So Many Feeds, So Little Time
You may know I’m a fan of the Bloglines service for reading Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds. If you read to the end of this essay I’ll tell you more about that topic. First, let’s talk about attention.
If you’ve been following the chatter about attention data (who controls it, how it’s used, what does it mean) by the likes of Steve Gillmor, Nick Bradbury and the Attention Trust organization (whew…) you already know attention will potentially become a Very Big Deal.
Regardless, you MUST (according to me…) invest a few precious minutes to read this article by uber-blogger Fred Wilson.
Wilson quotes Herbert Simon, who said:
“What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”
Now about my Bloglines addiction.
I am subscribed to 748 RSS feeds in Bloglines. That number would be larger, but I’m merciless about abandoning feeds that don’t provide interesting and or informative content.
At this moment, 441 of my 748 subscribed feeds have been updated since I last skimmed them. That the 441 number is feeds, not “unread articles” which Bloglines should reveal but does not. Since some feeds have one or two articles while others have ten or twenty and a few as many as 100, a reasonable guess is I face a mounting of 4,000 or more blog articles.
It’s all Robert Scoble’s fault. At one point he claimed to be able to keep up with about 1,200 or so blog feeds. God Bless Robert Scoble, he’s clearly a better (very fast reading) man than me.
Every now and then I push a button so Bloglines artificially marks all my feeds as having been read. I have not gathered statistics, but a few times I’ve logged on the following morning after say seven hours of sleep and found 200 or more updated feeds.
I cope with this (massive) overload by using a totally unscientific system. I will read a few feeds in a row, quickly (!!), often only looking at the first few entries. Then I’ll skip down the list (alphabetically) and do it again. And again. Until, bleary eyed, I concede defeat and stagger off to bed.
My feed reading technique is not unlike rappelling down the face of a steep mountain.
Rappelling is essentially sliding down the rope in a controlled (!) manner. When you want to descent there are basically two options: you can walk or climb down, or you can rappel. When the terrain is easy walking or climbing down is the best choice. But when the terrain becomes too difficult rappelling is the faster, easier and safer solution. [see Rappelling]
So attention, my attention and yours, is already a scarce and therefore valuable commodity on the Internet. As Fred Wilson says:
So attention is a zero sum game and if we are creating (at an exponential rate?) more uses of attention, then we are facing a looming attention crisis.
If you know any great ‘must read” blogs, (with RSS feeds) share them with me. Worst case, I’ll rappel right past the ultimate truth hat might have dramatically changed my world for the better. It happens.
[see also Burnham Beat on "Feed Overload Syndrome"]
[see also Biz Week Tech Beat "Pay Attention"]