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The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption [Kindle Edition]

Clay A. Johnson
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)

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  • Print ISBN-10: 1449304680
  • Print ISBN-13: 978-1449304683
  • Edition: 1
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Book Description

The modern human animal spends upwards of 11 hours out of every 24 in a state of constant consumption. Not eating, but gorging on information ceaselessly spewed from the screens and speakers we hold dear. Just as we have grown morbidly obese on sugar, fat, and flour—so, too, have we become gluttons for texts, instant messages, emails, RSS feeds, downloads, videos, status updates, and tweets.

We're all battling a storm of distractions, buffeted with notifications and tempted by tasty tidbits of information. And just as too much junk food can lead to obesity, too much junk information can lead to cluelessness. The Information Diet shows you how to thrive in this information glut—what to look for, what to avoid, and how to be selective. In the process, author Clay Johnson explains the role information has played throughout history, and why following his prescribed diet is essential for everyone who strives to be smart, productive, and sane.

In The Information Diet, you will:

  • Discover why eminent scholars are worried about our state of attention and general intelligence
  • Examine how today’s media—Big Info—give us exactly what we want: content that confirms our beliefs
  • Learn to take steps to develop data literacy, attention fitness, and a healthy sense of humor
  • Become engaged in the economics of information by learning how to reward good information providers
  • Just like a normal, healthy food diet, The Information Diet is not about consuming less—it’s about finding a healthy balance that works for you

    Editorial Reviews


    "Media personalities and high profile Google and Microsoft employees are extolling the virtues of Johnson's data plan" -Wired Magazine

    "'The Information Diet' Should Be Your New Year's Resolution" -Forbes

    "The Information Diet is definitely the kind of book that we need to read going into 2012 with all of the junk information online and on our TVs trying to creep into our lives and not making us think critically."

    "I don't know when I've read a more sensible book." - NPR's Scott Simon

    "An intelligent manifesto for optimizing the 11 hours we spend consuming information on any given day (a number that, for some of us, might be frighteningly higher) in a way that serves our intellectual, creative, and psychological well-being." -- Maria Popova, Brainpickings

    About the Author

    Clay Johnson is best known as the founder of Blue State Digital, the firm that built and managed Barack Obama's online campaign for the presidency in 2008. After leaving Blue State, Johnson was the director of Sunlight Labs at the Sunlight Foundation, where he built an army of 2000 developers and designers to build open source tools to give people greater access to government data. He was awarded the Google/O'Reilly Open Source Organizer of the year in 2009, was one of Federal Computer Week's Fed 100 in 2010.

    The range of Johnson's experience with software development, politics, entrepreneurism, and working with non-profits gives him a unique perspective on media and culture. His life is dedicated to giving people greater access to the truth about what's going on in their communities, their cities, and their governments.

    Product Details

    • File Size: 855 KB
    • Print Length: 160 pages
    • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
    • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (December 6, 2011)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B006GRYADO
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • X-Ray:
    • Word Wise: Not Enabled
    • Lending: Not Enabled
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,582 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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    Customer Reviews

    3.9 out of 5 stars
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    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    113 of 122 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars Cute metaphor but misleading and incomplete January 22, 2012
    Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
    "Information Diet" is a clever metaphor, and there are some interesting parallels, but ultimately the author stretches it too thin.

    The first great observation made by the author is that the problem we face today is not "information overload" but "information overconsumption". The information doesn't automatically enter our minds, instead we deliberately engage in behaviors that deliver it to us - in other words, we are not victims, instead we inflict "information overload" on ourselves via our day-to-day habits. Second, information just like calories can be "refined" to peak curiosity: shocking headlines, tabloids, notifications of all kinds, and so on. These "empty calories" are easy to consume, but deliver little in terms of useful information.

    However, this is where the author's analogy begins to disintegrate. Yes, all information has a consumption chain: raw data, facts, trends, expert analysis, headlines and tabloids. However, to say that a "healthy information diet" is one that gets all, or most of its data at the source ("raw"), is simply misleading. Yes, experts add their own "seasoning" through their analysis, but unlike a refined carbon chain, which is only broken down the further it is processed, information and knowledge has this curious potential property of being enriched with further analysis! Not always, mind you - potential, is the key word.

    In fact, the very reason I bought this book (and likely, you are considering as well) is that I implicitly assumed that the author has spent the time and effort to process, assimilate, and think through all the implications of his metaphor. In other words, we expect a "highly processed" work, distilled to its very essence - nothing but the good stuff. Unfortunately, that doesn't appear to be the case.
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    41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars Take care of your information consumption January 5, 2012
    Format:Kindle Edition
    According to Johnson there is no such thing as information overload. Rather, we consume junk information produced by contetnt farms. He proposes conscious consumption of information which is not about consuming less, but developing a balanced and healthy habit just like when you go on diet. Although, I don't agree with every word of it, I really enjoyed reading the book as it is full of stories and clear descriptions of various scientific studies.

