Hey Nick, Thanks for reading, I'll attempt to make it concise and write post at some point in the future and hopefully it will be more substantive.
Now that you explain explicitly what your stated goals from a ten minute reading session packed in a day are, I submit to the view that Hacker News probably does the job, and while I am sure there are alternatives that have much greater signal/noise ratio and/or impact, there is no point conjecturing because I don't know of a ready implementation.
My concern with the habits we choose to hold on to, is that I personally doubt that most of them are a result of pre-sanctioned criteria we set about and deductively found the answer. I am much more likely to believe that the vast majority of times, we are doing things because we like it and is routine, and then when we are faced with the question of what does this tool do for me, or this relationship give me that warrants it's continuous use, we reverse engineer or come-up with a criteria that fits what we already do, already are and so on.
I have nothing against Hacker News and it's a lot more curated than lets say a place like Reddit. But ultimately the test I personally use to determine whether a system is 'good enough' for now from the point of consumption of information, is this:
1) What's the measurable (or intuitive) impact-value of the majority of content that I am consuming.
2) What's the percentage of time/decision fatigue I expend on curation that can't be programmed anytime soon.
This ratio of impact of what one consumes to the expenditure of acquiring it in a perfect world should be 1.
In practice, it seems the ratio tends to zero. Which is to suggest that the time/decision/attention currency we spend deciding what to consume usually ends up making us extremely vulnerable to the crap we are just about to consume. Worse still, the focusing illusion is always biasing our judgement (it's an illusion that doesn't go away, example, every blog post we write or every new reply I write, will have disproportionate importance in that moment) this makes me very anxious as I am suddenly vulnerable to all kinds of programming and messages temporarily (until we can get our blood glucose levels up again)
This is the reason why TV is so good at making people waste your time because the work it takes to flip channels to finally get to watching something of value is so high that we love every bit of the nonsense we watch. The inverse is true for food, the abundance of calories has forced those of us who have plenty to over-estimate it's importance in our personal well-being. Therefore, we have food-network and frankly bordering decadent discussion about food which I personally cannot see as anything but a useless distraction. It seems to me that we have so much food in some parts of the world that we've just not had to opportunity to evaluate it's centrality to existence, which is not a lot . The proof is that more people today are unhealthy in the world as result of oversupply of calories than an undersupply of it. Just like 99 things to own, I wish there was 0.9 things to eat (eg. soylent) as I maintain that food, clothes, cars, drinks etc. are epiphenomenal, not the point of existence.
Bringing it back to Hacker News, yes, the comment sections can perhaps assist the reader in understanding the contrarian view, but like all things superfluous and news, I don't find a lot of content of Hacker News pass the "Nice-but could I have lived without knowing this" test. I needn't know the best and most diverse views of vast majority of people about provincial and 'newsy' matters.
In summary, I'll admit that I don't have any shortcut or formula that is well tested enough to suggest. But I will tell you that the heuristics that I have strong reasons to test and quantify suggest to me the following:
1) If you can ignore it, ignore it.
It's very difficult for human beings to not act on sterile information.
2) Don't settle on any curation implementation for long as it tends to become maladaptive.
3) If you must settle on one system then, something akin to an RSS feed of people sharing content who you trust will always be more robust (perhaps even 'antifragile', as you can remove the parts);
4) Centralized sources of information (hacker-news, Reddit), even if they are decentralized in collection, are fragile to convergence and templatization of time (conversely, robust to positive disruption). This is especially true in systems which are predominantly social as the coercion of the 'other/every-one else' has emergent properties that resemble 'consensus'. This is not evil, or wrong, it's natural.
In one line, if you can afford to decentralize the source of the content you have some personal utility for, do it. If you are dependent on a central source, then always spend a small amount looking for newer options.
But these are all hypothesis and I don't have great methods to log things but I am made a start and I am grateful to you Nick for teaching me a few things. One of which has really changed my life tremendously and made me rethink things. I've also reached out for help to your friends at Beeminder (Daniel & Bethany). Now if only I could get your Telepath logger working I'd be able to do so much more. I'm hoping to remove the noise form the signal with help and nudges from you guys.
"What if I am wrong"/"What if I am missing out on the latest tool and the resulting competitive advantage"
It would be unethical for me to suggest you do anything that I won't do myself if I was in your circumstance. Which gives me a good segway to introduce the concept of skin-in-the-game. From the point of view of someone who is not operating in such a cut-throat environment where survival is so disproportionately dependent on the prime-mover advantage, where it is absolutely true that one cannot afford to lose a single head-start or make a mistake that's deadly, it's simple:
I have no place to ask anyone to try x, y without promise of bearing the penalty or discredit for the falsehood/inaccuracy of the directive. Which is another way of saying that if I don't have any skin-in-the-game, then I can be safely ignored, as I have little incentive and means to quantitatively and rationally scrutinize the advice.
