The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption
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The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption

3.36 of 5 stars 3.36  ·  rating details  ·  972 ratings  ·  196 reviews
The modern human animal spends upwards of 11 hours out of every 24 in a state of constant consumption. Not eating, but gorging on information ceaselessly spewed from the screens and speakers we hold dear. Just as we have grown morbidly obese on sugar, fat, and flour—so, too, have we become gluttons for texts, instant messages, emails, RSS feeds, downloads, videos, status u...more
Hardcover, 150 pages
Published January 20th 2012 by O'Reilly (first published 2011)
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Community Reviews

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I'm sad to see so many people here quibbling over the food/obesity analogy. Here's what I think of the analogy: it doesn't matter. Yeah, it doesn't work in some ways, but who cares? Most metaphors don't. The issue raised by this book is the most important issue facing America today. I'm not prone to hyperbole, I really believe that.

I'm giving this book 4 stars despite the following:
1) The book contains a surprising number of grammatical errors.
2) The entire 'prescription' section is weak (i.e....more
Rebecca Schwarz
I'm giving this three stars because there are a few people I can think of that should read this for the distinction he makes between good information and junk information. And for his theory about our tendency to over-consume information and all things Internet just like we tend to over-consume junk food.

It's not getting more stars because it's really a great long-form essay that's been padded out to a slim book. Ironically, this book would have been better if it had gone on a diet!
Sundown on Friday, March 23 marks the beginning of the third annual Day to Disconnect, when people are urged to turn off their electronic devices and connect with the world around them. Started by a Jewish group called Reboot, the group recommends that the following principles be followed:

Avoid technology.
Connect with loved ones.
Nurture your health.
Get outside.
Avoid commerce.
Light candles.
Drink wine.
Eat bread.
Find silence.
Give back.

I would also add "take action to be a more concious co...more
Joaquín Padilla
I must say the book has a monotonous descending slope. The first part, based in the parallels between the food industry and the information industry, equated by mass production farming, huge disconnection between sources and markets, and an unbalanced trade-off between nutritiousness and sinful pleasures, makes a compelling case.

However, from that first, well argumented point of view, it seems quite likely that the author didn't spend the same time with the other parts of the book, and that he t...more
Apr 27, 2012 nicole rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
A call to action for better information habits combined with a recommended information diet.

Moderation, moderation, moderation -- the key to everything, it seems, yet so easy to forget when you have to check your tweets and Facebook and Pinterest and have three (or four) digit numbers in your RSS unread folder only to loop through it again and again, in between personal e-mails and work e-mails and television shows between Netflix movies.
Johnson's political perspective provided an interesting f...more
Information - you're doing it wrong.

Clay Johnson's book is about the information you take in, and the effects it has on you and society. Using the analogy of food and nutrition, he argues that the data we are consuming is the equivalent of processed food, full of fats, salt, sugar, and all other sorts of nasties.

His ire falls on the multitude of websites pushing bite-sized snippets of junk out into the world, the headlines that enrage more than enlighten, the link-bait trash that we seem powerle...more
Ian Samuel
This is a skinny-fat volume of pop neurology. Or, no, wait: it's a series of short paragraphs from a time management seminar in 2007. Wait, no. It's a pat paen to openness in government (sorta) and citizen activism (of a sort). Hmm, well... Truth to tell, it's best to think of this book as three long essays, none of which have virtually anything to do with one another, all three of which are significantly longer than they ought to be, and most of which are pockmarked with poor writing and outrig...more
Kevin Faustino
I wish I didn't waste my time reading this book. It is heavly focused on politics and has little benifit to the reader. The only chapter really well done was the one about content farms.

Do yourself a favour and skip this one. I would just look at the list of helpful tools from the blog:

Jan 08, 2012 Stringy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone with too many feeds, podcasts or sources of info to keep up with
Shelves: e-book
A quick, thought-provoking read that left me wanting more. But as Johnson points out, we're dealing with a new phenomenon so the ways forward from here haven't all been discovered yet.

