Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Temptations …

Recently, I am suffering from a kind of temptation, that makes me wonder if this temptation is right or wrong. It mostly happens when I am trying to lookup for something in Wikipedia. The other day, I started reading about Doug Englebart then → Vannevar Bush then → “As we may think” then → hypertext, at this point, I stopped. This temptation to read as much as I can, is filling my head with a lot of things. Some of thing may be less useful (garbage). Its interesting to know varied things, but all of us have limited knowledge, limited energy and finite amount of time. Recently, I am busy with Work (and at work I study VLSI Design, Perl, Image processing, … everything is new to me). Hobbies include photography, blogging, reading others blogs, learning Japanese, and tennis. Strange it may be, but I feel, I am reading way too much and I feel most of them is not so useful.

The Google reader is a nice tool for keeping track of the latest news or your favorite blog posts. The number of unread articles mounts to something like 200, if I miss to open the reader for a couple of days. My reading slows down on weekends, and on Mondays I just “mark as read”, most of the news articles. But somewhere deep down my mind, I feel a slight remorse flushing those articles. I manage to read some of my favorite blogs though. I feel like someone has painstakingly compiled those articles and flushing without reading … is kind of injustice …

At this point, I asked myself a question, what and how much can I read. It was a tricky question. Because from my childhood I had been advised to read more, and now I want to prevent myself from reading more. It was a strange feeling. I started wondering how big shots like say Bill gates manages his emails. It was really funny to know that he receives 4 million emails a days, off course mostly spam. But even then, that's a lot. Ballmer once said,

Speaking at a Microsoft event in Singapore, Mr Ballmer said: "Bill Gates (is first) because he is Bill Gates. Bill literally receives four million pieces of e-mail per day, most of it spam."

"Literally there's a whole department almost that takes care of it," he said.

Coming back to the topic. I mentioned in the beginning this article written by Vannevar Bush’s, “As we may think”. Though it did take away a couple of hours from my life. It was a nice read. I thought V-Bush was trying to be more like an oracle. He was predicting how things wound shape up in the “computer age”. The one thing he kept on repeating was, “the way in which people would refer to technical articles would change dramatically”. For example, back in good old days, if I decide to publish a paper I would travel to the library, and search for the relevant journals. And then read through each and every topics available, and then try to read some of them that seems to be relevant. The “keyword hit” normally took a long … long time. He predicted, and correctly so, that people would have access to information “readily”.

This readily available information is too tempting, is what I think. The inquisitive cells in me, wants to read more, and more. The hypertext web-pages looks like a maze of never ending links, that obviously enables me to know new things. Now, I start to think, some of the knowledge is not needed.

These days, we are also overwhelmed with information. For example, today, I was trying to read some article about a specific detail in verilog. And the number of results was just astounding (around 30 that exactly matched my query string). Just looking at the title most of them looked good. Now, how would I know which one is better. Reading one of those webpage would take me around 30 minutes. I will have to go through each one of them, till I am satisfied. In the worst case I would need about 15 hours. That’s a couple of working days. Phoo … fortunately, the 3rd article matched my need. And it took me around 2 hours to understand the issue that I was facing.

Now, how can we rate these article. If the world continues with these flurry of information, how and who will rate them. If we cannot rate it, will the user have a problem with more choices than none. Is it in a way same as no choices?


(courtesy www.xkcd.com)

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