Feed overload? Ditch the guilt, embrace serendipity

Here’s what my feed reader looks like right now.

I’ve lost track of how many RSS feeds I subscribe to in my feed reader — somewhere between 100 and 200, I’m guessing. But that doesn’t matter, because despite the volume it’s surprisingly manageable and rewarding. The secret, I’ve found, is to let go of any sense of obligation to keep up with all that content.

It’s simply impossible to keep up. There’s too much stuff published online every day — hell, every minute! Why feel pressured or guily about not being able to achieve an impossible ideal?

Here’s what I do…

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Why blogging conferences is so damn hard

Think it’s easy blogging a blogging conference? Think again.

(UPDATE: If you’re reading this post in a feed reader, you may see a big block of spam below. Sorry about that — my blog has been hacked. I’m working to fix it.)

The thing about conferences is that, in my opinion, it’s really damn hard to both attend the conference and blog about it much — unless I go to the conference specifically to blog it. A lot of things get in the way.

Right now I’m at Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas, where yesterday my blogging ethics panel went very well (thanks to my excellent panelist and a very engaged audience). More about that panel later.

Here’s a quick rundown of my reasons (or excuses) why I have a hard time blogging at conferences, unless that’s my reason for being there…

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Why Feed Readers and Public Comments are Cornerstone Skills

DanieVDM, via Flickr (CC license)
What makes a cornerstone skill online?

Recently I wrote about my frustration about what I perceive as low adoption rates for cornerstone skills for today’s online media — especially by people who are interested in online media.

Here’s a bit more explanation about why I think learning to use a feed reader and getting experience making public comments on blogs or forums (not just e-mail lists) are so crucial to really “getting” what’s so important and powerful about online media.

It all boils down to mindset. The catch is, changing your mind isn’t all in your head. The most effective, lasting way to adapt your online-media mindset, habits, and priorities is to actually use these skills — not just know about them in a theoretical sense…

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Shared Docs: Gateway Drug to Wikis?

Chris Carfi, via Flickr (CC license)
Wiki maven Liz Henry of SocialText.

At the unconference segment of BlogHer 2007 in Chicago, I sat in on a small-group discussion about wikis (sites that can be collaboratively edited either by a defined group, or by anyone at all).

The discussion was led by one of my favorite wiki mavens, Liz Henry of Socialtext. I was glad that this group included some total wiki newbies (even wikiphobes) as well as wiki fans. That diversity of view was useful because, I’ve found, the concept of a wiki is rather alien and even suspicious to many people. It’s hard to give up the idea of one person having control over a document.

One thing that emerged from this discussion is that most of the wiki newbies or wikiphobes did know, and had used, shared documents via services such as Google Docs or Zoho. That concept was less alien to them than a wiki because it utilized familiar document types (word processing, spreadsheet, etc.) and because it solved a common problem — the frustration of a team working on a document passed around by e-mail.

That got us thinking: If you’re trying to introduce a team or community to wikis to aid some sort of collaboration, and if you’re meeting resistance or low adoption rates for the wiki, try working first with a shared document. Once they get used to the idea of collaborating on a document (any document, really) via the Web, wikis start to look more appealing and make more sense.

What do you think of this approach? Have you tried it? Did it work or not? Please comment below.

(NOTE: I originally published this item on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits.)

I’ve got mail… NOT! Inbox Zero rocks!

Three little words I’ve been dying to hear… Click to see the big picture.

I just did something I’ve never done before: I’ve completely cleaned out my e-mail in-box.

No kidding. Right now I don’t have a single message in my inbox. All incoming messages have been processed. Aaaaaaaahhhhhh….

This is a huge step forward for me. Due to the nature of my work, I rely heavily on e-mail for my professional and personal life. Of course, I haven’t always managed it well, and I’ve tended to let things accumulate in my in-box instead of figuring out what needs to be done, if anything, with each message.

My inbox had become an inordinate psychological, emotional, and procedural burden for me….

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Blogging: My cure for brainstipation

Louise Fitzhugh
“I’m taking notes on all those people who are sitting over there.”
“Because I’ve seen them and I want to remember them!”

I learned a lot from the recent hiatus of Contentious. Mostly I learned that I really do need to have this blog. It’s not just my voice, and a key source of my sense of connection.

It helps me think. I mean that quite literally.

I didn’t plan to put Contentious on hiatus. It happened because switching hosts and upgrading to the latest WordPress caused a lot of technical glitches. I had good help fixing many of them, but some of them would take more time and effort than I had available. I felt overwhelmed, and was embarrassed to blog when the site was having problems. I felt like I “should” fix those problems first, and then start blogging again.

Bad, bad strategy. Basically, this led to the accumulation of a lot of guilt, shame, and frustration. So even though I wasn’t posting and I was avoiding fixing the tech glitches, I was thinking about Contentious every day — and seeing it as a problem, not an outlet or resource.

When you start seeing your blog as a problem, that’s a big problem. It means it’s time to either change what you’re doing, or stop. I knew I didn’t want to stop, I just couldn’t find the motivation to keep going in the face of shame and guilt. Finally, with encouragement from some smart women at BlogHer, I decided to just keep going.

All of this reminded me of Harriet the Spy…

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