On July 1st, Google Reader, a beloved companion and trusted friend to many, will be sent out to pasture. At first, hearing the news was a downer; although no actual tears were shed, the once cheerful day now had a dark cloud hanging over it. What will I do? How will I get my news? Not CNN or ESPN news, but the good stuff: the blogs, the feeds, the TechMeme posts, the riveting commentary of the highly trained paid and unpaid writers at The Atlantic and BuzzFeed… one can not simply survive on Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit alone. Curation tools have their limits, but not Google Reader, the workhorse that never sleeps and never stops.
But really? The truth is, I’m
probably most definitely better off without an RSS reader. It’s not that I’m a consumption addict (or am I?), but it can be argued that I’m not nearly as thoughtful or tactical in my reading habits as I should be (admitting that there’s a problem is the first step, right?). Over the years I’ve gathered feeds and have done little in terms of maintenance to cut out the garbage and assure that only the best material sticks around. To this extent, an RSS reader can quickly transform from what was once a massive productivity tool, to a magnet for distraction. Most articles, most blogs, most news sources, hurt more than they help. Is reading another Huffington Post or TechCrunch article going to make me a stronger marketer or programmer, a better person, or give me the ability to make my clients happier? Maybe, but probably not.
Information vs. Entertainment, There’s a Difference
Too much RSS consumption, just like too much television, is obviously detrimental. How much is too much? Hard to say, that’s best determined on an individual basis, but it’s my non scientific observation that those who work in and / or tend to internet marketing always seem to error on the side of over-consumption It’s not just possible, but very likely that a culture of digital indulgence has become the norm.
Tami Baribeau says it best:
“I’m a product of internet culture. I spend much of my days and evenings reading the web. I have a staple set of 10 or so websites that I check multiple times throughout the day. I follow RSS feeds and aggregate sites, combing over Hacker News and Reddit and Google Reader. I am always plugged in to Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and when something new happens in the world (as impacting as a celebrity death or national tragedy or as silly as another spat between game journalists on Twitter) then I am one of the firsts to know (and retweet). I’ve been told that my name is synonymous with the internet. It’s not synonymous with the ‘real life’ though.”
A lot of ink has been spilled on this topic already, but the death of Google Reader makes for as fitting time as any to step back and think about poorly chosen habits vs. smarts habits and quality information vs. junk information.
Earning Attention the Hard Way
I’m dedicated to a life of learning and never want to stop taking in books, blogs, podcasts, videos, lectures, or any other resource that proves itself as a valuable medium for education and personal enrichment. Despite this, there’s still a delicate balance to be made. Time and attention is finite and thus should be allocated appropriately. I want everyone who is generous enough to take out time of their day to check out something I create, be it here on Sparkplug Digital, or elsewhere, to come away with something new and useful, no matter how small it may be. Finding a replacement reader shouldn’t be difficult – that’s the easy part, but setting a precedent for what is and what isn’t worthy of attention… ah, now that’s where the real challenge is. If there’s a lesson to be had in Google Reader’s death it’s one of caution. Always consume with caution.