Information is freely available. It is everywhere, making it more difficult to know whether the facts are useful or where they lead.

For example, Yahoo has historical financial statements of every public company. Two decades ago, you had to ask companies to mail you hard copies. Twitter creates 200 billion tweets a year, but it barely existed a decade ago.

A first step when dealing with any kind of information is to separate them into different categories.

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Different Kinds of Information

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When you find information that is important to you, ask: "Will I still regard this information as important a year from now? Five? Ten?" E.g. quarterly earnings are useful, but no one cares about 2010 earnings because they ceased to be useful.

Our default is to think that information will be useful forever, leading us into paying attention to what in hindsight was short-term noise.

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Permanent information teaches you what to do with expiring information.

Knowing that an investment's price fell may be out-of-date information. But knowing the long history and its impact is permanent information that will stay valuable.

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... but useful to someone whose decisions are relevant to you.

For example, long-term investors can benefit from learning how and why traders make decisions. Bubbles can destroy long-term investors, and bubbles are driven by traders. It means valuing information that doesn't directly mean much to you.

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Irrelevant information may provide small pieces of a puzzle that might increase your understanding of why things happen**.** For example, palaeontology offers insights about how things naturally grow too big for their own good, which has relevance in investing.

You may not use the information directly, but the information can help to understand your field better.

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Every field has interesting or entertaining information. It is useless but keeps you focused, and that makes it valuable.

For example, exposure to a field in the form of blogs or CNBC may be the reason to become interested in investing, making it some of the most important information. The trick is knowing when it is entertainment and when it should influence your actions.

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  • Useful information when combined with other data: Information is seldom useful by itself. It is part of a bigger picture. It is crucial to have a general idea of the scene to know how the information slots into the larger picture.
  • Irrelevant information in all circumstances: You will know it when you see it.
  • Information that requires immediate action: This is the rarest form of information.

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