Avoiding the Yoyo Info Diet


I’ve been spending far too much time consuming empty scraps of webpages lately and far too little on books and media that matter to me, not to mention this book I’ve been trying to write. I’ve decided to start one of those regimes called an “information diet” – a misnomer, because most literal diets don’t work, but this figurative one might.

My initial rules

  1. Purge my Pocket account, keeping only articles related to work and writing, and those of intense interest. Pocket articles are normally synced to my ereader and my phone, as well as available on my laptop.
  2. “Pocket Zero”: Only add more articles to Pocket when I’ve emptied the current batch.
  3. Create a “tbr” tag on Pinboard for articles I think I’ll really want to read later. Come back and see if I do.
  4. Stop skimming RSS feeds (more than 90 minutes a day). Take The Old Reader out of my browser menu.
  5. Stop surfing new book listings. Take them out of the browser menu too.
  6. Delete my perpetual “emacs” keyword search in Twitter. Replace it with a select list of Emacs glitterati (for example, Sacha Chua).
  7. Postpone starting any games that will consume a lot of time, no matter how fun they look. Examples: Hadean Lands, Dwarf Fortress.

My initial results

In my first Pocket purge, I managed to reduce the number of articles in Pocket by 90%, from around 2000 articles to around 180 (step 1). I also completed steps 2-7.

Thus, I was able to carry out every step of my plan, but it has only been a couple of days. We’ll see whether my new regime is nourishing enough that I don’t enter into that kind of counterproductive databinge/purge/binge cycle.

There is always ever more interesting and useful information than you can access. Where you stop is arbitrary.

For the (akashic) record, I started trying to quit caffeine this morning. Who knows? Perhaps the two efforts will potentiate each other.

Photo by Jorge Franganillo (Flickr: Information overload) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Yubnub Hubba Hubba


Here are a few more shiny stones I’ve found in my voyage to the center of the spam-infested depths of Yubnub.

Remember, to get the benefit of these commands, visit Yubnub and type the example text or something like it. For example, typing ma sarek will get you a page of info on Spock’s dad from the Star Trek Memory Alpha wiki. Equal time for The Other Fandom: typing wook ewok in the Yubnub search box will find too much information about Ewoks in the Wookieepedia.

  • bi: Comprehensive ISBN book lookup. Example: bi 978-1-4493-1494-1
  • jbo: Lojban Lookup. Lojban is a constructed language and so like Esperanto, only more obscure. Example: jbo gerku
  • ma: Memory Alpha Star Trek fan wiki. Example: ma sarek
  • math: Wolfram Mathworld math encyclopedia. Example: mathworld tesseract
  • safari: O’Reilly Safari Online. Example: safari hale-evans (Hey! Both my books are in there!)
  • tro: TV Tropes, endless fun – by which I mean you may not find your way out. Example: tro mad scientist
  • url: Display a Yubnub command URL for reuse. Example: url tro mad scientist
  • wc: Wikimedia Commons, the database of free images and other free media associated with Wikipedia. Example: wc robot
  • wook: Wookieepedia Star Wars fan wiki. Example: wook ewok

Photo by Andres Rueda Lopez (Originally posted to Flickr as Ewok) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What’s all the Yubnub, bub?


Yubnub, the “(social) command line for the web”, is an underappreciated website, ten years old but constantly updated, that is many things to many people, if not everything to everyone. It’s a front end to a vast variety of search engines and other web services, and is so useful that I’ve added Yubnub capability to Firefox, Emacs, and the Linux command line on my laptop. (For more information, see the Yubnub installation page.)

In case you’re curious why Yubnub has such a weird name, it’s the victory song sung by the Ewoks at the end of The Return of the Jedi. Apparently the word means “freedom” in Ewok. I don’t know what the deal is with the snail, though. An Ewok delicacy?

Here are some of the Yubnub commands I’ve found useful or interesting, including Esperanto dictionaries and Finnegans Wake search engines, as well as staples such as Google and Wikipedia. Sadly, some of the really interesting ones no longer work or have been deleted recently, such as search commands for the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and the Chess Variant Pages.

To discover your own commands, visit Yubnub and type ls.

  • am: Amazon. Example: am duct tape
  • amzns: AmazonSmile. When you shop here, Amazon donates 0.5% of the price to the charitable organization of your choice. Example: amzns duct tape
  • bgg: BoardGameGeek, database of board games. Example: bgg cosmic encounter
  • brickipedia: Brickipedia, an encyclopedia wiki about LEGO. Example: brickipedia darth vader
  • fweet: Fweet, database of Finnegans Wake annotations. Example: fweet chaosmos
  • g: Google. The default search engine for Yubnub. Example: g random celebrity Note: omitting the initial g will retrieve results from Google by default.
  • gdef: Performs a Google define: command that gets definitions of words. Example: gdef supernaculum
  • gim: Google Image Search. Example: gim random celebrity
  • ifdb: for games at the Interactive Fiction Database. Example: ifdb zork iii
  • libt: Add books to LibraryThing by ISBN. Example: libt 978-0394718330
  • luzme: Luzme monitors ebook prices at multiple online stores and notifies you of price drops. Example: luzme grapes of wrath
  • obl: Draws a random card from the Oblique Strategies deck.
  • pinb: Pinboard.in bookmarks. Examples: pinb chicago searches your pinboard.in bookmarks for “chicago”. pinb -a chicago searches everyone’s pinboard.in bookmarks for “chicago”.
  • wa: Wolfram Alpha, “computational knowledge engine”. Unique and cool. Example: wa half a gallon in cc
  • wkeo: Esperanto Wiktionary. Includes definition of word in Esperanto and translation of word into other languages such as English. Example: wkeo hundo
  • wp: English Wikipedia. Example: wp micronation
  • wq: English Wikiquote. Example: wq simple as possible but no simpler