Bit Literacy

Just finished reading Mark Hurst’s new book, Bit Literacy. Mark is a chap of many interests and the creative driver behind the excellent (and varied) euroGel conference I attended in Copenhagen last year.

The premise for the book is that the computer-using public are getting swamped by e-mails, web content, blogs, photos, files, and so on - something that most folk would probably agree with. Mark ranges over all of these topics, and gives recommendations for how to handle each. Some of the material borrows from elsewhere - for example, the chapter on email appears to be heavily influenced by David Allen’s now-infamous Getting Things Done method - but this is no bad thing: it’s obvious that Mark is trying to bring together a style guide for the technical world. The Elements of Style is mentioned at least once as a model from the world of the written word. Most of his recommendations are straightforward and backed up with a solid amount of reasoning.

I don’t entirely agree with all of Mark’s recommendations - I think he has a deliberate bias away from anything that removes one’s control over data. Whilst this is a noble and sensible aim within reason, there are other advantages to be wrought from keeping data on the network (and sometimes you have to just chill). He also advocates a degree of customisation - for example, changing one’s keyboard layout to Dvorak - again, something I’ve found to be unwise as you move from computer to computer. But maybe I just do that more than Mark, or maybe he’s more adaptable than me.

Irrespective, there’s a lot of sensible and useful material in the book. Some will be a little basic for some readers, but as The Elements of Style proved, sometimes the basic bears repeating. It’ll be a hard job, given the rapid pace of change in technology, but maybe this book will enter the annals of history in a similar way. I wish Mark the best of luck with the next edition ;)


Aha. I thought once I'd written that that perhaps I'd spoken too soon: so there you go! Apologies. Anyway, thanks for your clarification - and am looking forward to Gel next year in NYC. Best of luck with the many projects you have going on right now :)
Thanks, Andrew. BTW to clarify - the e-mail chapter is loosely based on a whitepaper that I released in May 2002 - which predates the publication of Getting Things Done. Perhaps David Allen read my whitepaper? :)