Demand Better Information

On a forum that I participate in, someone recommended Dark Sky as an alternative to the iOS weather App. It cost $3.99, and I was wondering why I would pay for something that I get for free with the iOS Weather app.

Dark Sky offers “hyper local” weather forecasts and a lot more information about the state of the weather. This is useful to know when you are making plans to take the dog for a walk, or go to the beach, or if you are trying to decide what kind of jacket you should wear.

Dark Sky also offers an Apple Watch app, so that I can quickly check the weather without spending a lot of time looking at my phone, or computer.The iOS weather app is fine, but it doesn’t present enough information, and I can’t make good decisions with it.

Without information, we can’t make decisions and we can’t take actions. The worse the information is that we consume, the poorer our decisions become, and the less meaningful our actions become. Similarly, consuming good information, presented well, in context, can greatly improve our lives.

Spending too much time focused on our devices has become a symptom of a problem, but not a root cause. We are often told to “spend less time”, “get off our phone”, or “be mindful”. We are “addicted to our phones” and that this is because corporations are pushing a new kind of psychoactive substance on an unsuspecting population. But this hectoring does little to reduce our personal anxiety, and often causes more. We are overeating information because there’s very little “nutritional value” in most of it, which makes us hungrier still for the stuff we need - meaning, relevance and context

This is because the underlying problems that drive us to consume information are still there, and we can’t live without information. So, what to do?

After checking Dark Sky, I knew I had a good hour before the rainstorm hit. I decided to walk our English Labrador, Hazel. While I was out, I received a notification on my Apple Watch. It was an email about a project I had been working on, and the project had reached the next stage. My colleague put the relevant information in the first line of the email, in a way that was easily understandable, left no ambiguity, and made it clear what the next steps were and what was expected of me.

This immediately reduced my stress, and I was able to focus on Hazel, who is uniquely qualified to demand all of my attention.

Because my colleague crafted a good message, I didn’t have to pull out my phone, or go home and check my laptop, or sign on to Slack to find out what the status was. It was right there in one well designed sentence. These words showed up, on my wrist, and saved me a lot of time and stress, for which I was grateful.

Rather than fruitlessly trying to spend less time on my devices, I’d rather spend time finding people, software and organizations that give me better, relevant and well organized information.

Information is a kind of food, which are brains digest to produce knowledge, decisions and actions. We should judge information by these factors to determine if its worth consuming.

We should all demand better quality information. Even though we can’t live without information, we can choose what we consume, and we can choose how we consume it.

Find a problem or mistake? File a bug or better yet, submit a pull request