The internet’s impact on gaining knowledge

I have realised in the last few months that the way that I gain knowledge has changed a lot since I started my career.

When I started my programming career you had to go buy books at a physical retailer on a topic that interested you.  Internet connections weren't widely available, and hellishly expensive at the time, so that was the easiest choice.  This made the experience in gaining knowledge on a subject a lot slower, but a lot more focused.  Because you would take a book, and drill down into the chapters, experimenting all the way, and basically making sure that you've absorbed the knowledge in the book before moving on to the next topic, or to a more advanced book on the same topic.  And so the cycle continued.

Currently, with internet connectivity being very cheap, and everyone having an index to the internet as your homepage, it has become very easy to quickly gather a lot of information on any subject.  But! The problem now is that there is so much more information available on such a wide variety of topics, that it makes it a lot more difficult to focus on one topic and to make sure that you actually gain knowledge on that topic.

Especially with the ADD type of personality I have realised I have, where I could be researching a topic, and two hours later I've added 20 links on 10 other topics to my delicious feed, for later consumption.  Focus is getting more difficult for me, and I've turned into a hunter-gatherer of information, instead of being a consumer of knowledge.  Slowly but surely the decay has come about, and at least now I've realised it.

In the coming months I'm going to try and train myself to focus on a few select topics again, and to try and stay away from getting side-tracked by the sheer volume of new topics, never mind the information about them.  This weekend I will make my selection of 5 things, which I'll publish here next week, and from there I will focus on those 5 for at least 2 months before moving to the rest.  That means that I'll need to trim my subscriptions in Google Reader as well to make sure that I don't get overloaded. 

At the end of May I will then also publish my results here, to try and gauge whether 5 topics are too few/many for a 2 month period.  I will however make sure that my 5 topics span all facets of life, and not only my career or personal interests.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

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