OKDG Discussion — Developers and designers as ethical gatekeepers

Me and Stallman at OKDG
Photo c/o Shane Austin

These are the resources for the discussion at OKDG tonight:

For extra reading, I would suggest taking a look at my essay on information politics.

Finally, if you want to learn or discuss more, you know how to get ahold of me.

4 more horsemen — a review of Cypherpunks

Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet

Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet by Andy Greenberg

NOTE: Originally posted on Medium.

This book is really a footnoted conversation between Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Müller-Maguhn and Jérémie Zimmermann, some big names in the internet/activist/anarchist/online security communities. It would have been great to see this as a video, but in some cases the footnotes are essential.

Their conversation reminds me of the discussions we have in Talk Club (a local, salon-like discussion group): no holds barred, anything goes, blue sky solutioneering. But these guys are not only really smart, they are professionals in their fields. When they riff upon one another, sure some batshit crazy stuff comes out, but more often than not the reader is nodding his head along to some brilliant comment or another.

Some of it is just being clever. Says Assange:

Cryptography is the ultimate form of non-violent direct action.

and:

A mobile phone is a tracking device that also makes calls.

but at a more profound level:

It was a fact of physics that it was possible to make an atomic bomb, and when an atomic bomb was made then geo-politics changed.

The “platonic realm” of the internet is the source of a political disruption on a grand scale for these four men, but it is also the salvation of the people. Their conversation serves as a warning to those people not to depend on government or corporate coddling, but to take responsibility online, to be the final arbiters of their online destiny.

This book is certainly a product of its time, especially since it is so lodged in the situations of WikiLeaks and Assange’s incarceration. The protests against SOPA and PIPA feature heavily as do ACTA, and the 2012 views on BitCoin seem quaint from our current historical vantage point. Regardless, it serves as a primer on cryptoanarchy, but furthermore on the problems of privacy and surveillance, freedom of expression and censorship, and the politics of a new web savvy activism. A quick read, you will probably be looking for more depth elsewhere. I suggest This Machine Kills Secrets by Andy Greenberg.

The New Banality — a review of The New Digital Age

The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business

The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen

Since I read This Machine Kills Secrets first, this book seems particularly dangerous to the web as a whole. Universal User Registration? A supranational committee for quarantining non-conforming IPs? This is a company guy and a government guy trying to organize and regulate the internet. Schmidt and Cohen speak as the establishment, and some of their proposals will scare proponents of the open Web. Many of their other proposals are basically blue-sky-solutioneering. I think this book will appeal to those already in power, which is disappointing because I find their view is far too statist and establishment to reflect the true disruptive power and decentralized nature that Web connectivity gives us. I suspect policy writers will point to this book as a mandate from the “tech elite” which makes it an important read. Study it closely and highlight as much as you can. There are many layers here. Think of who the messages are intended for, and be very critical in your assessment.

////////

I wrote most of the above early last month on Goodreads. Today Julian Assange released an op-ed in The New York Times that basically mirrored my thoughts. Two choice quotes:

The prose is terse, the argument confident and the wisdom — banal. But this isn’t a book designed to be read. It is a major declaration designed to foster alliances.

But this is essential reading for anyone caught up in the struggle for the future, in view of one simple imperative: Know your enemy.

Smart Masses

In my last post I explored the characteristics of public intellectuals and pointed out that they are defined somewhat by their audience; which has recently become fragmented to the detriment of the occupation of public intellectual. Today I would like to examine the characteristics of a sophisticated, intellectually engaged audience. Does an audience that can appreciate the dying, generalist public intellectual even exist?

Like the public intellectual, the intellectual audience has evolved over the past few hundred years. The culture of curiosity and willingness to engage in social critical discourse has never been universal. Only a privileged few were able to turn their attention from mere survival and put energy into developing mentally, morally and aesthetically. Private tutors date back to classical times, teaching with the dialectic in an oral manner. Print revolutionized the spread of knowledge, but in the middle ages it was still limited to the clerical class with their Latin texts. Intellectualism had been pulled under into the murky depths of theological navel-gazing. The shining light of the Renaissance brought books, book clubs and parleys in coffee shops. Newspapers and journals became the vehicle of ideas in an era where “public opinion” began to become recognized. Literacy was becoming more widespread, as was education. In the modern era education meant classical training in Latin and Greek, the trivium and quadrivium. Since the 20th century literacy and education became widespread and the label of “educated person” has lost its former status. An intellectual or “sophisticated” audience was no longer merely the literate or the educated. Not that I am criticizing the “universal opulence” of education (to borrow a phrase from Adam Smith). Humanity, and myself, have benefitted greatly. But do not equate the growing population of literate and educated to those who share a culture of curiosity and inquiry. Just because you can read doesn’t mean you can think.

