Tag Archives: Rodrigo Franco

Fighting Information Overload With The Impending Doom Engine


Information overload is an increasing problem in our lives. Those that learn to deal with it will have a major advantage in the next few years. All this information around us competes for our time and attention. As Jason Fried said in his remarkable post “Your attention please”,

“You hear a lot about “quality time” being valuable, but I think quality attention is invaluable. Giving someone your attention is giving more than just giving your time.”

Personally, in the last few years I found my time more and more consumed by my (futile) attempt to catch up with all interesting links and articles piling in my inboxes. Sadly, this is a loser’s game. No matter how much time I spent on it, our internet overlords generated content faster than I was able to consume it.

This situation demanded a plan. After trying a couple of strategies I finally found a way to deal with that. I call it Impending Doom Engine, and I’m going to share it with you now.

Pick Specific Channels of Aggregation

The first thing you should do is aggregate your news sources in the least number of channels you can. My main aggregation engine is the almighty Google reader. I used to have 300+ feeds on it, but after some selection I was able to cut down to around 40.

Another thing that helped immensely was subscribing to Peter Cooper‘s amazing newsletters, Ruby Weekly, Javascript Weekly and HTML5 Weekly. Just by doing that I was able to cut dozens of feeds. I also learned an important lesson by doing that: You don’t need to read everything. If someone is doing the hard work of going through lots of sources and summing up the best of it for you, make use of it.

Oh, and make sure you pay them with a beer when you can. I owe you one, Peter.

After choosing your aggregation channels, you should review them at specific intervals. Once a day, twice a week; it doesn’t matter as long you pick a schedule and stick to it. If you find yourself obsessively checking your channels every five minutes, use blocking tools or anything else that will help you maintain your schedule.

Create a “Read Later” list

So now you have some nice sources where you can find more of what really matters to you in a scheduled, nonOCD way. The next step is to find a place where you can store the list of articles you actually plan to read. You can use bookmarking sites like Delicious and Pinboard, or maybe some “Read Later”-specific applications like Instapaper, ReadItLater or Readability. The important thing is to make sure you have an easy way to add articles to your list whenever a new one pops up.

The three rules

From this step on, you just have to follow three simple rules to make the system work. All of the rules are sacred and should be taken seriously if you want to make the magic happen. The rules are:

Do not touch your “Read Later” list on weekdays

You can keep adding more and more articles each day, but make sure you don’t ever read anything from the list on weekdays. If you want something to read, I’m sure there are plenty of books waiting for you somewhere.

Schedule time over the weekend to do some serious reading

From Friday night until the end of Sunday, you are free to read from your list whenever you want.

You can go through it during free time between chores (instapaper is a nice tool for that) or you can send the articles to your kindle and schedule some time to focus on them. Feel free to take notes and process the articles in any way that pleases you.

Last rule: Doomsday Clock

As soon you wake up on Monday, you should remove all articles from your “Read Later” list. Wipe it clean. Zero. No leftovers. This may feel harsh, but it is really important. That’s the core of this system. Doing that will create an “impending doom” feeling over the weekend, and even if you have just a couple of minutes free, it will make sure you read what really matters before time runs out. Scary, huh?

Conclusion

So, that’s how I do it. I’ve been using this system for some time and finally was able to find time to read books again. Check my book queue here if you think I’m lying. All the time I used to spend reading articles over the week is now in better use. In summary:

- Make sure you have just a couple aggregation channels (Google Reader and hand-picked newsletters are my aggregators of choice).

- Go through your news sources in specific time intervals (once a day, twice a week, etc.).

- As soon you find something worth reading, add it to your “Read Later” list.

- Do not touch your “Read Later” list on weekdays.

- Read whenever you want (from your list) over the weekend.

- Early Monday, remove all items from your list. Empty it completely.

I hope that this helps you find some time in your busy life.

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Amazing coffee on a budget


You wake up and start getting ready for your day. Teeth brushed, you turn on the coffee maker. Without thinking, you have a cup in your hands and are gulping it before commuting to the daily grind. You’ve been drinking coffee your entire life and probably never wasted time thinking about it. You think ‘Taste is not all that important’ – all you want is the ‘oomph’ to get your day started.

If you feel that first paragraph is about you, then I’m really happy for you, because your life is about to get a real upgrade.

Good coffee is neither hard nor expensive to make. By following some simple rules and using the right tools, you can improve your coffee-drinking life by a huge margin. You don’t need expensive machinery to get good coffee. You would if you were pursuing ‘the best espresso ever’, but instead of spending $3000 in a fancy machine, you can spend $80 and produce a good — even amazingly good — cup of coffee, every time.

For starters, forget about your $8 cinnamon chocolate non-fat soy milk frappuccino. Good coffee can (and should) be taken black. Sugar is optional, but if you have high quality beans and they are freshly roasted, you probably don’t need any.

The coffee

Let’s start with the basics: to get good coffee, you need good coffee. Look for a good source of freshly roasted beans in your city. You will probably find a hipster coffee shop or even a local roaster. If you can’t find one, look online for subscription services. Tonx is a good one.

A grinder

Second rule: never buy ground coffee. As soon the beans are roasted, they start losing flavor. After grinding, this happens even faster, and soon you can say bye-bye to the flavor. Always grind your beans just before preparing a cup.

Nice grinders take up a lot of space and are very expensive. After some unlucky purchases, I found a cheap grinder that’s good enough: the Hario MSS-1B Mini Mill Slim Coffee Grinder. It’s small and easy to transport, sporting very nice ceramic blades. The only downside is the manual operation, so you need to put some sweat into it. That’s not even a big problem, as it takes around 1 min of grinding beans to get enough grounds for one cup.

By the way, for the method I’m explaining here, I use the grinder set to grind point ’6′.

Water

Make sure the water is filtered and at the right temperature. If the water is too cold or too warm, your coffee will not be as good. The temperature should be around 80ºC (175ºF).

You can use a cooking thermometer to geek out on this.

A brewing tool

There are dozens of good ways to brew coffee. Pour over and the French press are the most commonly used by the uninitiated, but there is one tool that I love and, in my experience, always produces good results: the AeroPress.

It may look like a lab tool, but in fact it’s a really simple brewing method. You grind the beans, heat the water, add both to the AeroPress, set up the filter, push it gently all the way through and voilà: you have delicious coffee.

You can push the AeroPress as instructed in the manual, but I prefer to use the inverted method instead of the traditional one. This ensures the coffee oils are not lost in the paper filter and gives more flavor.

Bonus: hipster tools

If you want to go to the next level, there are some additional tools you can add to your inventory. For example:

Kaffeologie metal filter

This filter was designed by a kickstart in 2012 and is now available from Amazon. Unlike previous metal filters, this one does not filter out all the oils from your coffee. I love it – I stopped using paper filters after getting it.

Kitchen scales

Having a digital scale allows you to do small experiments. How about trying 25g of beans for 180g of water? Too strong? Maybe something more diluted, like 18g of beans for 250g of water?

Conclusion

And that’s it. For about $80 you can get all the tools you need to brew some really good coffee that will make your mornings brighter and your life better.

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Bookworm, Coffee Connoisseur and Dungeon Crawler Aficionado.

Published February 25, 2013