A bit of genius from The Awl.
One of my favorites is #10, in response to the myth that “publishing this book will change my life.” No, the writer says:
What will change your life is committing to regularly producing work. More than any single opportunity, usually a commitment to writing succeeds instead.
Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t.
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t.
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40.
Maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.
Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either.
Your choices are half chance.
So are everybody else’s.
The World is Small and Life is Long. In other words: our world, now, is a big world that acts small. Be nice to people. Seemingly disparate worlds are increasingly connected.
The days are long, but the years are short. In other words: today seems like a chore, but this is the ephemeral stuff of life itself.
Is this the effect of aging, or technology advancing? Both lessons from these couldn’t-be-shelved-further-apart-from-each-other blogs (Venkatesh Rao’s Ribbon Farm and Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project) point to similar ideas: that the apparent minutiae of the everyday is much more important than we realize. Bus rides are to be savored, online interactions are best done thoughtfully. In both cases—and here, I’m simplifying for the sake of clarity—the chores done right now seem to stand in the way of the greater future, but they’re what build the future.
In The World is Small, Rao talks about the dangers of burning bridges and picking fights. It’s hard to catch up with people because we are increasingly always connected. I’d disagree: I’m not “caught up” on the lives of all of my Facebook friends, even though we’re digitally connected. People are free to reinvent themselves, even though one’s digital footprint makes that an increasingly hefty chore.
Socially, the world seems big, but during the day we’re likely to interact with many people who know each other-even if we’re not aware of that connection. That’s just a side effect of living in the same place for a while, working in the same industry for a while, and the effects of homophily in general. All strangers may turn out to be consequential.More
If you don’t risk anything you risk even more.
I’ve been a freelance journalist, knowledge broker, and fact-finder for years. If my education credentials actually reflected my knowledge, at the very least, I’d have a Master’s Degree in Googling Stuff.
Let’s take something I don’t know anything about, but that I’d like to learn as much about as quickly as possible. Since I just saw Inception (again), I’ll use corporate espionage as my subject.
•Know exactly what you’re looking for
Vague questions yield vague results. The more you can narrow it down to a single question, the better. That’s how you’ll be able to identify when you’ve completed the task, and avoid running the risk of going down the information rabbit hole. Yes, it’s likely that you’ll develop better, more interesting questions as you learn more about the subject, but you need a specific start.
Let’s say I want to look up “job training for corporate spies,” because while Inception has me thinking that it must be the coolest job in the world, my searches on LinkedIn and Indeed are coming up empty.
•Go on Wikipedia. But only if you really want to
The extent to which Wikipedia is a good resource directly correlates to how knowledgeable Wikipedia’s editors are about the subject matter you’re searching for. As a thought experiment, think about the demographics of the kind of people you’d expect would spend a lot of their free time writing things for no compensation on Wikipedia–who’d have the resources of speedy, readily available internet? What else would they do or be interested in?
More Wikipedia articles are written about fictional places like Middle Earth than about many countries in Africa, the Americas and Asia, a new map reveals.
–New York Times
So remember; Wikipedia is a start that can help you get a very basic overview of a field, learn what the major subdivisions are, and point you towards further, more comprehensive reading. A search on Wikipedia for ‘corporate spy’ redirects me to its page on Industrial Espionage.
•Get some background reading
The Wikipedia page has a shit ton of background reading on Industrial Espionage. Because I want an overview of the subject, I stick to the section of the article that’s relevant (the intro) and look at the books that are most commonly referenced in that section. The winner is Economic Espionage and Industrial Spying, which anyone can buy me for Christmas 🙂
•Learn some of the insider lingo
Corporate Spies probably don’t call each other corporate spies. One plus of Wikipedia is that it can introduce you to the more common terms. ‘Competitive intelligence’ describes the legal and ethical activity of systematically gathering, analyzing and managing information on industrial competitors. Next, find a place where people use these terms frequently.•Tagging!
Another good source of background information is the social bookmarking site Delicious, despite its recent, horrible overhaul. Searching by tags, or keywords, and ordering results by popular, instead of recent, ensures that you’re only getting non-spammy results that other people have taken the time to bookmark. Delicious a good collection of information, but I’m not actively using it anymore because of the changes. (Pity.)My new favorite is Pinboard: the only downside for now is that the user community is very heavily skewed towards techies and developers. Diigo is a bit too complicated, but also worth a look.•Find a credentialed source of information
Steer clear of conspiracy theorists, and towards objectively-trusted resources. My preferred search is something like:
- [keyword] association filetype:pdf
- [keyword] association site:.gov
- [keyword] association site:.edu
Let’s just ignore the larger question of whether or not the government or universities are trusted resources: they’re easy to target because you can search by domain. Professional associations are key, and thankfully, we’ve got the jackpot: The Society of Credentialed Intelligence Professionals.
•Find your source’s sources
Someone recently asked me how long people have been talking about the imminent explosion of the mining industry in Mongolia–specifically, he wanted to know how one of his investment gurus knew about the mining opportunities.
Thanks to Google’s new search result options, you can focus your search results to webpages that were published before a certain date. Find out who was talking about mining in Mongolia before your alleged guru, and DA-DING! You’ve just beaten your guru–in reverse. (The key is to beat him in real time.)More
In my experience there is little correlation between people who are public, or people who are loud, and people who are knowledgeable. There are some very knowledgeable people who are public and loud. I follow them. I read their stuff. But there are a far greater number of people who are equally (and often more) knowledgeable, but simply prefer not to engage in public discourse. These are the people that matter.More