Overcoming Bookmarking Syndrome in the New Year

-01 Jan 2016-

I save a lot of bookmarks for tech, Like, a lot. I went through all of my saved tutorial bookmarks, YouTube ‘Watch Later’ videos, Udemy courses, Instapaper feed, and unread tech books on my kindle and calculated that I have about 90 hours of learning content that I have on queue.

This list has been getting out of control for a while now. A hacker news article saved in Instapaper, a 2 hour conference talk posted on twitter gets added to ‘watch later’, someone in slack mentioning a new technology gets thrown in my haphazardly labeled TECH STUFF bookmark folder. It’s really easy to do this, but the more I do it, the larger the queue gets, the more intimidating it gets and, sadly, the less likely I am to even try to whittle down this goliath.

My first action of the new year, this morning, was to catalog every nook and cranny of this mountain, filter out things that aren’t relevant or that I probably never cared about in the first place (Still not certain why I bookmarked a digital signal processing library in Haskell). After this, I set a goal: two months. Any longer and the amount of new tech I would want to learn would clutter up my bookmarks again and create the same problem, any briefer and the effort per day would be too unpalatable.

In two months by doing about an hour and a half a day, I can get through learning Docker, figuring out org-mode, SICP, finally understanding what the heck machine learning is, two Elixir books, building an operating system in Rust data science for python, Rich Hickey’s apparently amazing talk that I still haven’t had time for, and about 20 other interesting articles, videos, and tutorials.

An hour and a half a day isn’t easy. Some days you don’t have that. Some days you don’t feel like it. Some times you forget that you should only focus on this iliadic Bloomberg article and not look up and fret over the mountain that you have set out to climb. I think I can handle it though. I keep my Sundays free and can catch some of the slack of fall-behind days through the week. I’m setting a recurring event in my calendar and plan on batching out what articles and tutorials I am going to get through each week. And I want to handle it because it is important to me.

It is important because I really want to keep learning. I want to learn new languages. I want to learn how to build an AI that plays Street Fighter. I want to build my own digital synthesizer. I want to never again be bamboozled by what git command I want. I want to learn to make new things and how to distribute and deploy them. And I don’t want to get scared by the amount of stuff I want to learn.

I feel this ‘bookmarking-syndrome’ puts too much confidence on a mythical ‘one day’ and is a poor coping mechanism for dealing with information overload. Maybe something like clearing out a bunch of bookmarks and a video playlist seems trivial, but for me right now it’s kind of important that I don’t keep forming a habit of being so overwhelmed by all that I don’t know that I don’t even try to learn, and instead start clearing off my feeds, tinkering around with new tools, and grokking in the new year.

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