The commodification of media in recent generations has also fragmented audiences. During the years of network television and magazines of opinion, public intellectuals could attain a reach further than any previous generation. Furthermore, standardized education and mass media meant that the populace had a common pool of literary, philosophical, aesthetic work to draw upon. A common technique for intellectuals is to introduce new concepts through the reference and synthesis of previously expressed ideas. There is an assumption of familiarity with the “classics”.

The explosion of media in the past twenty years (magnified by the world wide web) has meant that it is easier to access gads of information in your chosen niche. Similar to the silo-fication of academic knowledge we now have the silo-fication of popular knowledge. Negative criticism of this development have been brought up in countless books and articles, for example Eli Parser’s The Filter Bubble. Regardless of the value judgement, the result has been shattering of “public” into multitudes of smaller, more personal “publics”. Jeff Jarvis explores this concept in his book on sharing in the digital age Public Parts. From the perspective of the public intellectual, rather than a smart mass, we now have smart masses.

Polymathism and shared intellectual culture have given way to the specialization of knowledge and a multiverse of publics, each with their own canon of knowledge. Maybe it is my own nostalgia, but I long for the time when one could read a thought-provoking essay riddled with literary references. Nowadays it seems the mark of “high” culture is a reference to The Wire.

As we have evolved away from the “classical” education of Latin and Greek, we are evolving into a culture with new forms of literacy — less focus on rote facts, more around problem-solving and knowledge synthesis skills. We no longer need to memorize long passages of poetry or scripture. What need for a common educational experience when a literary or cultural reference is merely a click away with Google and Wikipedia?

Moreover, the sheer amount of information accessible by the average human today is daunting. I have a book titled Too Much to Know that (somewhat ironically) sits unopened on my Kindle shelf. By the gods I had to take an information diet!

The path for the 21st century intellectual might be to go in search of a public of his or her own. A subset of that public should be philosophes, the people with a culture of inquiry. The intellectual must appeal to this audience, using references from that domain to forge new ideas and perceptions of society at large. They must achieve intellectualism within their chosen public. Then perhaps they can connect the sophisticates from their public to other publics.

This nodal approach might be a better representation of nuanced public opinion. Nowadays public opinion has been reduced to mere mathematical averages (as if two integers could encapsulate the breadth of thoughts and feelings of a nation). The blind authority the public gives to these polls is compounded by their misunderstanding of mathematics. The Irish mathematician and satirist Des MacHale quipped that the average human walks around with one breast and one testicle.

The high initial curve of the power law graph expressed in the Long Tail shows that there still will be the occasional superstar public intellectual with wide reach. Where they once laboured in lonely obscurity, the long tail intellectuals can be successful within their own cultural niche (a different kind of obscurity, to be sure). I am not sure what this means in terms of calibre. Seeing how quality is expressed in the long tail of entertainment makes me not want to discount the small-time intellectuals. I mean, who wants to be the Justin Bieber of public intellectualism?

As to the question of whether to pursue a classical, generalist education, or follow the new evolution of sophistication within smaller publics, I have decided — in light of my own deficiencies — to experiment with the traditional route. Within my own public (techno-geeks?) I am fairly well-read, and can enjoy discourse sprinkled with references to geek culture. However, I feel at a disadvantage since I have no “classical” training. Ever since the age of 16 I focused on the language, history, culture and religions of the Far East. I spent my formative years reading (translations) of Japanese literature. In university my eyes opened to the wider world. I became a newshound, but this will give you no insight into the intellectual foundation of the West. I have since learned the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson: “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” For 2013 I think I will put genre fiction on the shelf (except for one or two currently in my pile) and attempt to read more “literature”. If the experiment goes awry, I can always return to my warm and comfortable niche. As always, you can see what I am reading on Goodreads.

From Belletrist to Blogger: What progress, and the internet, has done to public intellectualism

Much like the cliché of society, the state of public intellectualism seems to be eternally in decline. Yet in the early 21st century, I think we have a legitimate claim to this omen. I propose two reasons: 1) the extreme specialization of knowledge, and 2) the method of public discourse.

