Data syndication has changed my life. And, if you’re reading this (or space-barring past it!), it’s probably changed yours, too. A long time ago, but not so long ago that there weren’t any good web sites yet, if you wanted a break from the daily humdrum of your job or life, you might find yourself methodically cruising your browser bookmarks, “just to see” if there had been any recent updates to your favorite web content.
Syndication, e.g. RSS, changed all of that. Now, instead of wasting hours clicking bookmarks and scanning visually for new material, you simply press the space bar in NetNewsWire. Again, and again, and again. Throughout the day, and possibly without paying much attention at all to the updated content as it whizzes by. Once you’ve space-barred through everything the web has to offer, you might even find yourself guiltily refreshing feeds, putting an undue burden on servers of the world just to feed your need for more inputs. Or is that just me?
Syndication has brought luxury of riches, such that I’ve overcompensated for the desire to always have something new to read, by oversubscribing to everything the world has to offer. Now I’ve got plenty to read, but I’m interested in almost none of it.
I have thought about culling my subscription list for some time, and occasionally have done so upon realizing that some alleged programmer’s blog is actually more often about her uninspired opinions of the local school board, or the Latin American drug trade, than about the programming topics I expected. It always feels good to drop one of these feeds with the knowledge that my space-barring thumb will be saved much future work.
Today I finally took a good look at Rands In Repose, a weblog about engineering management, but also about Apple, and about giving presentations, and about having a slightly cutting take on all that happens in the world, and damn it all, brilliantly written! It’s a rare instance of finding a weblog where I not only want to keenly monitor what comes next, but also want to dig deep into the archives to take in what came before. Other weblogs have inspired this reaction (e.g. Joel on Software and Daring Fireball), but these moments don’t come often. Content like this demands to be read, yet I often end up flagging it for later access, because I don’t have enough time right now. Where is all the time going? Space-barring through crap! (Or writing long-winded weblog entries … )
I unsubscribed from 20 feeds today and added Rands. The new “Attention Report” in NetNewsWire 3, combined with the existing “Dinosaur Report” makes it easy to identify candidates for the knife. In general, if I space-bar through something all the time, I trust that it will show up as unloved on the attention report. So far it’s been a “trust but verify” type of experiment. “But I love that guy! I’m sure this is a mistake. Double-click. Oh yeah, he’s a brilliant Mac programmer who writes mostly about the Chinese democracy movement.”
My closing advice? Unsubscribe to at least 10 weblogs today (possibly this one!), and add Rands. Expect and accept only the best when you next press the space bar. Then get back to work!