Social Software for the Dead
When Knowledge Walks

My Blog, My Outboard Brain

O'Reilly Network, Cory Doctorow, 31 May 2002

This is an archive article, but no less valid today than when first published in 2002.

I consume, digest, and excrete information for a living. Whether I'm writing science fiction, editorials, columns, or tech books, whether I'm speaking from a podium or yammering down the phone at some poor reporter, my success depends on my ability to cite and connect disparate factoids at just the right moment.

As a committed infovore, I need to eat roughly six times my weight in information every day or my brain starts to starve and atrophy. I gather information from many sources: print, radio, television, conversation, the Web, RSS feeds, email, chance, and serendipity. I used to bookmark this stuff, but I just ended up with a million bookmarks that I never revisited and could never find anything in.

Theoretically, you can annotate your bookmarks, entering free-form reminders to yourself so that you can remember why you bookmarked this page or that one. I don't know about you, but I never actually got around to doing this -- it's one of those get-to-it-later eat-your-vegetables best-practice housekeeping tasks like defragging your hard drive or squeegeeing your windshield that you know you should do but never get around to.

Until I started blogging. Blogging gave my knowledge-grazing direction and reward. Writing a blog entry about a useful and/or interesting subject forces me to extract the salient features of the link into a two- or three-sentence elevator pitch to my readers, whose decision to follow a link is predicated on my ability to convey its interestingness to them.

This exercise fixes the subjects in my head the same way that taking notes at a lecture does, putting them in reliable and easily-accessible mentalregisters.

Worth noting that Furl now answers some of the issues over annotated bookmarks.

The original article lead with a quote from Douglas Adams' wonderful book: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

"Take the VCR, for example. Not only can it watch TV for you, it can watch more channels and watch them better than you can.

Similarly, the Electric Monk does your believing for you.

Instead of having to wade through mountains of propaganda, you'd tell your Electric Monk to pick a few random hopeless causes each week."


Follow me on Twitter: @IanYorston

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