My information diet

We're bombarded with too much information and we have natural biases as to what we want to hear. This post shows how I get my information, why I choose the content I do, and what I do to overcome my own natural biases.

information diet confirmation bias
Image source

I feel like a frog in a slow-to-boil pot with the way that truth has lost its anchoring in the public domain. Some combo of partisan segmentation of media, platform algos that amplify extremism, and a sprinkle of state sponsored information warfare has just gotten out of control. How we consume information and how we think about reality has never been so important.

Here are a few key things to keep in mind when choosing your information diet (aka what we choose to read, watch, or listen to):

  1. Our backgrounds, affiliations, and world views generate bias. It's hard to even know how or where we're biased.
  2. We naturally seek information that confirms our biases. We seek more of what makes us feel good.
  3. A wise person goes out of their way to understand others who think differently. Not so you can out argue them, but so that you can learn in case you happen to be wrong.

The blessing of our modern age is that information has never been more readily available. The curse of our modern age is that there's too much information!  How we triage sources and make use of what's out there matters.

What I consume has changed over time and I have no doubt will evolve, but here's where things stand today.

Let's start with my RSS feed on Feedly. The goal here is to have a broad cross-section of information that is both informative and stands a chance of correcting for my own biases. I won't list them all since I have about 100 sources in my feed, but here are the categories with some examples:

  • News (e.g. AP Reuters, The Economist, NY Times, Washington Post, WSJ, CNN, Drudge Report, New Yorker). Fred Wilson's AVC recommended News Items by John Ellis, which I just added to my feed to try out.
  • Technology (e.g. MIT Technology Review, Ars Technica, VentureBeat, Techcrunch, Wired, Slashdot, The Hacker News, Packet Storm, Errata Security)
  • Finance, economics, and business news (e.g. Abnormal Returns, Bloomberg, Financial Times)
  • Crypto (Coindesk, Cointelegraph, Crypto Panic, Bitcoin Magazine)
  • Economics and Finance blogging (e.g. AVC, Marginal Revolution, The Grumpy Economist, Freakonomics)
  • Journals (e.g. ScienceDirect, Journal of Finance, NBER, Foreign Affairs)

Reading is a skill to be exercised and that's best done in multiple forms. In addition to the deluge of digital sources these days, I'm a sucker for some things in print. Here's what I'm currently into:

  • The Economist
  • The New Yorker
  • Review of Financial Studies
  • Journal of Finance
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Harvard Business Review

A Kindle or similar reading device is key for reading longer form stuff, like nonfiction books and novels. Sure, you can and should order some physical books, but there's nothing quite like being able to listen to a podcast and then immediately download the best works by that author.

Speaking of podcasts...I'm a bit of a podcast junkie because these are so easy to consume while going for a walk or working out. I'm subscribed to too many podcasts and they can be broken into roughly the same categories as my RSS feed. Here are some notable ones:

  • News (The Economist, NY Times, WSJ, WP, etc all have podcast versions)
  • Crypto (Decrypt Daily, Epicenter, Unchained, Zero Knowledge, The Pomp Podcast)
  • Health, fitness, lifehacking (Huberman Lab, Found my Fitness, The Tim Ferriss Show, The Art of Manliness, The Kevin Rose Show)
  • Economics (Conversations with Tyler, The Grumpy Economist, People I (Mostly) Admire, Freakonomics Radio, EconTalk)
  • Politics and current events (FiveThirtyEight Politics, Sway, NPR Politics, Intelligence Squared, Uncommon Knowledge, Goodfellows)
  • Science etc (Hidden Brain, thedrive, Science Vs, The Knowledge Project)
  • Business and investing (Panic with Friends, Masters of Scale, Invest Like the Best)

I recommend checking out Blinkist for 10-15 minute summaries of important books. I use it mainly to power through business, strategy, and leadership books that are admittedly tough to keep my attention. And finally, adding to my walking and workout arsenal of audio sources, I've recently been listening to books on Audible.

Finally, with so much material out there, where do you set the boundaries? Unless you're retired, you probably can't read all day for a living and you need to set a hard stop.

My information diet feeds a few goals:  1) My job requires me to know what's going on in the world, economy, and in technology; 2) I'm obsessed with learning how to grow into a better CEO and how to build a continuously improving organization, and 3) learning and reading is mental exercise that keeps my brain healthy!

Knowing why you're reading, learning, or consuming information helps set the boundaries that work for you. Just keep in mind that it can be addicting and we all have propensities to choose what feeds our biases or gives us those short term dopamine hits as we scroll through clickbait. Beware and enjoy crafting your own information diet!

Suggestions welcome! Please leave a comment with your own fav info sources.


Sign in or become a Finpunk by Rob Viglione member to join the conversation.