20 Apr 2009

Purge and Simplify

And so it begins: 136 feeds slashed to 99, 54 follows tumbles to 26. Perhaps it had something to do with me being in a quaint little town in central Utah earlier this evening to realize one huge thing that has been really frustrating me lately: I am on information overload, and it is driving me crazy. So it was that after a good chat with my wife on the way home tonight that I decided I was going to clean house a little.

Step 1: Take my feeds to the pool

My Google Reader subscriptions have been getting a bit out of control as of late. You may remember a while back when I posted about how I “stay in touch” with technology and the outside world through the use of feeds. Problem was, I got into a terrible habit of subscribing to a feed simply because I liked one or two posts from the site/blog. Just mere weeks ago, I had 96 subscriptions (I’m sure many of you rolled your eyes at that), but this evening I checked to find I had 136! That was just ridiculously out of control. I’ve been noticing that it has been taking upwards of a full hour each day (or more for some days) to get through all the news items that came through the feeds.

So, needless to say, Reader got a bit of a trim tonight. I carved a full 37 feeds from the routine. There were a few feeds in particular that will make the daily reading much easier. KSL.com was providing an average of 30.1 stories per day. The next highest per-day-amount was from Major League Soccer News at about 12 per day. I chopped both of those right off, as well as all but two soccer feeds: Soccer by Ives and Behind the Shield. I then went through all my tags and cleaned house. I had previously subscribed to a bunch of the google blogs about Ad Sense and Webmaster Tools, but realized that when those posts came through I was completely skipping them because I just wasn’t interested. That was really the crux of the situation: I had subscribed to an enormous amount of blogs assuming that I even cared about what they had to say, or perhaps that I should care about it. The fact of the matter came down that I just didn’t care, or didn’t have the time to care. And as we all know, time is money. CHOP.

By the way, I can’t tell you how liberating it feels to have sliced so much out. I’ll report soon on what I find based on the surgery.

Step 2: Noise-cancellation

A few months back I decided I would finally give Twitter a try (this came on the heels of finally giving in to facebook last year, just to see what all the fuss was about (FYI: it’s about nothing at all)). For those of you who have no idea what Twitter is, here is their one liner:

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

It sounds conspicuously similar to facebook or myspace, and while it does have the flavor of social networking, it’s far simpler. The only thing you can really do on twitter is just that: tell people what you are doing. What’s more, you only have 140 characters to relate your sordid tale, even if you have links or pictures to share. There are link shortening services that help with this, but still, short and sweet is the Twitter mantra. Now, this all seems like a bash on Twitter, but I must admit that it absolutely can serve an enormous purpose for people trying to have their company or product go viral. Just go ask Amazon, or Jet Blue. They’ve had customer service nightmares blow up in their faces from Tweeters that send a maelstrom of angry one-liners at the companies for minor slip-ups. To put it bluntly, Twitter provides power to the people.

As you can tell, I’ve been studying Twitter as much as I can lately. As such, I’ve discovered quite a few people/companies to that I am interested in to follow. People like Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office), Imogen Heap, Real Salt Lake, and common squirrel (my personal favorite). Over the last week or two I’ve been following 54 tweeps (like peeps, but not) and one thing I’ve realized. Just because someone is a supposed expert in their field does not mean they are interesting enough to hear about all the minutia they come up with each day to enchant their followers. My experience with following people that I don’t know on Twitter (no matter how high of regard I had for them before) is pretty much an enormous waste of time. People like Jeffrey Zeldman (Design Guru), or Alex Smith (Twitter API Lead), among others. Love the work they do, but I just don’t know them well enough (read: at all) to really have any point in knowing that they had a jamocha milkshake and that they think that the local diner is weird for serving potato lasagna.

So it was with un-heavy heart that I chopped the majority of my followings from 54 down to 26. The majority of the people I still follow are friends, with the occasional company or sport tweeter. Interestingly enough, I find that Twitter is a much better outlet to getting quick news info than RSS. With a strict requirement to limit each tweet to 140 characters, you’ve got to be short and sweet, and to the point.

Step 3: Breathe the fresh(er) air

While the purging and slashing I did tonight on my tech info overload was significant, I’m sure there will be room for improvement and more slashing in the coming weeks. What’s important is that I realized what was going wrong and took the steps necessary to begin changing it. I’ll still have to work on suppressing the urge to subscribe to new blogs, doing so only when I am certain the content is worth the amount of time it takes to consume it. The Twitter bug won’t be as hard to shake, as I’m still forming those habits and ways to deal with them as we speak.

What are you doing to purge and/or simplify in your life?