The Information Continuum

So Google Reader is closing this summer. That’s a shame. It’s been my RSS feed reader for many years. I’m currently subscribed to 163 feeds, split across London, Tech, Mac, GIS, InfoVis, financial, orienteering and general. For a while I had a specially crafted Twitter search that fed tweets into Google Reader, but I eventually realised (when this overwhelmed the reader with the volume of tweets coming in) that mixing Twitter and feed reading is not a good idea. They serve slightly different purposes.

One of the feeds I follow has suggested that, if I don’t switch feed reader, then there are other ways to keep updated – weekly email newsletters, Facebook update and Twitter updates. The thing is, none of these get quite the same level of attention: There is a continuum of information that RSS fits into.

Google Reader sits squarely between these other ways I could absorb information, but each has their own problems:

* Email – I normally get about 20-100 a day. These normally get read within a few hours of being sent, and will generally then sit in my inbox until I’ve around to filing them and replying to them – this might be a couple of months in extreme cases. The problem is that as a personal copy of each email has been delivered to you, and takes up (account) space. I feel compelled to just not let it sit there in the inbox forever.

* Google Reader – generally about 20-50 a day. I don’t feel the need to read everything, but I’ll read most recent stories if bored. Probably about 50% get read. if I particularly like a story, I’ll star it – I maybe do this on 1% of stories. But otherwise they just scroll of to the bottom.

* Facebook Updates – Facebook keeps changing the rules and algos, so it’s quite possible that, unless you pay for advertising and prominent placement, your story which you push to a Page that I subscribe to, won’t actually get seen, unless I proactively go to the Page or view my Pages tab which is obscure. It’s not a reliable free way to see content.

* Tweets – I follow around 600 people and so probably get about 2000 a day, i.e. 1-2 a minute – much higher during the afternoon than the morning or night. There’s no way I’ll see everything.

Here’s the best way to the worst way that I will see/know/act on something – the continuum of information.

  • Face to face – obviously. Unless I’m trying to concentrate on simething else!
  • Postal mail – it sits on my desk at home filling up space until I do something about it
  • Phoning me – I can’t miss it but I might forget about it
  • Tweeting me – unless I’ve done something very popular, these will generally get seen
  • Mobile texts – require me to either action then, or forget but re-remember
  • Facebook IM
  • Work Email – will read and forget, then eventually file/reply
  • Personal Email – will read and forget, then eventually file/reply
  • Facebook Mail
  • DMing me on Twitter – Twitter/clients are starting make this harder to see/remember
  • FlickrMail
  • RSS (Google Reader) – Fills an important space – I curated my view, so it is the most likely way I’ll read things that are not specifically directed to me.
  • Facebook Groups – The most read non-personal content on Facebook, thanks partly to email/text notifications
  • Facebook Newsfeed – I check it a lot less than Twitter but it’s also less noisy
  • Twitter Timeline – too many tweets come in and scroll off too quickly
  • Comment on my blog – thanks to a non-functioning mailserver.
  • Facebook Pages – stories here tend to not get viewed unless paid-placement
  • Websites – I actually have to visit them. This doesn’t stop me viewing a few key websites (BBC News, Diamond Geezer, Nopesport, Reddit London are my top four) almost every day.

London Prints

2 Comments

  1. 14 March 2013
    Reply

    Agreed, RSS is the only way to keep up with everything. Twitter is too random, and I hate missing stuff when I’m not looking.

    But I do feel guilty for reading blogs via RSS, because the writer never knows I’m doing it. So I like to make an effort to visit particularly interesting posts on their proper websites. Especially to leave a comment 🙂

    • 16 March 2013
      Reply

      DG – I always make a point of visiting your website as well as reading the RSS feed (this does unfortunately mean I double-count for your stats) – the RSS entry is generally what I’ll see first, but I generally then visit the blog entry itself as the RSS entry sometimes misses some of your bespoke formatting, + the comments are generally almost as interesting as the post.

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