Information Flow

Bian Wenbo Bian Wenbo Follow Jun 18, 2019 · 5 minutes read
Information Flow

How often does it occur that information provided you on morning radio or television, or in the morning newspaper, causes you to alter your plans for the day, or to take some action you would not otherwise have taken, or provides insight into some problem you are required to solve? – by Neil Postman

In the last article, we discussed what kind of knowledge structure should be built in the intelligent age. In this article, we will further discuss how to deal with the huge information that the outside world has given us.

For external passive input information, we can process through three modules, that is, information collection, processing and output. Below I use my own information flow as an example to describe related principles and methods.

1. Collect message

You Are What You Read.1

Attention is a scarce resource, and everyone wants to get your attention. People are often tired of coping with information bombing, constantly diverting attention, and thus unable to form a continuous and effective accumulation in specific areas. The question we face is how to automatically push useful information to us? In the daily work, for specific problems, we can actively find the answer through Google and other means, or at least know which keywords to search. However, some information that is very important to us is beyond our knowledge. Since we are not aware of their existence, we cannot actively find them.

At this point, an information aggregation system is very important. Not only does it help us to get the information we are interested in, but it often brings unexpected content to broaden our cognitive boundaries. For my part, I currently collect information through the following channels:

  • RSS subscriptions: RSS can be used to track updates to most public content on the web;
  • Email subscriptions: Regular emails are a great way for specific topics, or for interesting individuals;
  • Telegram channel subscription: Here you can get valuable real-time information filtered by the channel master;
  • WeChat public subscription: Especially for Chinese network, because WeChat article rejects search engine index and anti-reptile strategy is strict, many valuable Chinese articles can only be obtained within WeChat public platform.

In summary, everyone should have a specific collection method for their goals. You can also use other methods to focus on trending news and comments in your field. The general principle is to avoid subjective, short-lived content, and to receive more source-oriented or deeply thought-out articles.

2. Information Processing

The longer a bottle of wine retained, the better. Not the information. 2

The threshold for accessing information in this era is so low that everyone can easily access massive amounts of data, but each person’s approach to information is handled very differently. Have you ever downloaded a lot of data to fill the hard drive, but never opened it until you delete them one day? Did the content that was read later become no longer read? Have you spent too much time on content that is of interest to you but not the current focus?

Information must be processed immediately. You may have questions, how do we deal with content that is not in the current scope of work? I give my own solution as a reference: set explicit trigger conditions for this information and cache it into the subject knowledge tree. I firmly believe that only indexed information is valuable.

For different types of information, different scenarios should be used for processing:

  • Telegraph Channel: I have established my own channel to share information that I think is valuable;
  • Read later: This information gives us a better understanding of the issues that need to be addressed today;
  • Note software: This information prompts us to take actions that are not intended to be taken;
  • Outline Software: This information has changed our plan for the day.

In summary, the sooner information is put into use, the greater the value to us.

3. Information output

Teaching is the best way to learn.

Regardless of what the academic world currently holds about the “learning absorption rate pyramid”3, from my own experience, learning for teaching really works very well. Exporting articles on the Internet can convey your experience and insights to more people and get rid of the limitations of time and space. In addition, you can communicate and discuss with more people with different perspectives on the Internet than the limited number of people you can reach in your life.

In my opinion, one should build his own personal brand on the web. Let me discuss how to build and promote it based on my own experience.

On the one hand, I have determined my main output method:

  • Website: Post my thoughts on the smart age on my own personal website;
  • Website: In addition, I also summarize my views published on the telegram channel and publish weekly observation reports;
  • Reports: I have published a page in the note software where I recorded my daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports.

On the other hand, in the information explosion scene, the proverb “Good wine need no bush.” is no longer correct. The purpose of our output article is not only to summarize our own thinking, but more importantly, to discuss with more people. Therefore, we need marketing skills. Here is my own distribution channel:

  • RSS;
  • Twitter + Weibo;
  • Facebook + Douban;
  • Email subscription + WeChat subscription.

The general principle is that for content that can be crawled by search engines, we only need to publish one (for example on our own website), and then distribute the links (not content) through social media, such as RSS, Twitter, Facebook, etc. For important channels that search reptiles can’t reach (such as WeChat, etc.), we can only republish a copy of the content and indicate the source.

The above is my thinking about the collection, processing and output of information, that is, the flow of information.

  1. Price, Leah. You are what you read. New York Times. Sunday Book Review, 2007 December 23.
    Jackson, Jodie. You Are What You Read: Why Changing Your Media Diet Can Change the World. 2019. 

  2. I summed it up. What a surprise! 

  3. At present, some people have researched the absorption rate pyramid and given different opinions.
    Letrud, Kåre, and Sigbjørn Hernes. “Excavating the Origins of the Learning Pyramid Myths.” Cogent Education, edited by Mark Boylan, vol. 5, no. 1, Sept. 2018. 

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