We often speak about 'information overload', but since the invention of the printing press hundreds of years ago there has always been more information available than one person could consume in a lifetime. Johnson suggests that 'information obesity' is a better metaphor for what we face today: junk factoids pushe...more
David Park
When I began rationing (and rationalizing) my internet usage because I was spending too much time on the Internet I realized this was fundamentally about how I process information - email, Facebook, and link hopping.

CAJ says to treat your information like food. In Part One he makes the argument of comparing information to food and why we enjoy consuming so much of both. My favorite part was that consuming the same 'junk' information will strengthen our 'reality dysmorphia,' a cognitive version o...more
The Information Diet is a strong analysis of the problems with our information consumption that falters as it seeks to find a solution. The book is built around a central metaphor: our problems with information are like our problems with obesity in that, like with food, it's not a matter of consuming too much but a matter of consuming too much that is low-quality, nutritionally-empty, but cheap and "tasty." In this case, this information equivalent of junk food is fear-mongering and affirmation...more
This book is worth reading. I appreciated that it was short, which is rare in nonfiction.

The premise of the book is basically this: "Consume deliberately. Take information over affirmation."

You may not agree with this author on every point. He is after all, a liberal democrat. Gasp! (I like that he openly admits his biases.) I especially enjoyed his personal stories. His "delusion" while working on the Dean campaign (his word, not mine.) His surprise friendship with Carl Rove, who for most liber...more
Henk-Jan van der Klis
New Year's Resolution for 2013: stay healthy regarding your information consumption. Study and practice The Information Dietby Clay Johnson. Johnson helps you to make choices to avoid information overconsumption. His first claim: information overload doesn't exist, just as food overload is nonexistent. It's the amount and - more important - quality that you consume, that makes or breaks your (mental) health. The author digs this metaphor over and over again and shares good practices for better i...more
Watch what you put in your mind, just as you watch what you put in your mouth. Be deliberate, lest you waste your life and accidentally become stupid. Look to modern thinking on food to guide how you consume information. That's Clay's thesis in a nutshell, and most of the book is a component-by-component elaboration on the food=information metaphor, culminating in Clay's advice on how to be a discriminating thoughtful and measured information consumer. He says things I agree with, yet I have res...more
Katie Nolan
I watched "Better Activism" livestream organized by Clay Johnson the other day and found him very intelligent and thoughtful. So despite my reservations regarding the moralistic sound of the title, I decided to at least read the Kindle sample.

Full disclosure - I have read only the sample, and I will not be reading more. I think his core idea - that more information is not necessarily better information, and that we should be conscious of the information we consume - is sound, but the metaphor he...more
Mike Vardy
Whether you spend time online or offline, we are getting hit with a ton of information each and every day. How we deal with that information is fundamental to our lives; what we choose take in can strongly impact our way we see the world. Johnson’s book is a meaty read, and might be tough to digest for some people. But it’s a healthy one as well.

I can’t think of many books that are more important to check out, no matter the time of year. While a nutritional lifestyle change is often fodder for m...more
Stacy Taylor
This was basically a regurgitation of The Filter Bubble and The Shallows, both of which were superior books. While there were some good sources for information, the primary message was not so much one of how to deal with information overload (or information obesity as the author calls it) as one of how to be better informed so you can be a better citizen and be more involved in politics. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but that's not why I picked this book. Overall, the book was scattered, a...more
Chung Chin
I picked up this book wanting to learn HOW i can consciously consume information, but this is not the right book to pick up. So, perhaps the 1-star rating by me is unfair, as my expectation was wrong to begin with. However, I maintain my rating as I find the book uninspiring and tepid.

