Structured Procrastination 🗞

"Reading the news" means a lot of things, and none of them are helpful unless you do something with it.

There’s an old trope that appears in every sitcom:

Camera pans to a beautiful kitchen with a full breakfast spread. Orange juice, toast, jam — the works. A man reads the newspaper, absentmindedly sipping coffee as the food goes ignored. He realizes he’s late for work, takes a hasty bite of toast and runs out the door.

Bye hunny!

I love this scene because it’s so damn true. I’m guilty of it myself. I’ll use meals as an excuse to sit and scroll the news, while my free hand searches my plate for food. Half the time I hardly taste what I’m eating.

Worst of all, I retain little to nothing of what I’m reading. It’s a lose-lose, and I’d rather enjoy my breakfast, thank you very much.

Image result for reading newspaper gif

I started this newsletter as a way to channel my news consumption into structured content. There is an incredible amount of information out there, and I was drowning in it. My mental map was muddled, with nowhere to put all the content I was learning. The news is helpful, but there’s no quiz at the end, and no answers in the back of the book.

So I decided to make my news intake a dedicated activity. Rather than elbowing for attention with breakfast, I’m able to justify reading the news as long as the input is being used to create content.

I know that I work best with deadlines, so having a weekly expectation for publishing means that I am forced to synthesize what’s actually important.

An added bonus is that you, the reader, are able to benefit from this process and help contribute to the curation. If I publish on a topic and see my engagement spike, this is a signal for me to double-down and go deep.

Here’s how it works:

Every week, I browse my personally curated news sources that I find informative. I have varied interests without a particular niche, and subscribe to different sources based on content, style, or quality of writing. These sources tend to change with my interests and fall into a few buckets:

  • Social Media: Content from individuals or organizations arranged into a timeline. This type of format is dangerous because it borders on being entertainment. I try to avoid purely media based feeds and instead stick to communities with interests that align with my personal or professional goals. I keep this to thirty minutes a day, remaining conscious of the mindless scrolling trap.

  • Aggregators: Websites that collect and rank content from a variety of sources based on community feedback. These sites are also extremely addicting, but I tend to find some of the most interesting content here. I’ve loved these sites for as long as I can remember, being an original StumbleUpon user.

  • Newsletters: No explanation here, since you’re reading one from yours truly. Newsletters tend to vary in quality dramatically, and aren’t always applicable. However, they are the best source that I’ve found for recurring content from individual authors.

  • Blogs: Similar to newsletters, blogs are a cornerstone of internet culture that gives me direct access to someone’s brain and world view. Some of the best blogs I’ve found are from individuals who aren’t widely famous, but have a clear and concise way of writing that makes their content incredibly valuable.

  • Textbooks / Research Paper: Dense and extremely specific. Academia has a way of saying very little with a lot of words, so I’m choosy about what papers I take the time to dissect. There are classics in every field that are a great place to start, otherwise I will rely on citations or community buzz from conferences to decide what to read.

  • Interviews: If I get the chance, I love to sit down with individuals and pick their brain. Podcasts have allowed me to do this without needing to make the connection myself, although for specific questions it’s always best to pick up the phone.

To capture and organize content, I rely on services like Instapaper and Trello. Instapaper is a bookmarking service that allows me to save links in an easy to read format. Trello is a digital whiteboard that lets me organize content into swim-lanes and see trends and relationships. Using these tools, I’ve built a system that allows me to structure my interests, projects, and goals all in one place.

I’ll post a deep dive on my workflow in a few weeks that explains exactly how this system works. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about what sources you’ve found helpful, and what I should be reading to improve my worldview.


📚 Reading

Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock, has stepped down and sold his entire 13% stake (~$90M) in the company he founded. This story stands out for a few reasons:

  • Patrick runs a website called DeepCapture where he has been posting unfiltered opinions on the SEC and his resignation process.

  • He has promised to “fry the Deep State to ashes” and will be investing 100% of his equity sale into counter-cyclical investments, namely gold, silver, and cryptocurrency.

  • He has also been mired in controversy after an affair with Maria Butina, a Russian woman who plead guilty to espionage. This relationship has also been covered in detail on his personal website.

Dozens of new startups are tackling “productivity”, replacing custom workflows that consist of Microsoft Office + Email. Ben Evans (partner, a16z), elucidates this trend with a number of relevant examples and context. Link.

Conditions on Venus may have been extremely similar to Earth in ancient history, but experienced a runaway greenhouse effect. Despite being our cosmic neighbor, we have been unable to conduct serious research of the surface due to extreme conditions. A short research paper provides scientific backing for the runaway greenhouse theory Link.

A thorough piece of investigative journalism examining the 737 Max disasters and causes. Yes, Boeing created a software fix to a hardware problem, but the common thread in each disaster was inexperienced pilots in unregulated markets. Link.

Denmark has an appointed ambassador to US technology companies. The line between company and country continues to blur. Link.

Facebook purchased brain-computer interface startup CTRL for $1B. I first mentioned CTRL during my 2018 summary in December. CTRL is a non-invasive BCI that relies on a wristband to translate electrical impulses from your arm into on-screen movement. Link.


📺 Must Watch

Sir David Attenborough posts a message to world leaders on climate change.

Elon Musk provides an update on Starship.


💎 Quote Of The Week

“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”

Seneca, On the Shortness of Life


Have an idea for a future topic? Send me an email at newsletter@philmohun.com

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