Saturday, May 06, 2006

More ideas for coping with information

A couple of posts ago, I was talking about how I seemed to have a lot less time for reading books than I used to. Or rather, I'm using my available time for other things besides reading books.

This weekend, I've been trying to work my way through all those RSS feeds that have built up in my reader, as well as clearing out some of the unheard podcasts backed up in my Ipod. So I'm doing plenty of reading -- but not books.

It appears I'm not the only one who is struggling with this problem. I came across a couple of posts that address the issue of too many books and not enough time to get through them.

The first is The myth of "keeping up" from one of my new favourite bloggers, Kathy Sierra from the Passionate Users blog. I seem to have been sending you guys over to her posts a lot lately. But I really like her take on life and she's a great writer.

This post talks about the problem of too many books to read. But Kathy goes further than some (like me) and rather than just complaining about it, she's got some good ideas on coping. So take a look. And if you've got any other ideas, she encourages you to add to the list.

The second post comes from a blog called "An Entirely Other Day," written by Greg Knauss. In The Back-Logged Life he tells us that he's had enough of the "info-glut, which has taken over his life. For example:

My entire life has devolved into an endless, grinding slog through my back-log. Everything I do is about catching up, doing the stuff I didn't get done the day before, plowing through some other goddamned thing that needs my attention. Ending the day without actually adding to the total aggregate is a victory. There are times when it piles up faster than I can shovel it away.

His solution? Dramatic and simple:

... As of now, my fancy-pants, community-generated, emergent-behavior data-sorting heuristic is: a calendar. If I haven't gotten to something in a week, it dies. Stick that in your attention economy and smoke it. I'm re-booting. Feed list: empty. In-box: empty. TiVo: OK, OK, I still need to watch "24." But other than that: empty.

So screw you, info-glut! I'm not going to be the responsible info-citizen I'm expected to info-be anymore. If I get to it, I get to it. If I don't, well, then it couldn't have been very important in the first place. I suspect that burning children and drowning buildings will still get the attention they need. But the year-old e-mails that are stinking up the bottom of my in-box? The month-old "Daily Shows"? The three dozen Waxy Links that I've flagged and sorted and pinned to a corkboard for further study some day? Gone. And good riddance.

So, there you have it. Two approaches to dealing with all that info rolling into our lives every day. I'm still working on my information grid, to try to rate the quality of the information I get compared to the volume. But I don't have a clue where that will end up. I suspect I may be leaning towards Greg's solution.

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