Rethinking my information diet has been an ongoing process for me since I read the book last year. A few months ago the approach I had arrived at was to completely chop off the head of the tail from my RSS feeds. This was much more of a relief than I had expected it to be, and I found that with the extra time and head-space, I could dig even deeper into the long tail.
But there were still things I liked about reading sites like The Verge. So I thought I could just check them a couple of times a day; the very thing that made them terrible to subscribe to—the fact that they would update dozens of times a day—meant I was unlikely to waste time going to a site that hadn’t updated since the last time I had been there.
This didn’t quite work for me either, though. A couple of things happened to get me to my current routine, which I’m pretty happy with.
First, I’ve been consciously controlling the amount of time I spend navigating the web and consuming short form content. I think it’s better to focus on something for long periods—whether it’s reading a book or essays, or writing, or even playing a video game—and then take in the web in controlled bursts.
The second thing that happened is that I started searching for a job back in April (and found one). A job search in the digital ad industry is very different in Manhattan than it was in DC. I talked to many different sorts of places, from publishers to data management platforms to ad networks. I learned a lot about the industry during the process, and realized that a lot more was going on than I had been aware of.
So when I started at Tapad, I decided to keep up with industry news.
Now, I don’t think that industry news is different from any other kind of news. But it keeps track of conversations that people in the industry are having about where things are headed. This does not mean that it provides any special insight into such matters. But it gives me a window into what people are talking about, right now, and helps me participate in that conversation.
A great deal of finding satisfaction in our relationship with the web and with technology is finding conversations that interest us, and people we enjoy having those conversations with. I’ve come to realize that an information diet is not just about what you consume but what conversations you want to pay attention to and participate in.
I like being a part of the conversations we’re having now about the role of technology in our lives, among many others. As such, I’ve brought the head of the tail content like The Verge, TechCrunch, and Boing Boing back into my information diet along with industry focused publications like AdExchanger, Ad Age, and AdWeek. However, I approach them in a much more controlled way than my long tail content.
I’ve found that Flipboard is a great way to accomplish this. There’s no unread count to stress out about. The UI is very pleasant and well designed. Each week day, before I leave for work, I spend about half an hour going through the latest from these publications. And that’s it. I don’t look at it again for the rest of the day. If someone on Twitter links to something from them that looks particularly interesting, I might click through. Often, I’ll just wait until the next day’s flipping.
Blogging has been an important way that I participate in the conversations that interest me for almost nine years now. That’s what the blogosphere is, really–a series of conversations overlapping to greater or lesser extent. It is part of a far more enormous digital conversation space which includes Twitter, Facebook and various other social media, chat clients, forums, and email.
It’s possible to have a healthy relationship with information. It starts with the question: what conversations do you want to be a part of?