Chris Dzombak

You can't read everything.

Information is flying everywhere these days. The mainstream adoption of RSS/Atom feeds and (more recently) @Twitter has led to the production - and consumption - of more content than at any time in the past.

That's a bit of a problem.  I like to read, and over the last several years my reading has increasingly taken place online.

My Google Reader subscriptions, for example, include many (probably over a hundred; I'm not sure) blogs which all constantly produce high-quality content.  Most of them are photography blogs, but I also read many blogs about computers, graphic design, the Web, chemistry, medicine, and politics/news.  I try to keep myself a well-rounded person, and indeed I find all these blogs interesting. (I'll admit that many of Derek Lowe's musings on organic chemistry in the pharmaceutical world are above my head, but I quite enjoy the blog nonetheless.)

At least, that was my Google Reader situation until very recently, when I realized there was so much information coming in on a weekly basis I couldn't possibly read it all.  I also realized that (partly because of this) I hadn't even bothered reading many of my favorite blogs in months.

Therein lies the problem.  Clearly, I needed to unsubscribe from many of those feeds, and I also had to give up on reading all the posts which had queued up while I ignored Reader.  Doing this was hard, since as I noted before, each of these blogs interested me and had a pretty high signal-to-noise ratio.  But I had to realize that there was no way I could possibly read all of them.  It was kind of difficult to accept this at first, but really there's nothing else one could do.

Since the majority of the blogs I subscribed to were photography-related, I started cutting there and then moved on to the rest of my feeds.  I'm still working on cutting out all but the very best blogs - with high signal-to-noise ratios and consistently informative, high-quality content - but still I've made very good progress.

I'm also doing something similar (though on a lesser scale) with my Twitter account (@cdzombak).  That one isn't as crowded because I don't subscribe to many "noisy" people/sites on Twitter.  It helps that I also have a private Twitter account I use solely for communicating with close personal friends, so achieving a really good signal-to-noise ratio with my public account doesn't seem as important.

And in a similar vein, I've been unsubscribing from nearly every mass mailing that finds its way to my email inbox.  I've been thinking recently that email ought to be more like the telephone or snail mail (minus telemarketers and junk mail) - reserved for communication between actual people. Weeding out everything else lets me focus better on communicating quickly and effectively with people who actually need my attention.

(Exception: I still subscribe to daily news emails from the New York Times and NPR.)

I hope that accepting the idea that I can't read everything, and drastically narrowing the number of content-producers I follow online, will allow (and motivate) me to spend more time consuming offline media - that is, reading books and magazines. I subscribe to two magazines (National Geographic and American Photo) and I almost find time to read them in detail; one of my goals for the next few months is to put more time into reading National Geographic in particular.  Another of my near-future goals is to read more books; I have a few in mind (Richard Florida's The Rise of the Creative Class and Max Gergel's autobiographies are some of the items on my reading list).

Further, probably better-written, reading: Books and Blogs