As the sphere of human knowledge grows wider, the pursuit of knowledge has required more and more specialization. The unintended consequence of this evolution is the silo-fication of knowledge. Academics have a difficult time explaining themselves to non-specialists.

On my first day of studying theoretical linguistics at the University of British Columbia, the department head welcomed us with a speech glorifying the epistemological exploration we were embarking on, while simultaneously ensuring us that we would not be able to talk to anyone about our work at parties.

I think this is one reason why academics have a difficult time blogging. Modern academics deal in nuance; the foundation of knowledge required to understand such nuance cannot be imparted in a 300-500 word blog post.

Wikipedia’s entry on Intellectual is an engaging account of “men of letters” for the past three centuries — from belletrist, littérateur and literati to essayist, journalist and critic. The article defines the various categories of intelligentsia and does well by contrasting public intellectuals with scholars and academics. There is another category that I would add to the list: public educators.

For example: Brian Greene, Brian Cox, Neil deGrasse Tyson have all played an important role in public education and popularizing science. These men are all very public academics, but are too specialized and focused on their fields to be considered public intellectuals. Sam Harris and Steven Pinker might also fall into this category, but like Richard Dawkins and Noam Chomsky, they are a bit more rounded.

Rather than deeply specialized knowledge, a public intellectual is armed with informed and critical thinking, and should be familiar with a number of subjects. Public intellectuals typically cover topics relating to general society, public policy, ethics, politics, theology etc. Academic specialists may have a tough time traversing all of these topics. Two professions that are particularly capable in this regard are philosophers and journalists. The Wikipedians rightfully list Chomsky, Dawkins, Edward Said, Jean Paul Sartre and Christopher Hitchens. Notwithstanding the impressive academic backgrounds, there is quite a mix of philosophy and journalism in there. To me, multidisciplinarianism is a requirement of a public intellectual. Take Penn Jillette. Here is a man who can argue passionately about the libertarianism and atheism, who has invented a hot tub for women and who can catch a bullet in his teeth! That, my friends, is a polymath.

Furthermore, an engaging public intellectual should be erudite, witty, and somewhat of an entertainer. Unfortunately this particular characteristic has led professional entertainers to feel they have leave to become public intellectuals, which mostly has led to disaster (I cast my condescending eye towards Jenny McCarthy, while I praise the likes of Stephen Fry).

What about pundits? The television and radio waves are beset with perfectly-coiffed and syrupy-voiced idealogues. Public intellectuals strive to raise the level of public understanding. Pundits strive to push an agenda. They already have the answers, and are thus the enemies of reason and critical thinking. Pundits may be dismissed as simply talking heads.

We expect more from our public intellectuals. As good as the Wikipedia article is in its definition it misses one critical element: reach. Public intellectuals try to influence society, to effect (perceived) positive change (NOTE: I think this is why Fredrich Hayek thought that public intellectuals were disproportionately socialist, or “liberal” in the modern parlance). Defining a public intellectual is as much about the audience as it is about the individual. Technology has influenced how public intellectuals reach their audiences drastically.

Modes of public discourse have evolved over the millennia, but for intellectuals the printed word changed everything. Pamphlets, handbills, essays, books and maybe most important — newspapers — helped spread ideas to the masses and encouraged dialogue. In the twentieth century, radio and television became important modes of discourse. By the end of that century, broadcast media fragmented into hundreds of television channels and satellite radio stations, giving rise to specialty channels like C-SPAN, or to talk radio personalities. Presently, we have come full circle with the rise of the new “men (and women) of letters”: bloggers.

With the rise of the internet and explosion of the market of ideas — like record labels and newspapers before them — public intellectuals are becoming victims of the long tail. The broadcast era was a boon because it allowed ideas and arguments to reach the masses through a single pipe. It did not suffer (so much) the problem of the filter bubble, from the fractured masses self-selecting a narrow range of ideas to consume.

Yet the broadcast era undoubtedly suffered from a shallower market of ideas. “Mainstream” meant something in that era, and getting into the less-processed, earthy underground was difficult. However, the democratic nature of the internet has muddied the intellectual waters terribly. Recall Socrates criticism of the Sophists and his advocacy for a “knowledge-monopoly”, or Plato’s elitist notion of “philosopher kings”.

The justification of the role of public intellectuals is that the general public itself does not have the rigorous training in reason and critical thinking. Yet the public can easily fire up a blog and sell their thoughts in the market of ideas, regardless of their rigour (this includes, of course, your humble correspondent).

