Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Posted By Allen at 1:46 PM
Last week I took a critical look at what I was paying attention to. I started with email and mailing lists, moved to social networks, and finally ended up at my feed reader. In each application I was sifting through huge amounts of data, and in many cases not really coming up with much to show for it. Yes it was nice to know that I always had something to read online, but that wasn't really a good enough reason for collecting all of this attention debt. In each case I looked at a particular set of in-boxes (social networks, email, rss, etc...) and used a star or bookmark mechanism to see how much of that in-box I really found valuable. I started with email, and the first thing I learned is that I was subscribed to about 20 mailing lists that I just didn't care about. After a week I hadn't marked a single message with a star, and in many cases had just marked all of my unread list mail as read just to get rid of it. So, I unsubscribed from just about every list. Then I moved on to social networks. I don't pay attention to most of them and filter the mail they produce to a bacn file, where I can safely skim it once in awhile. I ignore about 90% of the things that happen on Facebook, so I went through my profile and killed almost every application that was on it. Then I took a critical look at FriendFeed. FriendFeed really has potential, and can provide some great stuff to read, however, it can also provide a huge amount of noise. Maybe it's just me, but when I had about 40 friends on FriendFeed, I found the application almost completely unusable. It was generating hundreds of items to read a day, much more than I could keep up with. So, I started deleting "Friends" and made a new rule for myself that I will only subscribe to people I have actually met and talked to more than once. Finally, I went through my rss feeds. This was probably the worst area for me. I found it was impossible to make a keep or trash decision for most of my feeds. I mean, I had subscribed to them so they were all interesting, but it was just too much stuff. So I made a list of the feeds I had to keep, and then deleted everything else (about 80% of my feeds). A week later, I find that I can go to bed in the evening feeling completely caught up with no unread mail, feeds, or other hanging attention grabbers. I haven't felt out of touch on anything, and have much more time for thinking, writing, and work.