As a slight sequel to my “feed reading is an open web problem” post, so far this weekend I have taken the following information diet steps:
RSS feeds: 610→339 (and counting).
Based on Google’s stats, I’d probably read about a million feed items in Reader. This is just too much. The complaints about attention span in this piece and in The Information Diet1 rang very true. Reader is a huge part of that problem for me. (Close friends will also note that I’ve been mostly off gchat and twitter during the work day since I started the new job, and that’s been great.) So I’ve spent time, and will spend more time soon, pruning this list.
National news feeds: lots→~0; weekly paper news magazines: 0→2; local news feeds: small #? →large #?
My friend Ed put in my head a long time ago that national news is not very useful. It riles the passions, but otherwise isn’t helpful: you’re not making the world a better place as a result of knowing more, and you’re not making yourself happier either.2 So you’re better off reading much less national political news, and much less frequently: hence the two new on-paper subscriptions to weekly news magazines.
Besides allowing you to get off the computer(!), the time saved can also be used to focus on things that either make your life better (e.g., happier) or that give you actionable information to resolve problems. To tackle both of those needs, I’d like to curate a set of local news feeds. I’ll be blogging more about this later (including what I’m already reading), but suggestions are welcome. I suspect that will make me much happier (or at least less angry), and present opportunities to actually do things, in ways that the national news obviously never can.
Moved from reader→feedly.
The impending shutdown of Reader was obviously the catalyst for all this change; feedly seems not perfect but pretty solid. I continue to keep an eye on newsblur (still a variety of issues) and feedbin.me (no mature Android client yet), since feedly is still (1) closed source and (2) has no visible business model – leaving it susceptible to the same Reader shutdown problem.
Steps still to come:
Separate the necessary from the entertaining
Joe pointed out to me that all news sources aren’t equal. There are feeds you must read in a timely manner (e.g., for me right now, changes in work-critical Wikipedia talk pages), and feeds that can be sampled instead. The traditional solution to this is folders or categories within the same app. But we’re starting to see apps that are optimized for the not-mission-critical entertainment feed stream (Joe specifically recommended Currents). I’d like to play with those apps, and use one of them to further prune my “serious feeds” list. Recommendations happily accepted.
I do want to participate, in some small way, in the news stream, by creating a stream of outbound articles and commentary on them. I never used Reader’s features for this, because of the walled garden aspect. Many of our tools now make it easy to share out to places like Twitter and Facebook, but that means I’m contributing to the problem for my friends, not helping solve it. I’d like my outbound info to be less McDonalds and more Chez Panisse :) The tools for that aren’t quite there, but this morning I stumbled across readlists, which looks like it is about 90% something I’ve been looking for forever. I’ll keep keeping an eye out, so again: good suggestions for outbound curation tools happily accepted.
I hate the weasely “ask your audience” blog post ending as much as anyone, but here, I have a genuine curiosity: what else are friends doing for their info diets? I want to eventually get towards the “digital sabbath” but I’m not there yet; other tips/suggestions?
- capsule book review: great diagnosis of the problem, pretty poor recommendations for solutions [↩]
- It’s pretty much a myth that reading the news makes you a better voter: research shows even supposedly high-information voters have already decided well before they read any news, and if for some reason you’re genuinely undecided, you’re better off reading something like ballotpedia than a streaming bunch of horse-race coverage. [↩]
13 thoughts on “Information diet weekend”
Raza Panjwani liked this on Facebook.
Isn’t it so, that its harder to not know whats going on in the world even if you followed no news at all (as long as you live in a densely enough populated area)? If something big happens, facebook and twitter kinda let you know. Of course that info overload could well apply to your fb feed as well ;)
Tuomas Kuosmanen liked this on Facebook.
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[…] is just too much. The complaints about attention span in this piece and in The Information Diet1 rang very true. Reader is a huge part of that problem for me. (Close friends will also note that […]
Audy Marton liked this on Facebook.
[…] weekend, Luis wrote about his information diet1 in the wake of Google Reader’s impending closure. While reading his post, I thought about my […]
Have you considered using this site to publish your links? I have a workflow where I push things to Pinboard with specific tags, this use a little custom code to bring them in to my site as link posts.
For some of your “entertainment” reading, you might try Comic Rocket. Despite the name, it handles any paged content that has persistent URLs and “next” or “previous” links. And in particular, it handles content that does not support RSS, reducing the number of sites you need to manually poll.
Curious as to what issues you have with Newblur? The “Blurblog” is not a horrible way to publish your own feed of interesting links as well.
Alex: I had wanted something separate from this blog for publishing links, because I’d originally wanted to do something more like a mini-magazine. Really, the target audience was “send a printout with complete articles to my dad, to counter the junk he gets from the WSJ every day.” :) Which is what makes readlist pretty appealing. But yeah, maybe I should experiment with pinboard + blog.
Matthew: slow-ish; a few quirks about reading on the desktop; and lack of mature Android client. And I’ve been a paid subscriber for getting on two years now – I do want it to succeed. :/
Tuomas: absolutely. Anything that actually matters on a day-to-day basis I’ll see that way.
WordPress creates archives of each post format, links being one – example. I’d be happy to help you customize the output/presentation to your liking if you decide to experiment with that route.
[…] I wrote about cutting back on national news, and trying to get more serious about local news in SF, a few people asked that I share my sources […]
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