A public intellectual may be a blogger, but bloggers are not public intellectuals. It is in this regard that bloggers are similar to academics in their disqualification from public intellectuals. Academics have training but no audience. Bloggers have audience but no training.

The decline and fall of the public intellectual has come to pass on the heels of disappearing multidisciplinarians, ceding the public discourse to public academics. Secondly, they are relegated to obscurity thanks to the vast sea of ideas on the internet. The airwaves have already been conquered by primetime pundits who trade controversy for ad dollars, and the thoughtful magazines and newspapers that served as clearinghouses for erudition have been shuttering for a lack of those same ad dollars. Where do we turn to get a deeper understanding of society? It isn’t Twitter or Facebook, or even blogs. Maybe projects like Longreads, Matter and The Magazine will become new forums for deeper thought. Maybe it will be a more collaborative solution like Wikipedia or Branch. I am not sure, but I sure do miss Hitchens. I hope I can find more out there like him.

Breaking fast

This is a follow-up post to Information Fast where I pledged to constrain my information intake for the month of September in an experiment.

Let’s start with a brief after action report:

Fast results

I consumed no football, nor any of the punditry. I have no idea what is happening to Spurs or the Whitecaps. I didn’t scroll through Tumblr, Google+, Hacker News or the like. I posted to Twitter and G+ a few times as a broadcast medium (mainly links to my blog posts), and replied to mentions, but gave up my morning and evening catching-up of the stream. I was successful in my use of App.net and enjoyed it. I watched only three movies this month, two with my daughter. I watched four TV episodes (BrBa) which I just started this weekend. This could be a problem going forward…

Failures

I wasn’t able to stick to one non-fiction book. The reason is the book I picked up at the beginning of the month was an actual paper book. It is nearly a month later and I still haven’t broken the 100 page mark. It is far too difficult to get in the right context to read a paper book for me. Ebooks on the other hand can be read anywhere. It was one of the main reasons for getting a Galaxy S3: the size of the display is very comfortable to read on. I was able to blast through a few eBooks this month including The Information Diet and Startup Communities. All the while, my poor paper book languishes on the mantle.

A partial failure was podcasts. Although I limited myself to a single podcast, I did not listen to one episode. This was because there were no episodes that interested me (Star Trek and Journey?) or others that I want to check the source material first (Small Change, Doctor Who) I didn’t listen to one episode this month. I think this contributed to my consumption of non-fiction audiobooks (see my review of Future Tense).

Conclusion

Overall, this experiment was a success. I found myself with much more time to think, and even kindled in me a thirst for knowledge that I haven’t felt for a long time. Before, I was consuming much more information, but I was not synthesizing it into healthy knowledge. Basically: empty calories. By choosing carefully and thinking about what I consume, my brain muscle feels stronger after only a few weeks.

One thing that makes me happy is that my blog output has increased. I did not put out a ton of posts (mostly due to me spending time converting my blog to Octopress and redesigning my personal site), but later in the month I was able to write some substantial pieces. In all I wrote about 3800 words for the blog this month (including this post). That is a huge increase.

I did feel out of the loop concerning All Things Apple, especially since the launch of the iPhone 5. But it was actually refreshing. I have lived that life non-stop for five years. I think I can let other people take over for me now.

Next steps

So, the fast is over. Now to construct a healthy information diet. As mentioned above I am starting Breaking Bad finally, which means I will have to watch that I don’t fall back on passive consumption rather than reading at night again. I also have the new season of Doctor Who queuing up as I write this. I must be vigilant or my “attention fitness” will suffer.

As for taking Clay Johnson’s advice, I am considering a few things:

  1. Twitter: I quite enjoyed just using it just for broadcast, but I might try bringing reading back by only checking the Tweets of the people in my community. App.net I will continue with because I want to support it. Maybe someday my community members will move to it and I can drop Twitter altogether.
  2. News: I am going to experiment with local news sources. I am not sure what is available for Kelowna that is good, but I intend to find out. I will start up Intigi again in the near future, only because I found it helpful in surfacing news about space that I could not get without much trawling of RSS and Twitter.
  3. Podcasts: The Incomparable and You Look Nice Today for sure. I might consider listening to Critical Path again, since I don’t get a chance to read the blog, and I learn lots about business from Horace.
  4. Apple blogs: Nope.
  5. Books: Focusing on one at a time is much easier if they are eBooks. Lesson learned. Will continue with this.
  6. TV and Movies: Stick to my plan of BrBa and later Doctor Who. I might not have time for many movies which is okay.
  7. Meetups: More of this. Actually interacting with others is important for synthesizing ideas. I will probably post about this again.