    In the first part, Johnson gives a vivid explanation of the obesity metaphor and describes the symptoms of information obesity. The second part contains practical advices about improving data literacy and how to consume information and attention fittness in chapter 8 which is the weak point of the book. The method describe there is very similar to the Pomodoro techinque, and although there are plenty of great books on how to manage your tasks and stay focused (GTD, Personal Kanban, Pomodoro) and the author mentions a lot of studies in the book somehow he forgot to search in this area. The last part is my personal favorite. If we really want to act against information obesity, changing our habits is just the first steps. Johnson calls us for some sort of activism by demanding access to government data, forming local interest groups and start discussing what we can do to change the present situation.

    I'd recommend the book to anyone who's interested in media (so virtually everybody). But be warned, this book is not about the practical side of handling the problems of information, but a pamphlet and call for change.
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    208 of 265 people found the following review helpful
    2.0 out of 5 stars A smart idea for an article, perhaps for Huffington Post December 26, 2011
    Format:Kindle Edition
    I was interested in the book, and the central metaphor--that we are awash in cheap and unhealthy information in a way not unlike the glut of cheap and harmful food calories--is an intriguing conceit. However, that simile gets expanded so epically that the book's focus gets diffused. Why am I reading about factory farming and the overuse of corn in our diet for page after page? It's not even remotely because the author is adding anything new to the discussion. It's just rehashed and oversimplified summarizing of books like Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma. And here's the problem: not only has everyone heard all of this criticism of our American diet endlessly before, but the only reason it gets rehearsed for far too long here is because of the author's central conceit, which, as analogies go, is too obvious to require it anyway. As soon as he says that the central analogy is that we consume information like we do food, with all the attendant problems, he hardly needs to repeat for us all the problems with obesity and empty calories.

    So the first irony is that the book is fat. It could be a lot leaner. It feels like sections have been added to pad it up to a slim little volume you could call a book, when everything interesting here could be said in a magazine article. Too many empty calories, alas.

    The second problem, and one I would hope most readers would care about, though I have my doubts, is the painfully obvious bias the author exhibits when he divides up information into "health food" and "junk food." Kudos to the author for at least acknowledging that he's a liberal who has worked in Democratic politics for years, but that still doesn't excuse the exquisitely obvious way that he divides up the landscape.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    5.0 out of 5 stars Clay Johnson has written an amazing book! Topic is very important
    Clay Johnson has written an amazing book! Topic is very important, but for some reason no psychological books about it. Highly recommended!
    Published 1 month ago by Roman Timofejev
    5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring AND Practical
    This book helped us refocus our family's priorities and gave us everyday tools on how to achieve our goals. Read more
    Published 2 months ago by Robin W. Cailloux
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    Great book to read. Very informative.
    Published 2 months ago by Abdullahi
    4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
    Wonderful if you're finding yourself overwhelmed by the abundance of information out there these days!!!
    Published 2 months ago by Tira Turchinetz
    5.0 out of 5 stars TLDR: Just get it and read it already...seriously
    Great book. Highly recommended. I really think that this is a ground-breaking book that came at the right time. Read more
    Published 4 months ago by Adam K -
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    Book is great! ordered it for class but ended up returning it after not needing it!
    Published 7 months ago by AY
    4.0 out of 5 stars nice read
    Lot of political talk in it. Much more than I expected but since I guess it is important to the discussion of information consumption, it is not a downer. Read more
    Published 9 months ago by Just Chill
    5.0 out of 5 stars A case for information diet and active citizenship.
    The book clearly and succinctly discusses why the current information world that we live in requires us to go on information diet (to save our sanity and have original... Read more
    Published 9 months ago by Venkatesh-Prasad Ranganath
    1.0 out of 5 stars Johnson's Information Diet
    For a book about trustworthy information, this book is absolutely terrible about citations and the rest of what makes a nonfiction book readable. Read more
    Published 11 months ago by John Vining
    5.0 out of 5 stars Oh man! Do we need this one...
    The author brings up several points in this book. I personally think that we have too much information that isn’t necessarily true. Read more
    Published 12 months ago by NSlone
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    More About the Author

    Clay Johnson is best known as the co-founder of Blue State Digital, the firm that built and managed Barack Obama's online campaign for the presidency in 2008. After leaving Blue State, Johnson was the director of Sunlight Labs at the Sunlight Foundation, where he built an army of 2000 developers and designers to build open source tools to give people greater access to government data. He was awarded the Google/O'Reilly Open Source Organizer of the year in 2009, was one of Federal Computing Week's Fed 100 in 2010. He claims to have learned most of what he needs to know working as a waiter on the late shift at Waffle House for two years.

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