#5 How to Engage with Content

Digesting over Consuming, Escaping the tyranny of Algorithms, and your Medium of Choice.

Hey, Hunter-Gatherer!

Hope you're doing well.

In the letters so far, an underlying theme has been tuning into individuals with high judgement and interesting taste to discover all your content. No algorithms, automated recommendations or even, publications.

Want to read a good book? Why look at "bestsellers", when you can instead look for favourite books of people who inspire you. These are people you know and can gauge their intent behind recommending something.

In this letter, I want to share some ideas on how to understand your own taste and judgement.

Try this

Don't just consume content, but digest. Take notes and highlights whenever you read something, and share it with at least one person to cultivate your understanding & taste.

One of my favourite writers, David Perell, pointed out in a recent podcast that how taking notes & highlights while reading blogs lays the groundwork for his own writings. The process of writing all starts with a simple act of highlighting.

In the first letter, I suggested you save anything you discover longer than a tweet to a consume-later app,* and consume later. For me, this later is usually an hour at the end of a day, when all the content is competing for my attention, and I pick. This is the first step of curation.

All consume later apps have highlighting features. (For podcasts & videos, you may take notes in Google Keep.) Highlighting engages me with the content in a way that I don't get distracted. You can also take notes over these highlights.

The highlights attached to a link is the reason you give someone to consume something. Always tell them why they should check out the content.

The act of sharing is effective in a subtle way. It gets me to pick out the most interesting ideas and add my own thoughts to it. This is the first instance where I have created something based on the content I consumed. Discussions with the other person further re-inforces my understanding & add to the experience of a content. It usually ends in finding more great content.

Finally, this will make you aware of your tastes, for what's not worth recommending, or discussing, is probably not that good, to begin with.

Digesting, instead of consuming compounds over time. Highlights & Notes leads to tweets, twitter threads, blogs, videos, and even products. And it leads you to content that shapes your life.

This is essentially the process of writing this letter. Making this newsletter makes me a better hunter-gatherer. Remember to never guilt anyone, or be guilted by anyone to consume content. When anybody sends you something, reply with "Why should I consume this?"

*My consume-later app of choice is Instapaper. You may check out Pocket, but it doesn't have note-taking feature.

Think about this

The journey of millions of people through the space of the Internet; it is very difficult to control that. And I think that intelligence instilled in those algorithms will have a much more potentially either positive or detrimental effect than sentient killer robots.

- Lex Friedman
(Are Social Media Algorithms More Dangerous Than Killer Robots?)

The people designing the algorithms to shape online debate are now the most powerful people in the world. - Naval Ravikant
(Link to the original Tweetstorm)
I have shared my aversion to algorithms before. Auto-play recommendations on YouTube and platforms like TikTok want to strip you away of all agency and just consume what they feed. But it's a trap to grow their business, not to nurture your mind. And it creates a blindspot for where beauty resides.

Writer, David Perell, explains the Algorithmic Trap :

Algorithms are great at giving you something you like but terrible at giving you something you love. Worse, by promoting familiarity, algorithms punish culture.
If taste is globalized, then the logical endpoint is a world in which aesthetic diversity decreases. (In context to travelling apps) Mass-produced tours are like a facade —they allow us to see a place at the expense of feeling it. But when it comes to culture, we should focus more on feeling a place and less on seeing it.

Read here: The Algorithmic Trap & The Algorithmic Blindness

In the blog, he shares how escaping the trap radically transforms your travelling, reading books, online business, etc for the better.
Note: Instead of linking you to the blog, I am linking you to the original Tweetstorms. It contains key ideas & discussions. You may simply digest those now and/or read the entire blog later.

Respond to this

Which medium for content do you enjoy most: written text, images, audio or video? And what do you actually spend more time on?

You may reply to this E-Mail, or via WhatsApp. I'll compile the responses and share the key insights in the next email.

Talk soon, Abhishek.

PS. Everywhere on the Internet as abhishek1point0.
PPS. For any thoughts, questions, or suggestions, you may directly to this E-Mail.

Check out Previous Letters.

A Moment of Connection

The subtle acts of highlighting, taking notes, and sharing led to one of my most mesmerizing moments. On 26th May, my birthday, I pick up the phone to find a gorgeous series of sketches done by a friend. The sketches capture a deep understanding of creativity in the most coherent & succinct manner. These were based on a year of us sharing content & having conversations on creativity. It is easy to under-estimate how much we can influence each other until something like this happens. Check out the sketches here: Instagram | Twitter