Peer Progressivism — a review of Future Perfect

To my knowledge, Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age is Steven Johnson’s first attempt at pamphleteering. The other books of his that I have read — The Invention of Air, Emergence and Where Good Ideas Come From — have been about telling the stories of complex concepts in an engaging way. In Future Tense he tests his hand at creating a new concept, and comes up somewhat short.

A fairly enjoyable book, I hope it becomes a cornerstone of new political discussion. By way of that discussion, I have a few criticisms that I would like to lodge.

First, we must define our terms. “Peer progressivism” is in Johnson’s words:

… the belief that new institutions and new social architectures are now available to us in a way that would have been unthinkable a few decades ago.

By the adoption of peer network style structures in government, business, education etc. society’s next phase of progress is ensured. It is meant to be a positive message and Johnson uses the examples of Wikipedia and Kickstarter to demonstrate how massive, decentralized networks can contribute to humanity — all the while making digs at “the market” for not being able to come up with such solutions.

The positioning of the peer progressive is a funny one. Imagine a political compass where the vertical axis is hierarchy and the horizontal free-marketism. On the top half are the traditional, lumbering bureaucracies of the two American national political parties — Democrats to the left of the scale, and Republicans to the right. Below the Republicans are the Libertarians — free-marketeers with a strong dislike for bureaucracy. The bottom left quadrant is the realm of the Peer Progressive: anti-bureaucracy and wary of laissez faire.

Now, the above illustration is not entirely fair. Peer progressivism is more nuanced and I have included a fairly long quote from the book summing up the values of the peer progressive at the very bottom of this post so you can get a more well-rounded description. The example simply illustrates how I found peer progressivism positioned in the book. Something like, “the Republicans have the Libertarians… what do we Democrats have?”

That aside, the exploration of applying peer networks to politics, government, education and business was very interesting exercise. It reminded me somewhat of What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis. Yet I don’t think it went far enough, specifically in the realm of politics and government.

Firstly was the purely domestic approach to politics. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the peer progressive approach to solving a problem is “to build a peer network around it”. International politics is inherently network-based, as it lacks any hierarchy. States may posses power or influence over one another, but they all retain the same equal status since Westphalia. Solving international problems in the post-empire era has always been about “building a network”, which sometimes works and sometimes does not. I would have expected Johnson to discuss this topic, even though I do not particularly think it supports his thesis.

Secondly, with regard to domestic politics, Johnson doesn’t talk about the how. The concept of eGovernment has been around since the beginning of the networked age. It is something that everyone says they are for, yet we still do not have it. Issues based voting (rather than party-based) is a wonderful idea, but the logistics has not been resolved. This book is another account about the why, but the true problem lies in the how.

As a self-proclaimed citizen of the internet I am prime mental real estate for an idea like peer progressivism. Running society like the internet? Count me in! Hell, the only political party I have ever become a member of is the PPC. Yet somehow, the book didn’t reach me. The concept had not been fully fleshed out, and the overwhelming impression that I got from this book was a bad case of “machine metaphor”. This is a phenomenon seen throughout history: that as a new technology begins adoption, it is often used as a metaphor to describe other parts of human understanding. For example, Galen thought of the body as a hydraulic system, reflective of the new technology of the time: plumbing. The brain has been known as a pneumatic device, a calculator, and more recently a computer. Companies are vast machines with human cogs as workers. With new technologies, came new metaphors. Berlin himself has used advances in network theory to describe Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. I think Future Perfect may have taken the metaphor too far.

If you want more of Steven Johnson, or are a fan like me, follow him on Twitter(@stevenbjohnson), read his blog and his Medium blog.


Peer Progressive Value Statement

Peer progressives are wary of excessive top-down government control and bureaucracy. They want more civic participation and accountability in public sector issues that affect their communities. They want more choice and experimentation in public schools. They think, on the whole, that the teacher’s unions have been a hindrance to educational innovation. They think markets can be a great force for innovation and rising standards of living. But they also think that corporations are far too powerful and top-heavy in their social architecture. They beleive the rising wealth and income gaps need to be restored to levels closer to those of the 1950s. They beleive that the campaign finance system is poisoning democracy, but want to maintain an individual’s right to support candidates directly. They want lower prices for prescription drugs without threatening the innovation engine of the pharmaceutical industry. They are socially libertarian and consider diversity to be a key cultural value. They beleive the de-centralized, peer-to-peer architecture of the internet has been a force for good and that governments or corporations shouldn’t mess with it.

