Don’t Just Collect. Consume.

I have a bit of a problem when it comes to information. I tend to resemble someone on the TV show Hoarders. I have loads of PDF files on my laptop. Some are on my iPad. Some are on my desktop PC. I even have some on a little flash drive I carry around in my pocket. Of course, I have plenty of books. Just for networking related stuff, I have a pile at home as well as a good size collection at work. Then there are the URL’s. Every day I save all of the valuable URL’s I have discovered from Twitter and RSS feeds and put them in their own little folder with the date as the name under my bookmarks in Firefox. If I follow you on Twitter and you post a link, odds are I have looked at it and bookmarked it if it is something that pertains to my interests. If I read your blog, and odds are I do, I will bookmark various posts of yours and at some point go back and reference them. You see, I don’t always have time to read everything during the day. Additionally, if it is a post like this, or this, I will have to go back and read it all when I have a considerable amount of free time.

Therein lies the problem. I never seem to have time to go back and sift through every thing like I had planned. Well, that’s not entirely true. I have the time. I just get caught up in all the new links that are posted on Twitter every day and wind up spending study time skimming new blog posts or digging through websites. There’s a lot of good info out there that people are sharing. I suppose I could limit my intake to just routing and switching, but what fun would that be? Besides, I don’t want to be ignorant of the other things that are out there. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that I had absolutely nothing to do with voice, storage, wireless, and security. Times are changing, and changing fast.

There’s just so much out there that needs to be absorbed. Just when I think I have a handle on most of the Cisco product line, they go and release UCS, and the Nexus 1000V, and the ASR1000’s, and Clean Air. It never ends. There is always a new technology or some new hardware to read up on.

The realization I have come to is that there is no use in collecting information if you are not going to use it. All of those PDF’s, books, and URLs will do me no good if I never use them. At the same time, if I stop keeping up with what is current, I will fall behind and be of less help to my employer. I won’t be able to effectively design anything because I won’t be aware of what the possibilities are.

One of two things has to happen. The first option is that I can really narrow down the focus to just the things that directly pertain to my job. That will alleviate some of the information I have been hoarding. The second option is to start dedicating a bigger portion of my day to information consumption. I think option two is the best one as I can’t see myself ignoring products and technologies that I am not using today due to the fact that I may be using them tomorrow. Besides, it’s more fun when you have a wide range of technologies to keep up with as opposed to a handful.

I don’t know how everyone else handles their technical knowledge maintenance. If you happen to have a tried and true method of keeping up with all things networking, I would love to hear about it.

This entry was posted in efficiency, learning, vendors. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Don’t Just Collect. Consume.

  1. stretch says:

    That was painful to read; I constantly find myself with the exact same problem. šŸ™ Even during the time it took me to read your relatively short article I stopped and looked at the Catalyst 3560 QoS link and a link from someone on IRC.

    • I keep thinking I will get to the level I want to be at with technology X, but it never happens. There’s always SOMETHING more that I come across that needs to be read and digested. It’s hard to focus on one thing since so many things bleed over into each other.

  2. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one feeling like this never ends.

    Granted, I’m just starting out in the field, but it looks like every time I stop and think of what the next move will be, there’s a metric ton of technology that has changed, and needs to be learned.

  3. LBSources says:

    Guilty of the same!

  4. Barry says:

    I feel the same way too about all the information out there. I am constantly bookmarking blogs, videos, and white papers that are filled with information I want to read through. There just isn’t enough time in the day to read through everything I want. In today’s world there seems to be more information out there than the average human can process in a reasonable amount of time. It was funny that you wrote about this topic, as I was telling my wife last night there is just too much information out there to read and understand in a reasonable amount of time. The internet is great in the sense that it can bring us all this information, but what good is it if we can’t processes it all

    By the way, I love the Hoarders analogy, which describes my bookmarks in my browser perfectly and the state of all the Cisco Press books and notes on my desk LOL.

  5. EtherealMind says:

    I have several tools on Mac OSX that solve this problem for me. There is a feature known as “Open Meta” which provides a way for tagging files. I then use a program “Leap” from http://www.ironicsoftware.com/leap/ that allows me to rapidly tag loads of files (it has a image and tag window in a combined interface).

    Then I have another utility called Default Folder X which extends the file dialog box that allows me to tags files as I save them. For double points I use a program called Hazel to automatically tag files downloaded from Cisco with specific tags and put the file into a specific sub-directory.

    The I use search interface programs for Spotlight such as Houdah Spot or even Leap to be able to search on the tags.

    Thus a PDF file on the Cisco Nexus design, would be tagged ‘cisco’ ‘nexus’ ‘data centre’ design’. Then I can search on files that are tagged with, say, Nexus and design.

    To further refine this when retrieving data, I use the Quick Look feature to rapidly preview the PDF file before I open it in Preview.

    And this is why I rave about OSX.

    AFAIK, This type of software does not exist on Windows because the operating system doesn’t have the necessary hooks to let this happen.

    • Thanks for the info! That’s a fairly refined process you have. I am guessing it took a little trial and error to get there.

      • EtherealMind says:

        Actually it just kind of built up over time. I didn’t really intentionally set out to achieve this, but I had the program for various other reasons, and then started to use for this purpose.

        Maybe it’s worth writing up.

  6. tonhe says:

    at least you’re organized… I just throw shit in my bookmarks toolbar, or whatever place is convenient and then struggle to find it later when I do want it!

    Of course, when I start to clean up.. I usually give up half way and just dump it in a folder called misc, which has last years clean up folder called misc as a sub folder and so on…

    • I miss the good old days when every magazine sent you paper copies instead of the “digital” editions like they do today. I would go and buy these cheap photo album books and cut out all the relevant articles and paste them to the pages of the albums. I’d get stacks and stacks of magazines for free(HP Professional, Network World, Network Magazine, InfoWorld, eWeek, etc). It wasn’t very organized, but it gave me something tangible to sift through when I had time. Now the sheer amount of information out there is overwhelming. I like Greg’s system, but unfortunately the only Apple products I own are an iPod and an iPad. Perhaps there is some sort of categorization program on the Windows platform. Of course, it is also difficult deciding which PDF’s to get rid of once I have read them. I would need to factor in some sort of retention/refresh plan. I can see why people get admin assistants!

  7. Oliver Gorwits says:

    Similar to the tagging already mentioned, I use the Delicious bookmarks service for links and have a ‘toread’ tag as well as the others. It’s a nice service because I can accesss it from any device, and I try to make time at the end of the day to grab the iPad and catch up on recent ‘toread’ items.

  8. Barry says:

    I wanted to share an idea that has been working for me to organize and keep track of all the information that I find online. I have been using Tiddlywiki as a personal wiki. Using Tiddlywiki makes it easy for me to organize information and search for precisely what I’m looking for. Its also great for quick tips and critical notes for work. The nice thing is it is really portable too as it is all stored in a .html file and can fit on a USB flash drive nicely. I’d figure I’d pass along the tip šŸ™‚

    • Thanks Barry! A couple of weeks ago, I started using Evernote after hearing so many people rave about it. With the client on my phone, iPad, and laptop, I can update a central location with notes, documents, etc. Although it’s just a document repository as far as I can tell, it seems to be doing the trick.

Comments are closed.