username 😄 Wordpress was a nice little niche; people were personal and we used to do this blogroll thing then. Loved this community.

I got a beta Google invite before I graduated. Google reader seemed awesome. I did a lift and shift of the blogroll using this awesome tech called RSS feeds. The honeymoon with Google reader’s interface and the little feed collection kept me high.

Google reader went off. The Old Reader took it’s place for sometime, followed by Feedly. None of them matched the lost awesomeness. RSS feeds and self curated news remained my primary source. Few years ago, I got initiated into the cult of self hosting.

Miniflux replaced all news readers. It is the home for my 479 RSS feeds collection 😁 All stayed well until I got the Hacker News RSS feed with almost perfect https://hnrss.org. It allows a custom feed of news with X points or more. What the heck, I thought this is the holy grail.

Hacker News and later Reddit turned out to be good max heaps. Throw in tons of garbage and the top posts always filtered the ones with maximum signal-to-noise ratio.

I didn’t care enough about https://lobste.rs or similar. I used the libreddit hosted instances for Reddit though.

Today morning, I had about 10k unread news items.

Entertainment and learning

I had a decision to make. Should I care enough to grok through the news items or dump them off?

Since March, I have been addicted to Reddit a little too much. There’s the LocalLlama community keeping me on the toes with latest related to Large Language Models. Personally, I do feel Hacker News has slowly become a bit too diluted for my taste. There’s news about almost anything under the Sun. It is not too different from the likes of The Times.

I didn’t do any HN or Reddit earlier this month. Ignorance has kept my spirits too high to care about anything else. I started questioning this state of mind though.

It turns out I dealt with Miniflux items in 3 different ways.

As a wild guess, about 5% of the readings made to my desktop. I have 36 tabs in the Desktop Firefox and 11 tabs on my mobile. They’ve been open for at least a month now. This was not working.

A second insight came from nature of reading. Was I reading for entertainment or was I seeking knowledge?2 Turns out I was addicted to entertainment (or infotainment if I am being polite). I don’t recollect anything significant from my morning sessions of mindless swipe-rights in Miniflux. Broken too.

Third, curation is the only benefit I get from the communities.3 I was lazily depending on like minded folks to bring noteworthy items to my inbox. My job was also another glorified curator to swipe-right the uninteresting items and keep the interesting ones for later. Later never came.

What next

Where’s the reading if all I do is curate?

I am going to seek knowledge. No more delegating the curation. I will only follow specific individuals who inspire me. Books, Papers and then blog posts. I will shift reading from the phone to the desktop in order to make it more active.

My new hypothesis is this: I will learn from thinkers and tinkerers. Since I am not living under a cave, the worst case, I will read a book in 2024 about the hottest revolution in 2023. I am okay with the delay.

This week I am able to do ~60 pages/hr on light fiction books. The state of flow leaves me content. I will do more of this. Dumped the ~10k news posts, turning off HN, reddit etc. and keeping my ears open only to people who inspire me.

Footnotes

  1. In Sanskrit, the word Samsara describes this aptly. Samyak Sarati Iti; that which changes constantly is Samsara.

  2. I heartily recommend this little note on this topic https://giansegato.com/essays/edutainment-is-not-learning.

  3. As I looked little more, it seemed even the Newspaper publishers also do curation. Science journals do the same too. The difference is these traditional curators walk a line between (a) making money and (b) creating a reputation. The bar is lower for online communities.