Follow blogs by people deep in each field, not news

What's a better way of staying up to date, than following news?

Follow blogs by the sort of people who like to try to explain to laymen. For example, Andrew Gelman's blog for topics surrounding statistics. Or

Following news sucks because

  • The selection of news you see today is a nonrepresentative selection of what happened today, muddling the waters for your Availability heuristic and inner simulator.
  • The selection of news you see today is what I might call counterfactually-arbitrary… I mean that from your perspective, a given day looks perfectly compatible with many different possible sets of news articles, without changing which world you live in. The information has low value because you don't have any idea of the process underlying why this ended up in the news and not other stuff, even if you trusted the editor.
  • For academic topics, reliably they're just plain wrong (see Gell-Mann amnesia)! Perhaps it'd be worth reading if the news is actually good, but you can't judge this for yourself in most domains.

    From Gell-Mann Amnesia:

    If you or your company has EVER been the primary subject of a newspaper article, you know exactly what Crichton is talking about. The article is simply wrong. Not just wrong in minor detail, but wrong in motivation, cause, implication, fundamental facts … everything.

Also you need to read

A trick may be to follow content-producers that don't put the idea of news itself as their product. Direct news made sense in the era of newspapers, it doesn't in the internet era. By its very nature, news will find its way to you in the course of your normal interactions with people and what they've written.

In fact, waiting for them this way ensures relevance to you, and it's more likely you hear it when you're working on something associated and thus you may be in a better position to act in response to the news.

I suspect there's one field for which you'll still want to explicitly follow news: geopolitics. Or new laws. You don't hear about all of it from your friends, and sometimes it's relevant sooner than later.


Speaking of news organizations, it struck me that I never hear about people keeping track of how each one reported things in the past and how closely they turned out to reflect reality, with hindsight.

As an alien visiting Earth, I'd have expected that sort of practice to be widespread, necessary for keeping the organizations honest.

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Created (17 months ago)