8.01.2007

question, or how to not drown in information overload

How do you all keep up with - or even try to keep up with - everything you want to read online?

I may be the last big internet user to avoid using an aggregator. Knowing myself as I do, I fear the start page would become its own project, and I'd waste too much time dialing it in to be absolutely perfect. Because that's what I do. I also don't want to create any more time obligations for myself. I can see throwing in every single website and blog on my wish-list, then suffocating in it. The last thing I need is more pressure to keep up with more things.

For many years, I had a lot of down-time on my weekend job, and I would use it to get caught up on news, essays, blogs and so forth. Weekly catch-up, plus a daily physical newspaper (which paper? that post is coming, too) plus the occasional story in a physical magazine like Harper's, The New Yorker, The Nation or The Economist that someone (usually Allan) would bring to my attention, and I would feel caught up. I won't say I was caught up, because that's impossible these days, but at least I felt reasonably informed about the things that are important to me.

But ever since losing my job at Dissolving Firm, I have felt very disconnected and out of touch. Reading news and opinion essays has become a haphazard enterprise. I don't like haphazard. I like methodical.

My friend and tech guru AW1L showed me Live.com (at the time called Start.com) and I thought it was fantastic - very simple, clean and easy to manage. I know many of you use Google Reader, which also looks nice; although it's popular to bash Google these days, I like their products a lot. From following trails in Statcounter, I found Kinja, which has a nice graphic interface, an index-card format. I don't like Bloglines, that's out. And I don't want a tag-and-save format like del.ici.ous.

And to be honest, I'm not sold on the idea of doing this in the first place. I'm not really asking what aggregator you use, so much as how you keep up with what you want to read. Do you set aside a certain time each day? Do you read in snippets on and off as you have time? Do you ever feel caught up? Do you not care about this at all? If you use an aggregator, do you find it helps you? Talk to me.

4 comments:

James said...

I use Google Reader, though I fall behind regularly (a couple of times a week), at which point the "unread items" counter goes to 100+... So I usually then take a little time to whittle it down.

A number of my feeds include things where I'm only interested in every fifth or tenth item, so I start with those to clear 'em out fast.

Lorna said...

Wow, I've never even heard of Goggle reader or aggregators! Thanks a lot Laura, you've just added to my list of things I want to investigate! Now I'll never be caught up! :-)

jspad said...

I've found it helpful to try and separate the "should read" from the "want to read" stuff. I constantly whittle away at the "should" feeds, aiming for zero... and I periodically comb through the "want" feeds and ask myself if I really do enjoy reading it, or if I just feel obligated to get my unread count to zero. (I'm getting better at not needing the count to be zero at the end of the day.)

It helps that most of the feeds I read (~200) can be considered work.

Lee said...

My RSS feed reader helped for the first week or two. And then I discovered that it was super easy to add feeds and then I kept adding feeds....

Let's just say that it makes it really effortless to get bogged down in information if you're not careful! (Wherein I need to take read my own posts.)