Tools for the internet

One of the challenges of an internet world is reading enough (and the right stuff), missing out, or failing to find that one thing. One solution is to maximize volume. Be online. Enable push notifications. Refresh.

One framing for our internet world is the world of Thoreau. Cal Newport advocates for Deep Work. This approach asks questions like are smartphones necessary anymore and argues for individual focus.

Vekatesh Rao writes against ‘waldenponding’ and explained the idea to Russ Roberts:

“but somewhere on the spectrum of being very online to being completely offline by Waldenpond, any measure of retreat along that axis is what I call Waldenponding. And the pieces I have been sort of developing as sort of a critical pieces advocating against that. There, I argue that Waldenponding is actually a bad thing and it’s sort of a misframing of a problem. It’s the wrong response to the, whatever is going on there; and there’s more effective ways of engaging with digital technology.”

Where you fall between the Newport/Venkat poles depends on your location, situation, disposition, and tool collection.

To combat my FOMO for missing interesting stories and internet advice here some of my favorite tools for balancing Deep Work with Against Waldenponding.

Google scholar, new citations. Books don’t update their results except for mostly small changes in the paperback edition. What works better is to find a bit of research on Google scholar and follow new citations. Read the abstract only.

IFTTT, Reddit. Reddit is the most helpful but least understood part of the internet. Using the IFTTT (free) service, anyone can create recipes to automate content delivery. My favorite is “r/science, flair:social science”. This means that when a piece of social science research is published in the science Reddit, I get an email with a link.

IFTTT, Twitter. Much like above, only for Twitter. Most tweets are sent by a minority of people. Twitter follows the pareto principle. IFTTT can create digests for never missing those rare-but-relevant people.

Twitter, from:@. Founded in 2006, Twitter has a nice history of information—if you can find it. Using this search operator a searcher can use ‘there’s always a tweet’ to their curiosity advantage. While Google offers generous and wide results, Twitter is a thornier haystack to search.

YouTube, -football, -pastor. The video site has a lot of great content with mostly good results. Sometimes however the person you’re looking for shares a name with a church pastor or high school recruit who uploaded all of their game footage. The ‘-‘ operator removes those items. This also works in many other search fields.

Google alerts, -car, -accident. A timely option. For one bit of writing, I wanted information on median and average comparisons. There was a lot of good median data but it was mostly about car accidents. Part of this research led to the note that average temperatures are higher in Phoenix than Tuscan, though the latter is one-hundred miles south of the former.

Thanks for reading. 

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