43 Folders

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pigeonA few things I've learned I don't need to know about the second they happen:

  • a new comment has been added to a 43 Folders post
  • a friend of mine has posted a new photo to Flickr
  • a very long message from a mailing list I never read has been delivered to my inbox
  • someone on LiveJournal is still disappointed with their (job|love life|roommate|hair|lunch|other)
  • Technorati reports a new post somewhere in the world tagged "web 2.0"
  • the temperature in San Francisco has dropped one degree Farenheit
  • my FedEx package is still in Memphis

And, yet these are all things that I used to monitor manually via my RSS reader. Refresh all. Refresh all. Refresh all. Refresh all. Refresh all. Madness.

The whole purpose of an RSS feed, it seems to me, goes straight to the "trusted system" notion in Getting Things Done -- if I have a reliable way of knowing when something really important changes in my world, then I don't have to think about it when it's not actually changing, right? And, then, for the less than life-threatening deltas ("new kitty photo!"), it's probably even okay to just check in every few days or so (cf: "tickler file").

But, if, out of some bizarre compulsion, I find myself hitting "Refresh" every 5 minutes, then either a) I don't trust the system, or b) I'm deliberately defeating its purpose as a monitoring and notification system. But, in any case, it's no longer a "notification" if I am the one constantly generating the requests -- instead I become like a sad little pigeon, gamely tapping my lever in the hopes that a pellet (or a hug) will fall out.

So, yeah, I'm thinking about adding a few feeds back to my reader, but you can bet I'm going to tweak the hell out of the refresh settings. Now that I've been away from it for a few weeks, I have to say: there are an astonishing number of things in the world that I don't need hourly updates about. Daily, weekly, even monthly status reports provide more than enough information about a lot of change.

Take a week off, and see if you don't agree. Maybe even ask yourself: "What is it, precisely, that I'm keeping up with?"

Chris Mear's picture

And, yet these are all...

And, yet these are all things that I used to monitor manually via my RSS reader.

Ah, but isn't that exactly how you want it? The important stuff that you do need to be notified about is set to auto-refresh. But the unimportant stuff is only refreshed manually, when you have some free time and you actively decide to 'go read news'.

I set up my RSS reader like this about a week ago, and it's been working a dream.




An Oblique Strategy:
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