Jeff Barr's Blog

Things I Like..

I Love DRM: Discardable Reading Material

I am obsessed about never getting stuck somewhere with nothing to do. It is partly an obsession with not wasting time and partly because I am unable to sit still and simply exist. I’ve got to be doing something. It has been my experience that short delays often turn in to long ones, and I need to be prepared in case that happens. Returning from a vacation in Peru a few years ago, I was stuck in the Cuzco airport for 7 hours.

I never leave the house without a book, some magazines, and some DRM.

For me, DRM is Discardable Reading Material. Over the years I have made a practice of finding, printing, and then carrying with me interesting articles, papers, and so forth. I read then, rip out a page or two if there’s something I want to keep, and then recycle the rest (perhaps I should call it RRM). If I am traveling by plane I will leave the more interesting items (devoid of any personally identifying information) in the seat-back pocket, in case the next occupant of the seat happens to need something to read.

I have stacks of such material at home and at work. I go for documents that are 5 to 50 pages long, and I try to introduce some randomness into the mix. Depending on where I am going and how long I expect to be gone, I’ll take more or less stuff with me.

Here are some of the things that I have with me right now:

I also look for interesting reports and papers, and I find that the ChangeThis manifestos are perfect DRM, as are the regular Linux Kernel mailing list summaries posted at Kernel Traffic.

Finally, I print out lengthy blog posts and take them with as well. I have found that many blog entries don’t print very well — comments are sometimes indented across the page and end up “walking” to the right of the printable area. If there’s something that I really want, I will fire up Aardvark and snip out the part that I need.

Please note that I am not implying some lack of value when I label these items as discardable. I have found that keeping them around simply doesn’t work for me. I used to put them in binders, index them, and then never refer back to them. I read them, learn something, and move on.

I talked a little bit about this concept at the 106 Miles meeting last week and someone accused me of not being green (I was in California after all). True enough trees are destroyed to make paper, but we can always grow more :-) . Before worrying about this, the tech industry should probably focus on other environmental issues, such as the huge amount of water pollution generated in the course of chip fabrication, or the immense amount of power consumed by the server farms at Google, Yahoo, and Amazon. But I digress.

Does anyone else do this, and do you have suggestions for more interesting DRM?