Digital media can be overwhelming.

Google Reader
Newspaper Sites
Magazine Sites
Linked In

Any one of these digital media outlets produces so much content every minute (or every second) that trying to read and digest all of it would be akin to drinking from a fire hose. The key to making digital media work for you, rather than against you, is selecting the right outlets and tapering the flow of information down to a manageable level.

Taming the flow of digital media to optimize your absorption of knowledge is a skill that could take years to refine – and since everyone is different, the optimal mix may be different for everyone. That being said, below is the mix that I’ve found to be best for me. For a long time I’ve considered this recipe of digital media my “secret sauce” – but in the spirit of openness and sharing, it’s detailed below (by category) as it may guide you to find your own secret formula for digital media learning.


· General News: @NYTimes Twitter feed – accessed through TweetDeck on my iPhone
· Industry-Specific News: Rethink Media Newsletter, a great daily email newsletter that boils down all the digital industry’s news into short digestible blurbs.

Thought Leaders:

· Followed through Twitter (TweetDeck): Robert Scoble (@Scobleizer), Chris Anderson (@chr1sa), Dan Ariely (@danariely), Barack Obama (@BarackObama), Harvard Business Review (@HarvardBiz), MediaMind (@MediaMind), Paul Michelman (@pmichelman), Alex Bogusky (@bogusky), Darren Herman (@dherman76)

Audio Books:

· I love to read, but similar to many New Yorkers, I don’t have as much time as I would like to sit around and read. On top of that I also get quite motion sick when I try to read on the train. To solve this problem, I’ve adapted to listening to audio books. I subscribe to and receive two audio books each month. I mostly tend toward business and non-fiction (e.g. Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, Peter Drucker, etc.) and frequently kick my iPhone to double speed to get through the material even faster. The convenient “rewind :30 seconds” button on the iPhone lets you go back just a little bit to make sure you don’t miss anything.


· This American Life with Ira Glass – syndicated public radio featuring topical vignettes about current events and human interest stories.
· The Moth podcast – an amazing, inspiring (and highly recommended) story telling series.

What do you think? Did I miss anything that you think is important?

How I Absorb Knowledge
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  • I *am* a fan of The Moth. Great stuff.

    My father introduced me to his “knowledge pyramid” which goes something like this:


    … the point beint that what you’re *really* after is at the apex of the pyramid. Data, on its own, isn’t useful. It needs interpretation to become information; and then information needs to be synthesized to become knowledge.

    My comment on your post would be more along the lines of: Keeping up with current events in the industry and the world is essentially continually feeding yourself data. However, on its own that’s not terribly useful.

    In fact – and here’s a finding from Psychology – it’s actively harmful. Due to a few mental biases, whenever you consider a hypothesis you have a positive bent. That is to say, you recall all those instances which would seem to confirm your hypothesis, and actually have WORSE recollection about those things which would contradict it. This is bad, of course, because falsification is a better approach to the truth.

    Additionally – from philosophy – while more data would tend to decrease the number of possible explanatory theories you could develop, in practice they are still n > 1000 at any point. Furthermore, since any attempt to keep up with current events is impossible to do completely, there is inevitably some sampling bias.

    That is to say, any theories you develop based on news will inevitably be incorrect, simply due to the sampling bias.

    That isn’t to say there’s no value in it: there is value, both from a knowledge-generating and a social perspective.

    You can use incoming data about the world in an attempt to disprove hypothesis you hold. You can also search for “novel” events – things that your theories would predict, but that hadn’t occured before. That, however, is a conscious search through events and may be better as a retrospective some month down the line (as more information inevitably comes to the fore, even if it’s less advertised).

    From a social perspective, being “in the know” – really, just being able to have a conversation about things with co-workers and people interested in ths subject – has value in itself. But that’s not about truth, or knowledge, but rather about navigating society.

    I much prefer books to periodicals – biased as they are – because they usually have much greater information density. You learn more about the subject, because someone has scaled the walls of the pyramid for you.

    Not that I’ve been doing much reading lately… alas.

    The major point, heh, is pretty simple: be careful what you read/learn, because selection bias occurs at the level of perception (you accept/reject quite a bit of information before you’re consciously aware of it – no rationality there) and it’s terribly, terribly easy to start missing disconfirming data points. The more you keep up with “data points” (current events, etc) the easier it is to fall into that trap, even as you think you understand more and more. Ignorance is dangerous, yes, but ignorance isn’t really a lack of knowledge/data – it’s a failure to understand the alternatives, and what they could mean. Having no information, you’re ignorance of all options/perspectives/alternatives; having some information, you may be guilty of thinking you know while only understanding a small portion.

    Oh, and here’s another source of audio for you to listen to – the London School of Economics puts all its Public Lectures up as podcasts:

    You can get video for most of them, too. As I usually listen to them in my car, I opt only for the audio. Some great material in there, usually contained within 45 minutes (plus another 45 for Q&A).

  • Andrew

    Thanks very much for the thorough response. I like the knowledge pyramid. I’ll be sure to look up the london school of economics lectures. I used to listen to the stanford entrepreneurial thought leaders seminar, and the Harvard ideacast, but I think both of those operations stopped putting their material online.