Recently, I have become increasingly aware of my dependance on RSS for news and information. Like Louis Gray, I am a data sponge. I like new news, when it happens – I really think I should have majored in Journalism for that reason. Because of that dependance on the news, I have, over the years, subscribed to enough RSS to constitute thousands of news items in my feeds that I read daily. And yes, while some I skim, I go through each and every one of them.
At the same time I’m beginning to realize the amount of time it involves to stay so updated on the news. While I have become increasingly good at using my “J” and “K” keys in Google Reader, I find my dependance on the news constantly drawing me back to Google Reader, in almost an addictive manner throughout the day.
You see, going through my news I’ve come to realize recently that much of the news I get is simply entertainment. Much of it is repeated, and much of it, while very interesting, simply isn’t necessary to enhancing my business, SocialToo, improving my Consulting knowledge or improving me as a person in any way. I discussed this recently with my friend, Jeremiah Owyang, and he gave me some insight into how he gets his news.
Jeremiah is a Senior Analyst at Forrester, and perhaps one of their most vocal (if not the most vocal) employees, with one of the top blogs on the internet on Web strategy, Social Media, and Web 2.0-related topics. He knows his stuff, and is very up-to-date on what’s current and what’s happening in early-adopter, as well as Enterprise technologies. In discussing my dilemma with him, Jeremiah revealed to me that he doesn’t use RSS. He relies solely on FriendFeed Friend Lists, Google E-mail alerts, and what people tell him on Twitter. From that he hasn’t missed anything he needed to know, and has remained an expert in his related field of expertise. I was amazed that he was able to do this without RSS.
I decided to give this a try. In fact, I’m going to use a religious holiday as an excuse to try it. Yesterday at noon was the beginning of Lent (Ash Wednesday). Admittedly, I’m not Catholic (although I do run one of the largest organized groups of Catholics through my We’re Catholic App, at 70,000 users), but I love the concept of Lent. The holiday is based on the fast that Jesus Christ performed for 40 days and 40 nights, in which he was tempted despite his hunger and weakness, and came out triumphant. People around the world give up different items for those 40 days as a method of overcoming weakness and temptation.
For this Lent, I’m going to give up RSS and Google Reader. I’m going to be a weakling and only do it for 1 week, but my attempt is to figure out if I can be more efficient without it than with it. With the advent of Social Media and tools such as Twitter, FriendFeed, and even normal e-mail, I wonder if I can remove this addiction and still be as productive as I used to. Here is how I will do it:
- The start – Yesterday at 12pm I closed my Google Reader tab. I haven’t yet re-opened it, and I won’t re-open it until next Wednesday at 12pm. I will declare RSS bankruptcy and delete all remaining RSS at that time.
- Google/Twitter/FriendFeed Alerts – I’ve been doing most of these through RSS up until now. I am contemplating the best solution. One option would be to create a FriendFeed Room that imports all my searched terms into one place. Another would be to start sending Google searches to my e-mail, filling up my inbox – not sure I want to do that. I could also set up a TweetDeck or PeopleBrowsr column to search for the terms I need to track. I may do a combination of all of the above.
- Getting the News I Want – If there was ever a better reason to be on FriendFeed, this is why you need to do it. Even if you don’t participate, make sure your blog is populating FriendFeed (I would add it to Facebook as well). This will be how I obtain my news. Now, instead of just tracking news, I’ll be tracking Twitter, Blogs, Youtube, and more through a Friends List on FriendFeed. If I was subscribed to your blog before and you’re on FriendFeed, I’m now tracking your blog via that method. I’ll be “media snacking”, as Robert Scoble calls it, and IMO, this is the future of news discovery, and takes much less time. Add me on FriendFeed if you want me to discover your content as well.
- Twitter – If there’s anything you think I should read, @reply me on Twitter. I track things there as well, but that will guarantee I read it, and some times ReTweet it.
- Sharing – One thing I love most about Google Reader is my ability to share items I come across, and even comment on them. This saves me a lot of the need to write a blog post about something someone has already covered. FriendFeed provides a nifty tool you can add as a Bookmarklet in your browser which will add any page you come across to FriendFeed. I’ll be using this religiously moving forward. You can follow my shares in FriendFeed, or on my FriendFeed widget over on the lower-right of this blog.
It’s my hope that I can learn something from this. Fasting, whether it be food or other material items, can teach you what’s most important in life. I did this with Twitter for a few months last year and learned a lot on what Twitter is, and isn’t important for. My hope is I can do the same with FriendFeed. Perhaps this Lent we should all, regardless of religion or faith, figure out something we want to learn about and give up those things we would at other times call a “need”. I think this world would be a much better place if we all did this every so often.
I will post a follow up to what I learned in a week.