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.
Categorized as Notes


  1. 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 🙂

    1. 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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