Yet, this is exactly what we see all over the internet (more in real life), people with zero skin-in-the-game but with newly afforded sense of righteousness/wisdom from successes or failures who've finally cracked the code and will share the spoils with the rest of us about what not-to-do. It's easier to justify acts of omission (don't, never, ever) as almost right, compared to a single act of commission which can be shown to be precisely wrong.
I am weary of listening to other people's do-don'ts derived from their experiences because
- I'd have to work extra hard to establish the veracity/ability & trust in the methodology of the source in the absence of data. (Multiplying work, as now I have to look for critics who've given it cognition I'm unwilling to give)
- They never have any skin-in-the-game or a LLC (Limited Liability Comment/Content) reminder
While individuals like you Nick, and Daniel & others I trust, because
- You guys are committed to getting it right, even if it means being occasionally wrong, as opposed to being right. There is a subtle but profound difference as getting it right focuses on the methods and testing the hypothesis with predictions, following the road, no matter where it leads us and the other one focusing totally on whether you are right, even if the causalities and analysis are spurious. Which means that I can trust their cognitive style & commitments as they match my needs in way where over a long enough period of time, the errors will self correct. I frankly can't trust a disembodied comment on Reddit which gives one the new headache of zero fall-back cognitive shortcuts and lost time determining it's usefulness which is an unsustainable form of consumption.
- Clearly, you guys have skin-in-the-game because it's clear that if you are wrong, you bear the penalty automatically by practicing what you preach. For example, I trust that you will be the first person to alert us all if you have a frostbite as a result of not wearing footwear in snow, and how long it was in Unix-time. Secondly, you will bear the consequences of not having a health insurance in the event of an amputation and either revise or reconfirm your view on the necessity of those things. (I hope this never happens)
So what limited liability comment can I give in this matter.
Most people are mostly wrong, most of the time, and always in denial. This is not an indictment but a celebration that we are all trying to get it right and this means that we all have to, by definition, believe that what we espouse at any given moment is not false (always in denial). Yet only some people are somewhat right, sometimes but we are doomed to believe we are one of these people.
This means, you can try to test this hypothesis or some other corollary of it with QS methods.
One can count the number of times you actively incorporated a suggestion/caution/opinion/commandment/mantra or pundit that you took seriously at any given moment in the past 4 months, 1 year, 5 years etc.
Then count the number of things that you believe had some significant impact in your subjective opinion.
Divide the number to get a probability of finding impactful and non-derailing/sterile recommendations. You'll have to take a weighted mean because the impact of one great insight or cautionary tale can disproportionately skew the results to the point where it's absolutely essential to bear the exposure to 99 bad ideas for 1 great discovery.
Now what does this number look like? Is this number sensible? This has to be a personal judgement as some people can be better or worse than others at spotting derailers or more efficient at spotting the signal in the noise.
Personally, I can say that I don't have the IQ to have any permanent competitive advantage at this game. I look at my History Hound cached webpages or some other historical logs of what I deemed important and i find that less 5% of what I deemed absolutely game changing or worth thinking about turned out to be very impactful from the hindsight 20-20 view.
What's worse, the flood of things to do and keep in mind made me lose sight of truly evaluating anything swiftly. The downside is that you have to leave it to time to tell you the answers later but the upshot is that you can at the very least, keep a log of 'focusing illusions' with timestamps to look back and try to spot a pattern of things that ultimately were necessary. The sense I got was that some underlying problem will keep appearing in many manifestations and it's just okay to ignore the rest and work on the repetitive things. After reading your book, I knew that I had to get Beeminder because I had seen twice before in other contexts. This is an illustration of a tool or solution that will come to you ultimately, but if you hunt too much for it, you may find yourself prematurely optimizing and implementing solutions to problems you never had, and never will. It's like find yourself evaluating cufflinks when you were looking for dog food because you were hungry. Or the annoying telescammers who couldn't believe that someone in the midwestern rural Indiana called their bluff as his auto-insurance wasn't expiring as I had no car or bike and would walk miles to get to the only walmart in the middle of winter.
The worst bit is this. The people/opinions who tell you what not to do, while well meaning and honest, is the bit that has the most hidden waste/opportunity cost. While it may prevent risk there is fundamentally no way to prove it. The thing that I am most annoyed with myself about, is not what I did try, it's what I didn't or what I assumed essential ingredient without a test to establish it.
