Clay Johnson – The Information Diet: a Case for Conscious Consumption

New Year’s Resolution for 2013: stay healthy regarding your information consumption. Study and practice The Information Dietby Clay Johnson. Johnson helps you to make choices to avoid information overconsumption. His first claim: information overload doesn’t exist, just as food overload is nonexistent. It’s the amount and – more important – quality that you consume, that makes or breaks your (mental) health. The author digs this metaphor over and over again and shares good practices for better information consumption, such as:

  • setting priorities and turn away from distractions. Turn off notification bleeps and icons, spend larger amounts of time concentrating on one task. Think of the lessons in Timothy Ferris’ 4 Hours Work Week, the psychological concept of flow and David Allen‘s Getting Things Done.
  • avoid reading and watching likeminded sources of information. Get challenged, seek diversity, opposing view points and new insights to keep you fresh and hopefully better informed.
  • Use social media, but be aware of their shortcomings when it comes to desinformation on purpose. Do research, check, dig into the deeper web, go to a traditional library.
After this practical and very useful howto’s Johnson describes the political landscape and information spinning process in the US, less relevant to non-US readers like me. True to the spirit of the book, I disregarded that part as an unnecessary waste of time and attention.
Beyond the first taste
For those willing to take the message seriously offers a huge amount of additional resources like Meetup info on local chapters to join, Google+ Hangout to interact with the author, software tips for a healthy information diet like adblockers, rescuetime and sanebox, and other books on the topic.

About the author

Clay Johnson is best known as the co-founder of Blue State Digital, the firm that built and managed Barack Obama’s online campaign for the presidency in 2008. After leaving Blue State, Johnson was the director of Sunlight Labs at the Sunlight Foundation, where he built an army of 2000 developers and designers to build open source tools to give people greater access to government data. He was awarded the Google/O’Reilly Open Source Organizer of the year in 2009, was one of Federal Computing Week’s Fed 100 in 2010, and won the CampaignTech Innovator award in 2011.

Media Appearances include: CNN TV — Expert on Open Government Data, NPR Weekend All Things Considered, NPR All Things Considered, Regular on the Leslie Marshall Radio Show (nationally syndicated), Kojo Naamdi Show (WAMU, Nationally Syndicated). Appeared in Fast Company, Wired, The Economist, the New York Times, USA Today and other major newspapers.

Johnson’s combination of experience as a developer, working in politics, entrepreneurism, and non-profit work gives him a unique perspective on media and culture. His life is dedicated to giving people greater access to the truth about what’s going on in their communities, their cities and their governments. He still claims that he learned all he needs to know from a two year tour as the late-shift waiter at Waffle House in Atlanta, GA.

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