How to remember everything you read

Tips on how to intensify engagement with what you're reading.

SHANE PARRISH: I think the physical books just work for me. They work really well for note taking. They work really well for annotation. They give you something tangible. And there's something about it that I can't quite explain, right? Like, you can know something's in a book on the left-hand side of the page, between page 80 and 90. But if you're reading on a Kindle, you can't do that. So reading on a Kindle is great. I use a Kindle for traveling. But the vast majority of the reading I do, I try to do in physical books because I can write about the idea in my own penmanship. I can draw arrows, and pictures, and diagrams, and try to connect to the argument that the author is trying to make.

Because how can I agree or disagree with somebody if I don't understand the fundamental principles of the argument that somebody is trying to make? One of the ways you can deconstruct that is just sort of being actively attuned to what you're reading. I find when I read on the Kindle, I'm not necessarily as actively engaged in the book. But if I'm taking notes and I'm following along with the article, or I'm occasionally underlining a word that I don't even know what it means, and I want to go look it up later. But it means that I'm actively reading, that what I'm paying attention to, which is super important. And also one of the other things that I find easier to do with a physical book, although you can do it with a Kindle book, I call it like the blank sheet. And what we do there is before you read a book, you take a blank sheet of paper, and you write down what you know about that subject.

You can mine map it. You can write it in sort of like bullet points. And then you read maybe a paragraph — or not a paragraph. You read a chapter of that book. And that's all the reading time you have for that day. Well, now you go to that sheet and use a different color pen and you just fill in, like, what gaps did I learn? Did I learn a different terminology for the words? Can I connect it to what I've already read? And then before you pick up the book for the next chapter, you just skim the sheet. And it sort of primes your brain for what you're going to read. And I think that that's a really effective way to sort of not only build on the knowledge you have, but connect what you're reading to the existing knowledge. It's going to show you what you learned while you were reading because it's going to be a very visual distinction.

It's going to be a different color of ink. And I think that that allows you to sort of connect it to the book. And I often do that in the jacket of the book where, if I don't have a physical piece of paper, that's O.K. because I can just do it on the front cover. That is so much harder when you try to translate that to electronic. It's possible. But it's a lot more difficult.

  • One of the ways you can deconstruct an argument is being actively attuned to what you're reading.
  • To better remember content, take a blank sheet of paper and write down what you know about that subject. You can write it in bullet points.
  • When you later come back to what you're reading, go to that sheet and skim it – it will prime your brain for what you're going to read.


The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts

www.amazon.com

Amazon.com: The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts (Audible Audio Edition): Shane Parrish, Audible Studios: Books
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Maps show how CNN lost America to Fox News

Is this proof of a dramatic shift?

Strange Maps
  • Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
  • Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
  • A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses

Dramatic and misleading

Image: Reddit / SICResearch

The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.

Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.

The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.

Let's zoom in:

  • It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
  • By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
  • Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
  • In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
  • Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
  • By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.

"Frightening map"

Image source: Reddit / SICResearch

This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?

  • "The end is near."
  • "The idiocracy grows."
  • "(It's) like a spreading disease."
  • "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
For others, the maps are less about the rise of Fox News, and more about CNN's self-inflicted downward spiral:
  • "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
  • "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
  • "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
  • "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."

Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:

  • "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
  • "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
  • "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
  • "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."

"Old people learning to Google"

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)

But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:

  • "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
  • "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
  • "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
  • "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."

A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.

The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.

One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.

Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.

It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison

For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):

  • Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
  • MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
  • CNN: 706,000 (-9%)

And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.

The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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