Since all this fuss about whether Google makes you daft I’ve been thinking a bit about how the way that I consume and produce information has changed over the last few years.
When I was at Demos I used to read almost all the UK papers, listen to the Today programme and watch Newsnight every day. I was a magazine addict, reading The Economist, Wired, Prospect, The Atlantic, New Statesman, the New Yorker and many more. I would read a non-fiction book every week. I was subscribed to hundreds of RSS feeds, loads of email lists and went to two or three events per week. I was spread incredibly thin across a huge number of subjects.
But I’ve found that being an information pancake person (spread thin) is not really compatible with running a start-up. It becomes all consuming and you need to concentrate. You need to go deep into the information that’s really relevant to the task and that rarely comes from the 24 hour media machine.
So I’ve found myself rationalising my addiction to information and over the past few months I’ve been cutting down. I don’t listen to the Today Programme in the mornings and don’t miss it if I’m honest (it sounds just like Chris Morris’s On the Hour if I do catch a few minutes). I don’t read the free papers on the commute into the office — I’ve taken to reading one paper a day (the FT) and maybe a couple at the weekends. I’ve slimmed down my RSS subscriptions to a hundred and I’m on far fewer email lists than I was. Since I was at Demos, Facebook and Twitter status updates have come along, so I’m having to struggle to keep them under control as well.
I think I’m starting to win though. Next step is to work out what the best way to be productive with all that cognitive surplus is.