Organization of No Organization

Remarkable that two books released this month advocate eschewing hierarchy for network-based approaches to changing society. The books in question are:

A deep review of Brad Feld’s book is forthcoming, and I am only part way through Steven Johnson’s new book, but I thought I would highlight the similar argument made in both books now.

Feld argues for an entrepreneur-led startup community rather than hierarchical government or university institutions, which seek to control things rather than to actually do things. He says on page 32:

The best startup communities are loosely organized and consist of broad, evolving networks of people.

To paraphrase: in order to build a thriving startup community (a driver of innovation and economic development in your wider community) you need to form a network around the problem.

This is very similar to Johnson’s view under his proposed political philosophy of the “Peer Progressive”. First, I should define that term: a peer progressive is a political progressive which favours the approach of peer networks to solve social and community problems. To illustrate the approach of peer progressives, take Johnson’s speculated solution to a market failure:

Instead of building a large government agency to combat the problem, [a peer progressive approach] tries to build a peer network around it, a system of dense, diverse, and decentralized exchange.

Think of the Kickstarter approach to funding unknown artists and performers, as compared to the massive bureacracy of the National Endowment of the Arts. It’s the network, stupid.

Feld is a libertarian capitalist who admires meritocracy. Johnson is heavily versed in emergence. Although I think they might differ in political persuasion, they are both convinced that to get things done, you need to have a network.

In a previous life, as a military academic I spent a lot of my time thinking about leaderless movements and non-hierarchical organizations. I find it highly interesting that all the insights into distributed terrorist organizations is now be re-purposed for civic betterment.

Information Fast

The pledge:

For the month of September I pledge to limit my media consumption. This means no Twitter, Google+, Path, Tumblr, Hacker News, Popurls , Intigi or Zite. It means no Apple blogs. It means no football podcasts or watching MOTD. I am limiting myself to 1 of each of the following sources:

  • 1 Non-fiction book at a time
  • 1 Fiction book at a time
  • 1 Social network for interaction (App.net)
  • 1 Podcast per week (The Incomparable, approx. 1hr)
  • The occasional movie

My goal is to throttle my media consumption to:

  1. Find out what media sources are truly valuable to me; and
  2. Gain more time to think.

The result will hopefully be more blogging of original material.

@replies only

One caveat I reserve is to check mentions from social networks. I do not have comments on my blog and garner reactions from my posts on Twitter and Google+. I get notified when I am mentioned and I pledge to only check these mentions, and not to wander down the ratholes of other people’s conversations.

Time to think (revisited)

Harjj Taggar removed email from his iPhone. Some choice quotes:

Having time to think is precious to me and it’s also incredibly important if you want to achieve anything close to original thought. … Once I realized the power of this I went on to delete more than just email. Facebook, Twitter and Quora apps have all been removed (for me Twitter has been the one I’ve missed the most). It’s been the best decision I’ve made this year and would highly recommend it.

I was just talking about this with @scdaustin, telling him about my idea about having a social media free week. My concern was my lack of reading books. I spend all day reading Twitter, Google+, App.net, Tumblr, Popurls, Hacker News, Zite and Intigi… it isn’t like I am not reading anything. Furthermore, I had to up my Reading Challenge 2012 on Goodreads from 30 to 40 books. But it is all an illusion… most of my “reading” is done with audiobooks. For books you want to get really deep into and annotate, you need text.

Almost exactly four years ago I had a similar realization

I learned how to increase web consumption efficiency by using (hundreds of) RSS feeds. I turned my “downtime” into “productive” time by listening to lectures, audiobooks and podcasts while doing chores, commuting, etc. Everywhere I went I had my iPod plugged in. I thought I was learning when I was actually just consuming. I was so effective at packing each minute of each day full of articles and books that I squeezed out any quiet time just to sit and think.

How am I to come to terms with my overconsumption? Why… read another book of course! Check out Clay Johnson’s The Information Diet:

So, I think rather than simply auditing my social networks, I should pause them all for a bit and spend time thinking about my consumption habits so that I may recover more time to think.