code and the oracular

Stopping Information Overload

with 2 comments

1. don’t overvalue the GUI

Unix philosophy: Information Hiding

I operate with an empty black desktop. If I need a GUI app it is called through a hotkey to a launcher. Panels are auto-hidden. My terminal is white on black, with no window borders, scroll bars etc.

I cd to my writing or code folders and have all I need to develop

This is the simplest place where ideas float within a limitless empty void, I summon what I need from keyboard. Distractions are banished. Not using GUI apps may sound harder but it is simpler, because the tools I am using are the simplest they can get except for pen and paper. Console is where a bug is unlikely, console is minimally coded, console is the most elegant interface without the false economy of bloat, console is where I started on a DOS box way back. Memories.

The only indicator of life outside my healing cave is the noise of the seagulls through my window.



2. the Web is not everything

I stay away from the web when writing or coding. The immensity of its data can flood you and suck the life out of what you are doing. Having a browser open is the converse of the simplicity you need. Too much knowledge… too many voices… they will drown out your own! Man pages are better than web pages, terser, more minimally precise. I’ll have local copies of documentation to subvert the googling that distracts so.

At first the Web was an immense playground of knowledge and self-expression. Now it is like walking around the thronging streets of an overcrowded city. Too many people! Too busy! I need a cellar club, a drink and good company. Hideaway.

All through my life people have tried to make me more outgoing than I am. “It’s cowardly to want to run and hide!” they said. When my own findings were that all that communication I “should” have been doing was simply tiring – an unnecessary extra pastime that filled my life with troubles. This social awareness got worse with the Web. Why do we need to know so much and so many?

I am now master enough to retire into the quiet cellar and banish the browser. I can hear the still small voice of my innermost self again. The writing I produce is not self-censored by what I imagine others might say of it. Not over-wordy. I tap the plain Zen of my thoughts.

You don’t have to look at reality all the time if you don’t want – no-one else does! I control my use of most words that actually mean anything – society, convention, reality, world. I am safe in my cave with a prompt.

3. don’t hoard old data

What will I back up? Curating the past is something that takes up time.

I have a finite “cognitive in-tray”. I have a complexity ceiling. I cannot keep all the data I have ever generated. So by reducing the burden of the past I free up space for what I really need to focus on.

With modern systems we have easy ways to keep everything we have ever generated. Take courage and mow down stuff on external drives. Now I have burned my own boats I feel I can travel lighter. Unencumbered by possessions, living out of a virtual rucksack. My mother had a house full of knick-knacks and clutter before she re-married a man who believed in order and efficiency. I have followed this lead.

If I keep too much writing I tend to obsess and re-amend little bits in an endless drive to gain publication of something “good”. When I deleted nearly all my old writing I was frightened at first but then I felt liberated.

4. conclusion: travel light

Important choices are always made under inadequate information. But it is in having to decide our future through such gambles that we come to know being human. We have to commit. We have to take the consequences of the forking road, and later we examine consequences. We come to see that we could never have known what we know now, with sadness we accept that we live our lives partially blind. But information overload is not a solution for this. A bloated conscious mind slows you down.

If “less is more” then a way to peace and understanding involves un-knowing too. Horizontal coverage leaves less time for vertical-depth. Thinking about information overload involves deciding where you will invest on this.


Written by Luke Dunn

August 19, 2014 at 11:40 am

2 Responses

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  1. That is a very good article, which I may share with Ken, who bombards me wtih stuff every day. I shall now clear my computer of clutter, but I am only half way through clearing the house. It has all ended up in the office. Geoff


    August 19, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    • thanks Geoff!!

      Trip Technician

      August 19, 2014 at 12:26 pm

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