Staying Informed

"But Paul," I can hear you saying through the internet, "how do you stay informed about the outside world if you can't visit Twitter and Facebook?" That's a great question but I'm afraid we've run out of time for today, sorry.

I was a huge Google Reader fan and I still use an RSS reader. When Google Reader shut down I installed a local version of Tiny Tiny RSS on my server and spent a lot of time customizing it to look and behave like Google Reader. I still use it regularly and I wish I could say that was my primary source of information these days. Unfortunatley the big two have pulled people's creative energy into them like content black holes from which not even light-hearted jokes can escape! I think of my tt-rss instance as "appointment" web entertainment. I visit it occasionally to keep up with specific sites but it doesn't feel urgent to stay up-to-date. I would love to see a return to distributed publishing and reading via RSS but tt-rss and newsreaders in general feel like too much work to install, set up, and manage.

Email has changed for me. I have distinct work and personal email these days and I use different clients to check them. My personal email traffic feels light, and with Gmail filtering spam and sorting things into buckets I have a strong signal to noise ratio. I follow some great email newsletters that I highly recommend: I usually read these as they come in and always get something out of them. Some weekly reads I enjoy include Friday Front-End (web development news), Hacker Newsletter (sorry), and the top questions of the week at RPG Stack Exchange.

What I like is that I control what's coming into my inbox. Like a newsreader, I choose the sources and let them curate news for me. There isn't an algorithm helping me decide which pieces of these I should read. Maybe it works because I haven't subscribed to very many. Maybe it works because email isn't a primary source of anxiety for me anymore.

Another daily source of news and info for me is link and favorite aggregation sites:
  • BELONG - Andy Baio's Twitter aggregator takes links from a good slice of Twitter. (Maybe this is cheating since it's based on Twitter? I'm ok with it.)
  • Pinboard Popular - The most-saved bookmarks at Pinboard with a heavy web developer slant. (Also has a strong Twitter bias with its auto-bookmark favorites feature.)
  • Popular favorites at MetaFilter and Ask MetaFilter - Sure, I'm biased, but it's still the best online community and while I'm not in the daily mix there anymore I always find great perspectives when I go.
  • Nuzzel - This is like a BELONG but with your Twitter follows. (ok, this is definitely cheating but it's very hard for me to escape this particular black hole.)
Looking at this list I know there is much more I can do to diversify my information diet. Part of this experiment is going through this self-examination to find ways to improve.

I'm sure you're sorry you asked by now, but I appreciate your concern. I'm still concerned about keeping up with friends and family but we really are out of time now so that'll have to be another post. Just know there's a lot you can take in outside of the big two and still feel like you're plugged into the hive mind.
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