Monday, October 19, 2009

Sigh, story of my life, part 2

I was skimming through Scott Rosenberg's Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming and Why It Matters this evening and in this passage -- about the perils of using RSS to read the news, pg. 339 -- he might very well be talking about me:
The story of RSS is an illustrative case. The opportunity to subscribe to a list of bloggers whose work you wanted to follow seemed like a perfect solution to the problem of blog indigestion. Instead, users took it as an invitation to load themselves up with an unmanageable influx of reading material. Each day they found their RSS reader confronting them with an intimidating message: You have even more unread messages today than you had yesterday. You will never catch up. Kill yourself now! Dave Winer, who'd done more than anyone else to popularize RSS, urged users to stop treating RSS feeds like a pile of incoming email -- with each message representing a task you had to deal with -- but rather as a "river of news." Your feeds gave you a flow of interesting stuff; you could dip into the stream at will, and drop out of it as needed. In a video that briefly made the tech-blogosphere rounds in 2007, Robert Scoble cheerily explained how he keeps up with more than six hundred feeds -- and showed exactly how the river-of-news approach works. But few heeded the advice.
I have 118 subscriptions -- and yet as of today, I have a pile of more than 2 thousand items still to read. A year or two ago, that would have driven me nuts, today I do use the river-of-news approach and dip into it as I see fit. It isn't that I read about this approach or anything, it's just an emotional/psychological adjustment that comes to you slowly, if you want to keep using RSS and not go insane. Sort of like life, when you realize that you can only do -- and be -- so many things at the same time.

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