Challenge - An Article a Day for 2021knowledge community life
30 Jan 2021
6 minute read
Table of Contents #
- Sharing and learning
- The Importance of Curiosity and Motivation
- Fighting the mindless scroll
- Finding Content
At the beginning of 2021 I set out to cultivate a new habit: finding one article (or essay / blog post) a day to share with my high-school class. Despite the pandemic and the whole can of worms that comes with it, our class has a particularly nice ambience this year and it’s been a refreshingly positive experience.
This seemingly innocuous challenge started out as a joke, inspired by the “quote-of-the-day” some people infrequently sent, but has turned into a fun way to share and also learn from my classmates.
This new habit can actually be useful for many people, and is worth trying out.
For now I’ve just been sharing the articles I find with my class group on Whatsapp, and having a personal audience, as in people you know and not just strangers on the Internet, is a way to encourage interesting discussions and more active dialogue than just posting something on Twitter, for example.
Generally, this should be worthwhile with an audience you can easily discuss with and that you understand, so you can find articles that not only interest you, but also the people you’re sharing with.
Sharing and learning #
I recently discovered the word “scenius”.
Scenius is like genius, only embedded in a scene rather than in genes. Brian Eno suggested the word to convey the extreme creativity that groups, places or “scenes” can occasionally generate. His actual definition is: “Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius.”
This notion is loosely related to one of the main benefits of this daily-article interaction. Through informally finding and sharing articles you find interesting, you’re not only submerging those you share with in a world they might not know, and are curious to learn about, but you’re also sparking a conversation, an exchange of ideas, and maybe a new thought or perspective, that supersedes the view of your article.
For example, two articles that began an insightful dialogue in my experience were two personally relatable essays by Paul Graham, related to education:
Maybe it’s our common perspective as high school students that made sharing these articles specifically useful, but it was definitely nice to make the experience of reading these more than just the reception of an author’s views through reading, but also an active discussion from person to person.
It also forces you to maybe revisit the things you didn’t notice but could have struck someone else, and makes the process of content discovery and consumption much more engaged.
This is what makes it fit so well with the concept of scenius; the act of sharing reinforces not only your understanding but can teach you more.
The Importance of Curiosity and Motivation #
This scenius can help you form great experiences, but it relies on a positive attitude from both the person sharing and the people receiving.
The Sharer #
- be open to criticism and people challenging the article or the ideas it represents
- be conscious of the difference between your perception and that of others
- Accept that sometimes people might not be interested in your pick, and that’s ok - this challenge isn’t easy!
- Try to not pick specific subjects that require prior knowledge and interest in a field. For example, one of my main passions is computer science and software, so I had to be mindful of the fact that this subject would be incomprehensible or uninteresting for people without domain knowledge. This is hard, especially when you have so many articles you’d like to share on the subject.
- don’t expect everyone to check it out and don’t pressure people - a fraction of people have been consistently reading my articles but it’s the quality of interaction that’s made it worthwhile, not quantity.
The Receiver #
- be curious and interested in what the sharer has found for today’s article - this habit is much less useful if people aren’t even reading your picks.
- try and engage with the sharer on what they picked and give your opinion, even if they disagree. This can help both of you gain awareness of a different mindset and viewpoint.
- share your own things! You don’t need to also do an article of the day, but if you find content linked to a subject you’ve discussed, or just something you think would spark interest, go ahead and share.
Fighting the mindless scroll #
It can be very easy to kind of just get lost online in the sea of content and get lost in scrolling, in a never-ending and sometimes mindless manner.
This approach of setting the goal of finding one piece of content to share works well in narrowing your focus and giving you a limit of when to stop.
Once I find the article I’d plan on sharing for that day, I have usually found many interesting pieces, and stop there, having satisfied my goal, by proactively thinking about the content and not just reading without absorbing anything.
Having a reason to visit wherever you find content and then a reason to close the web page or app when you’re done limits your procrastination and is much healthier.
Finding Content #
I have been storing and bookmarking cool articles for a year, so I already had a certain “stock” of pieces I was excited to share.
Generally, I find lots of stuff on Hacker News and have been trying out Findka lately for personalized recommendations. I also have a set of “classic” blogs that I visit and can find other writers through. For example, writers like Paul Graham or Slate Star Codex often produce good content, that I’ve used during this challenge.
Overall, articles that discussed broad subjects that many people can relate to have been the most interesting to share, but in more niche communities I’m sure specific content would also be received well.
To give you an example, and maybe a “base” to build your own daily-article habit on, here’s the recent articles I’ve been sharing:
- 21st https://paulgraham.com/hs.html
- 22nd https://a16z.com/2020/04/18/its-time-to-build/
- 23rd https://paulgraham.com/lesson.html
- 24th https://waitbutwhy.com/2019/08/fire-light.html
- 25th https://julian.digital/2020/08/06/proof-of-x/
- 26th https://nadiaeghbal.com/shameless
- 27th https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/05/30/hungarian-education-iii-mastering-the-core-teachings-of-the-budapestians/
- 28th https://aeon.co/essays/on-the-dangers-of-seeing-human-minds-as-predictive-machines
- 29th https://sive.rs/kimo
- 30th https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/exhalation/
It’s almost the first month, and I plan on doing this until the end of the year! It’s difficult, but I find it worthwhile and hope to keep going :)
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