Offlining Experiment #1: Disengaging from the hivemind using Sony Reader


Tools used:

Sony Reader (yeah, I know, should have waited for the Kindle)
T-Mobile Dash

I needed to read some of the latest articles on the perils of multitasking (we seem to be in our yearly cycle here). Figured this was as good a chance as any to try offlining.


Searched via Google for recent news articles and blogs on multitasking, pasted them into one huge OpenOffice document, kept going until I had just short of 50 single spaced pages. Saved to smartcard which I then popped into my Sony Reader and took out to the patio. Used my phone’s email to punch some quick notes in while reading.


Overall, a wonderful experience, though I’m not sure it would work this well every time.

Some concerns while I was doing it were whether I was actually taking more time to copy and paste the material and get it into the Reader than it would take to read the material. This was aggravated by the fact my Linux laptop doesn’t write to the SD card writer, so I had to move doc to my wife’s computer and save it to the card from there.

All in all, though, it took me about 20 minutes to assemble the monster text file, and I am halfway through reading it, having spent an hour so far — so it looks like the time spent to assemble it is not completely out of order, although I’d love to get a better ratio (here’s where kindle-lust kicks in).

The experience of reading it was wonderful, but I won’t clutter up the notes here with observations on that. I was lucky that I got three substantial articles in the mix — the Christine Rosen piece on The Myth of Multi-tasking, the Nick Carr piece on how the web is changing how we read and think, and a summary of the Payne, Duggan, and Neth research on task-switching.

I’ll summarize my thoughts on those articles in a later post, but the process of reading them on the Reader was wonderful. There were some issues with the formatting, and at least one article didn’t make much sense with out the associated graphs, but the ability to really focus on these articles, which were worth the attention, was pretty fulfilling.

Of course, had they been worse articles, who knows. As George Siemens points out, part of the reason why we fall into continous partial attention is an awful lot of stuff out there doesn’t merit full attention. Had there been more fluff articles in the mix, I suppose I would have been cursing my inability to teleport out via hyperlink to greener pastures….

2 thoughts on “Offlining Experiment #1: Disengaging from the hivemind using Sony Reader

  1. Mike —
    Thanks for sharing a lot of your writing online.

    Regarding your first offlining experiment, I was surprised that you still used a digital device and might instead ‘distance’ yourself more from electronics when possible.

    My favorite technique is to just print the things I want to read, two pages per sheet. An even more enjoyable reading experience than looking at a Sony deck.

    Obviously, using scrap paper and re-using/recycling is a must.

    Give it a try, I think you’ll like it.

    By the way, have you ever read “The future does not compute” by Steve Talbott?

  2. Yong —

    Yeah, I’ve been struggling with that regarding the paper/print-outs — I read an awful lot, and it took me 10 years to train myself not to print. Now I go through maybe one package of copy paper a *year*.

    I guess I’m worried that if I start printing again it will be like 1995 all over again where I had reams and reams of paper everywhere. I think given your comment, however, I will do some math on the cost and the eco-footprint of printing that much. It may be a lot less than I think. Ultimately trees are a renewable resource, and it may be I’ve really overestimate the effect.

    Of course, I also have this idea if people could start sharing the sources they compile for e-readers, just say mailing them between kindles, that maybe this wouldn’t be so much of a hassle, and might get to the level of printing in terms of ease.

    I have heard of The Future Does Not Compute, but never read it. I’m putting it on my list toward the top. Thanks for the suggestion!

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