Handling stream of online information

How much information do you get from Internet daily? And more importantly - do you want more of it… Or maybe less?

Less or more either - Internet users struggle for control over that incoming stream of stuff. No one wants to look at clock and realize he had wasted hour absolutely aimlessly. It’s good to look at clock and think how much you had done in that hour.

This post isn’t about magical software or online service to instantly make you information guru (I wish there was one). It’s about my coping with information stream and invitation to share your methods on same.

My favorite trick is to treat incoming information based not on its contents but on where it is at moment. Each place determines values and priorities of content inside.

Zone of RSS feeds

This is place where people complain most. RSS is pure content and it’s easy to lose nerve when you receive something that pure (without design and context to set a mood) in great quantities.

Most important thing here - you don’t have to read every single RSS item.

RSS is about what happened recently. It’s not about important things or urgent things. It’s about things that simply happened. For myself I define RSS as:

  • high priority
  • low value

There is a lot of stuff but as soon as you stop worrying about missing something it becomes very easy to scan and digest.

I scan through around two thousands items daily but few get further.

Zone of browser

Here things get more important. It’s already stuff that caught attention in RSS or important enough to justify daily visit. Using same scale I treat pages in browser as:

  • moderate priority
  • value must be determined

Most important thing here - determine value and act on it. If page sucks close it. If page is interesting read it. If page is life-altering - decide what to do with it. Good practice is having no opened pages when you are finished (leaving work, going to sleep, etc).

Usually I open and process around hundred pages a day.

Zone of bookmarks

This is place for stuff I really want to get back to. I define it as:

  • low priority
  • extremely high value

Most important thing here - purge crap from bookmarks and put serious information there.

It’s articles that I consider very important, software that I need to test, projects that I need to move forward, tweaks I need to implement in blog.

I process at most two-three bookmarked items per evening. Sometimes none.

Zone of email

I am not much of email user and it’s bit hard for me to handle these. Sticking to same system:

  • extremely high priority
  • totally unknown value

Mail can be anything - from important notice on project to spam. But it means something happened right now. It’s like cross between RSS and browser for me and it’s not really good combination to handle.

What’s your trick?

Well I hope that sitting down and writing this properly (it’s more of habit than something conscious for me) was of use.

How do you handle your information? Do you set rules on it? Do you not care as long as you get news fix? Tell me. :)

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  • Ben - SEO Horror #

    I'm so bad with managing the information flow. My rss feeds aren't classified, I receive emails from maybe 10 different places but that's always the way it ends up even if I try to be organized! ;) I guess that's the way I work...
  • Rarst #

    I am not categorizing feeds either. :) I have them sorted by alphabet, only use different sorting of items inside (by alphabet or by date). Opera allows to set nice filters for RSS (and email as well since both are handled by mail client) to sort out something specific but I never got to set them.
  • Lucas #

    After reading this post I realized that I'm so disorganized. My bookmarks contain random things from e-books to math stuff. I don't have folders/categories for them! :o Now, please excuse me as I try to organize my Firefox bookmarks. ;)
  • Rarst #

    @Lucas Yeah, it's easy to miss a moment when bookmarks turn from collection of good stuff into mess of weirds links you don't even remember. Good luck with sorting - it's very refreshing experience. :)
  • Ky #

    I never bothered to organize my feeds in Google Reader, but maybe it's time to do it as the list is growing and I keep subscribing to nice sites like yours which I stumble across on the net .
  • Rarst #

    @Ky When number of feeds increases it's getting hard to follow them without some form of organization. :) Thanks for your subscription, I've subcribed to your blog as well.
  • Talk Binary #

    I keep up with Google Reader and tend to subscribe more to blogs with an owner who interacts with their visitors. *hint* I hardly use bookmarks. Firefox tag feature is a great way of saving them though...
  • Rarst #

    >tend to subscribe more to blogs with an owner who interacts with their visitors Yeah, this helps. :) By the way it seems lots of people use Google Reader to read feeds. I never liked online apps much and especially Google (hates Opera).
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