A Minimalist in the Tech Industry
Engineered Eloquence was born out of the link list boom. I had a Tumblr space back then and Tumblr's main purpose was sharing other, more important people's content. Daring Fireball was the gold standard of link lists and every tech person who enjoyed writing wanted to be like John Gruber (to some extent). Tumblr became a stepping stone that provided me a way to use my tech knowledge and launch multiple incarnations of this site over time, including a move to Github Pages (where I learned some Ruby coding and the Jekyll blogging engine) and finally Blot (where I met Nash). Time and time again, I have focused more on the outlet itself than the content, even though the original reason I got into blogging was sharing interesting things and writing down my thoughts.
The problem as I see it now, however, is that in order to share interesting things, you must seek out interesting things. I am reading all the time, but not always on the internet and not normally the easily-distilled. Right now, I am in the midst of four books, none of which I can take snippets from to blockquote. In addition, as I work to whittle down my technology use in my personal life, I have struggled with the balance between sharing and internalizing. And finally, in my desire to become more focused and minimalistic, I have started to see more of the tech blogging echo chamber as trivial. This last point is important because I would historically consider myself a tech blogger.
I shared recently some numbers from my Instapaper queue. I have been reading and archiving with abandon to get those numbers down to manageable levels. Eventually, I hope to have zero articles saved in read-later services and focus on only those articles I intend to read. However, that points to the larger point of sharing these ideas out in the open: once my read-later queue is gone, I will move on to the next area that needs decluttering, and then the next area.
All along the way, I will be sharing numbers where appropriate or anecdotes about the experience. My link-list-turned-blog doesn't have to be about sharing other people's work when I have my own to share. I have an adage I use in a lot of situations that goes something like this: "I go to conferences, but they are only worth it if I am actively participating." Put another way, I am beginning to be more particular about how I spend my time and energy because doing something for the sake of doing it becomes a lot less interesting when you could be... (insert thing that actually brings you joy here).
The key to this whole discussion though is the understanding that I am doing something diametrically opposed to what I am expected to do as a technologist. I am expected to be interested in the new products announced by that major corporation; I am expected to have my finger on the pulse of every startup company in existence; I am expected to spend my nights binge-watching every episode of that streaming TV show. I am expected to always have a screen within arms reach if not already in my hand. If the best camera is the one you have with you, my wife's best camera is often, "can I have your phone for a minute?"
On the contrary, I am actively attempting to remove the technological clutter from my life. And to bring this back around to the start: if I am attempting to declutter my own interaction with technology, why would I force more of the same shared information into other's feeds? They have Daring Fireball for that.
As a final note, in going through my Instapaper queue as I mentioned above, I have stumbled on some gems; this one is from Shawn Blanc that fits with the theme:
Reduce the amount of “novel stimuli” that you let in to your day-to-day life. When you have a strong baseline level of noise in all the little moments of your life, it makes it more difficult to focus on the task at hand when you’re doing deep work. Because you’re training your brain that boredom is bad.
Also, check out Cal Newport's post on digital minimalism from two years ago, almost to the day. And finally, as a counterpoint to some forms of the minimalist movement, July 2016's New York Times article, "The Oppressive Gospel of ‘Minimalism’", which is just fantastic.