The 5 Places I Get Information

Thinking about where we get our content.

May 18, 2016

Where do you get your information?

The average American spends more than 490 minutes per day consuming some sort of media. That is more than 8 hours.

I’d say that I’m consuming some form of media during many more than 8 hours a day. More like close to every waking hour. You?

The following 5 sources are (I think) my main vectors for content delivery:

#1 - Conversations: 

Conversations may not top my list in pure volume of information, but they do so in the impact that this information has on my thinking. The best thing about working in higher ed is that you spend your days with people who know more than you do. They have deep (and sometimes wide) expertise in an extraordinary array of subjects. All you have to do is ask and listen.

Almost everything that I have learned in my own filed of learning and technology has come from conversations. These conversations may be verbal discussions - or they may be written exchanges. They are conversations, however, with people that I know - and people that I trust. They are conversations within my professional network - and they are discussions that get more interesting the more we have them.

#2 - Email: 

Is e-mail really a source of content? I’d argue yes - but only reluctantly. Most of what I need to know from the people that I work with I gather from e-mail exchanges. For better or for worse (and I think mostly for worse) my professional life runs through e-mail.

The problems with e-mail are well-known, and I will not waste your time enumerating them. Suffice to say that e-mail is a distraction, a time sink, a poor mechanism for information storage and retrieval. Some of us are good at limiting e-mail to certain times of the day - or getting off e-mail altogether with alternative platforms such as Slack, Yammer, Basecamp or some other collaboration tool. I worry that I’ll be stuck using as my main communications platform until the day the EMP hits.

#3 - Digital Books: 

Books are how I understand the world. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve made the purposeful decision to spend time with books at the expense of other media. Less video, less social media, less NPR, less music, less newspapers, less magazines, less podcasts, and less web surfing. More time reading books.

If you are privileged enough to afford it, technology is a great boon for a book-centered life. Audiobooks allow books to be read in transit, during chores, while in motion. E-books can be read in long stretches or in short chunks. Books can be acquired as quickly as they can be downloaded.

#4 - Mobile and Laptop Content: 

Daily news is consumed from my iPhone. I read the NYTimes iOS app 7 days a week. I read IHE on my iPhone Monday through Friday. On my phone I will also read blog posts or articles that have been recommended by people in my network, and sometimes (although rarely) articles that have been linked from Twitter.

My laptop and the browser are for research. The articles, posts, spreadsheets, presentations, and other documents that I read on my laptop are in the service of answering a question. The phone is for general consumption of non-searched for content, the computer and the browser are for content that I am looking to discover.

Open online courses is a growing category in my information diet. I am mostly a MOOC consumer, not an active contributor, and when I MOOC it is likely to be on my iPhone.

#5 - Dead Trees: 

The only two magazines that still come to my house are The Economist and Wired. The Economists stack up next to my bed, waiting for a free weekend or a vacation for binge consumption. Wired is read quickly, for enjoyment, but with relatively little information yield.

We also get the local paper, The Valley News, delivered to our home each day. I can’t imagine not reading a daily local newspaper, and I hope that my kids have acquired this habit.

A few sources of content are missing from my list.

Social media jumps out as a missing content category. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (what else) figures prominently in many of my colleagues' information strategy. I’ll dip my toe every now and again into Twitter, but never Facebook. Time spent on social media is time spent away from reading and writing. Or maybe I’m just bad a being social.

Collaboration tools such as Slack are also missing from my list. I have colleagues that I know, trust, and like who swear by Slack. To my mind, Slack (platforms like it) seem to be just another place to go. But maybe I’m missing out.

The one exception to my lack of collaborative platform usage is Google Docs. Lots of the writing that I do is collaborative, and Google docs remain the best web collaboration tools available.

Where does your content come from?

How have your content sources changed over time?

Where do you get your information?



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