This is a book where Clay Johnson puts forward the case for conscious consumption (as indicated in his title). A big chunk of his book is dedicated to convince readers that there is a need, an urgent and important...more
The best section in the book is when he says we don't suffer from information overload - rather it's information consumption. We make choices, which is why I'm not available 24/7. I simply don't want to be connected all the time.
Christie Martel
I loved this book. As an information professional I can completely understand his argument/philosophy.
And, come on, he quotes Michael Pollan... How can you not like that?
Diego Petrucci
Un'ottima idea di fondo, realizzazione mediocre. A volte dati i capitoli molto brevi pare di leggere una cosa poco strutturata e più "flusso di pensieri".
I've come across these ideas elsewhere, but this was a very readable way in which to consume them.
Benjamin DeHaven
I was brought to this book by poor information-which is amazing in itself. It was suggested to me by a publisher and was not the information I had set out to originally find. That being said-I thought it started strong with ideas, but then slowed and I found myself struggling to get back into it. I think its worth a look, but unless you have a desire to use the book as a thesis for an argument, or are really interested in the idea behind the consumption of information-might not be for you. I thi...more
Leo Polovets
The premise of the book is great: technology is stealing our time and attention with its ubiquity, its endless notifications, and its collections of Tweets and Likes and emails. We should be more disciplined and reclaim some of our time. Great idea, right? It would be if the writing were a bit tighter (this could easily be 50 pages instead of 200) and it the dieting analogy wasn’t overdone. I get that in many ways our information consumption is like our food consumption — we eat things we like a...more
Way too many facts for a book that aims to help us go on an information diet! The diet is meant to save our time and also buffer us from prejudice, misinformation and rigidity of views. Comparing obesity to information consumption is too simplistic, I thought. Making objective and rational decisions based on the information we consume cannot be defined along the lines of a calories-in, calories-out formula. That said, the author touches upon crucial aspects of new-age information consumption, li...more
Aug 12, 2012 Bryan added it
Quite honestly, I do buy into Clay Johnson's analogy between food consumption and information consumption. On the food side of the argument, eating lots of empty calories can generally lead to health consequences I won't bother to list here. We all know what follows after a constant diet of junk food. To Johnson and all others who agree with him, a constant intake of empty information can be equally as detrimental, though not exactly in the physiological health sense. Packing the mind with just...more
Guy Fain
Not a bad book by any means, but largely common sense solutions which are known by many people who keep abreast of the industry. I did learn new things in this book, but much of it was rehearsing other case studies I was familiar with like Michael Pollan's writing on food and the industrial food system. Yet, I do not disparage his familiar examples. At the end of the day, for my purposes, some of the quotes at the beginning of the chapters and little infobits which he mentions like the Khan Acad...more
I used to be an obsessive consumer of political news. It took me a decade, but I finally figured out how counterproductive it was to spend time on that. Now I'm more interested in why people like me are drawn to wasting their time on politics, and how it affects their thinking.

Johnson makes the interesting point that information is more plentiful now than at any time in our evolution, which closely parallels the problems that come along with cheap and abundant food calories. We evolved to survi...more
There really is no government or private mechanism to regulate the information habits of the average citizen. Clay Johnson believes there should be voluntary dieting of information habits. We're reading to much crap, Johnson says. or rather, we're consuming to much crap from radio, television, and movies. Except, I don't listen to radio anymore and only turn on television to pick something off Netflix occasionally. I think Johnson isn't talkng about me, except he is, because he includes people w...more
[Disclosure: the author is a friend, and I read my personally autographed copy from his book signing.] Clay makes a compelling case for consuming better-quality and less information overall, and the analogy to the food diet makes sense for anyone who has ever tried to pay attention to what he or she eats for better health and weight loss purposes.

Ultimately,'s a "First World Problem" or "Stuff White People Like" kind of thing. People like me and Clay and all of our friends and profe...more
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HyperLibMOOC: Information Diet - Clay Johnson 4 11 Sep 29, 2013 08:31PM  
  • Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room
  • Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom
  • The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You
  • Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age is Revolutionizing Life, Business, and Society
  • From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism
  • Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages
  • The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control Is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System
  • The Social Life of Information
  • I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy
  • Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection
  • Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age
  • Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science
  • Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership
  • Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge
  • Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age
  • Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?: The Net's Impact on Our Minds and Future
  • The Atlas of New Librarianship
  • What Technology Wants

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“Chances are, if we can't laugh at something, we can't think rationally about it.” 5 likes
“Nobody has a maximum amount of storage for fat, and it’s unlikely that we have a maximum capacity for knowledge.” 1 likes
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