If you take the example of alcohol, most people don't realize that just like IRA (which I didn't realize until after your placebo Nick - thanks), the beneficial transient effects of alcohol (the ones that people drink for primarily anyway) are totally socially and contextually induced. Several times in college frat parties we'd experiment where we'd have welch baby champagne or whatever fruit cranberry juice and on friday nights, people would get 'drunk' and 'tipsy' on it. Other research elsewhere has also suggested that people respond to cues and signaling in response to placebo of alcohol and 'have a good time'.
On one occasion at a party where I was having a 'good' time, a girl who happened to not know me said "maybe you should drink a less" in response to me falling over a bit on the couch. The silence was followed by a huge laughter as all my friends looked at her dismissive expression as I explained to her "I haven't had a single drop of alcohol in my entire life and I haven't changed that tonight, this is just how I am when I socialize." But it changed nothing, because the more I denied it, the more everyone else laughed and the more she thought the joke was on her in that I must have been the biggest alcoholic in denial.
What can one learn? That we are too conditioned to believe what the necessary and essential parts of a certain experience. Like deserts seem unnecessary, similarly my essentialist beliefs about what constituted a meal and what constituted a snack and side-dish was destroyed as I had to learn swiftly that salads and sandwiches is all that a vegetarian can have in beef and mashed potatoes midwest.
A lot of things are unnecessary but we can't truly find out what is and isn't if we don't have to courage to subtract the parts, one by one or if one is being cautioned into inaction or alternate course of action, then to have to courage to 'check to make sure'. I understand this is psychologically troublesome, one can't do exactly that which some authority said you shouldn't because they tried it and failed, but how else can one test?
There is an asymmetry between confirmation and disconfirmation. Disconfirmations contain information as they tell us the minimum viable parts, confirmations communicate to us nothing about the qualitatively different phenomenological aspects of the machine or the cogs that we didn't know, but does increase our confidence quantitatively.
This is a round about way to saying that I try to ignore most things now and trust that if I desperately need it, just like news, I'll know about it, sooner or later but I needn't be sucker who like a day trader is consuming all this time short trading trying to get marginal returns but actually losing massively in opportunity to create value while curating and evaluating what to consume. I'm taking the risk of trusting the data which tells me that I should ignore mostly everything that tell me what not to do, as i'd like to discover it myself. If I am finding myself in a situation where I must submit myself to others views more often than required, or I have created a pathway with zero exits, zero optionality, then this is fragile setup where the only option I have is to push the accelerator harder. This is not a very sustainable or optimal way to exist.
I think the tech industry as a whole hasn't discovered in my view, what are the areas where we can make a huge impact today, this moment, now, but that's normal as I our perspectives and insights are to some extent limited to the experiences that one has had. The QS movement is one realization of this impact which will happen in the future but it's personal analytics. Though it may seem that I am advocating insular existence, I am not the sense that I wish that the tech industry circle of empathy to expand faster and more radically than it currently is. I know it's more than California now, but I am dismayed by the kind of start-ups and tricks and sad compromises people are making to survive. The last 1% is adding nothing fundamentally new but since the market or product category is so saturated people are forgetting that they can pull out and save 99% of the effort and refocus it in areas that have a vacuum.
In this sense I am personally of the view that things like CodeCombat and Beeminder are things of the future that I don't particularly think are vulnerable to minor prime-mover competitive advantages because it's a product for the future and if anything, you'll benefit from being first in the zone. Therefore, I am glad you guys can actually create great things that people want and will want more in the future because they solve real problems and not another ecommerce aggregator.
What if from the three things you said you'd like, you could do only two? Or even just one, try to be alerted of new tools.
I can try to share some custom implementations I've created if you are interested. It's mostly using Google Alerts, Beeminder, IFTTT, Zapier, Mailparser.io, Twitter-lists, and other such crude hacks that kind of push things into a single well where I am constantly removing and adding things without having to fundamentally break everything (I learned my lesson after google reader)
Clearly much or mostly all of what i've said is something that can't be judged prospectively. It's strictly in the realm of speculation, but what i've learned from your experiments nick, is that you have sometimes break rules to test the waters and sometimes totally invert things and do it in reverse. Only retrospective hindsight is instructive but I can confirm that you are inspiring others to make and break. Life is such.
We can talk about worry another time :) I am out of verbosity for the time being.
Thanks for the patience if you read through, and no hard feelings if you couldn't. :)