How I Read and Consume Audio/Video Content

I recently posted a list of book recommendations for Data Engineering and Data Analysis on my Facebook account. One friend made a comment that the books are quite expensive when converted into local currencies. Yes these technical books averages at USD 30 which could get you 10-15 decent meals in Jakarta, the capital city. and probably 20-30 meals in other regions.

I suggested finding book notes and summaries for those books as a more affordable option because from my experience, these are actually good enough substitute for most technical books. I can almost always patch the remaining details by extra research and trial & errors.

And I realised I have been doing some form of that when reading and learning. So in this post I will share my workflow, habits, and techniques when learning from books, podcasts, and video content.

How I read non fiction books

  • read 2-3 of book summaries other people created
  • summarise the summaries
  • read the book’s ToC
  • skim a couple of interesting pages / chapters
  • read the book’s last chapter, usually there’s summary
  • start reading if still interested

For each step, I ask myself: “is this (still) interesting? is this what I was looking for? what will I get here?”

What I’m looking for

  • the main argument
  • how the author / content creator structure the arguments (find supporting arguments)
  • different angles, framing, and interpretation people have on the piece (the arguments)
  • the takeaways: tactics, principles, and any exercises

For each step: “do I agree, do I disagree, why, what do I think of it”

What I’m deprioritising in the first pass

  • the supporting anecdotes and fillers
  • the intro. skip skip skip. wish there’s a way to quickly skim A/V content. like TED’s interactive / clickable transcript to skip around.

How I consume audio/video content

  • Audio: while exercising, usually podcast (conversation). 1.5x speed, pausing on interesting points.
    • If short: jot down on simplenote, keywords, 2-4 phrases
    • If long: bookmark to come back to and transcribe later (I like having things in text, can remember better)
  • Video: on laptop, 1.5 – 2x speed, turn on caption, download caption if interesting (easily take notes)
    • I do similar note-taking pattern to audio but it’s more convenient to watch Youtube videos on desktop because Youtube doesn’t support playing in the background
      • it’s a hassle to keep Youtube on the phone’s screen, and I don’t want to pay for Youtube Red
      • split-screen mode helps though

Note: Note taking is also an indexing activity for me. I just keep the high level concepts, perhaps go a level deeper, but I still do it with the intention of going back and reviewing it later when I need it, or hoping it will come up for retrieval when I need it (Just In Time).

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