How To Get On An Information Diet

How To Get On An Information Diet

Between work, pleasure and this blog I read hundreds of articles a day. If there is a lesson in there, it is that you should never work on the web. If that's not an option, and you are anything like me then you need probably could use help getting your information diet under control. Don't worry, that's what I am here for.

Take An Inventory


First thing you should do before starting any diet is find out how much work you really have to do? Are you just lugging around some holiday fat or are you ready for the full Atkins treatment? The best way to do this is to take a look at your feed reader. How many times do you end your day having only touched a fraction of the feeds that you are subscribed to? How many weeks do these exact same feeds go untouched? That's what I thought.

RSS Feed Zero

If you are really serious about getting back into fighting shape, you have to first understand that your RSS reader should contain only those sites that you read on a daily basis (and this one, never forget to include this one). Think of your RSS feed as your favorite magazine. You want to read it from cover to cover, skipping only the really boring sections in the middle. If you find yourself "collecting" feeds more than reading them, have the courage to remove them from your reader. Believe me, once it is over you will feel a lot better about yourself.

Once that is done, get into the habit of using your reader as it was designed. Don't leave articles marked unread unless you really plan to come back to them later. Do your best to empty your feed reader as well, if not better, than you empty your mailbox.

What About All That Stuff I'm Missing

We spend a great deal of our time feeding into our fast food media diets. Luckily, you don't need to waste precious space in your reader scratching this itch. When you are bored and just looking for something to read, take a look at some of the aggregater sites. PopURLs and Techmeme are fine examples. They take the popular news of the day and present them in an easy to follow form. That way, you can easily scan for what interests you without being bogged down by a feed filled with things that you aren't.

Those Who The Gods Would Destroy…

First they make mad. Madness in this information culture comes from spending too much time sloshing around in the echo chamber. For those without bachelors in empty media vernacular, the echo chamber refers to the fact that on the internet the same story can and will be passed around and commented on by all available authors.

Much of this commentary almost exactly mirrors the source material. That's why if you find yourself reading summary after summary of a story of interest, your best bet is to go back to the source. Usually, blogs will provide a link to where they picked up their story. Traveling back will allow you to get the "full story" and will save you from having to wade through the vast sea of interpretations.

Finding News

Finally, learn to use your tools. Most of us are only really interested in a few subjects. Whether that is music or Web 2.0, there are tools out there that will allow you to cut through the chaff and get at the syrupy sweet goodness beneath. My favorite is Google Blog Search. It allows you to filter by time, that means if all you care about is what happened to Technorati in the last week you can do a simple search and have the full conversation brought to your door.

Web 2.0 Roundup

There are dozens of complex schemes to cut your information weight down to size, but often the simplest solutions are the best. Follow this checklist and you will be shedding those excess pounds in no time.

  • Keep your feed reader trim, only subscribe to your daily reads
  • Use information aggregaters to scan the news of the day
  • Use tools like Blog Search to track conversations around subjects of interest
  • Don't get trapped in the echo chamber

And with all that extra time you will have after you break your bad habits, you can make your way through the archives.

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