But I have to read everything…

Using tools like Google Reader or Twitter it can become pretty compulsive to read everything. If you use iTunes and subscribe to lots of podcasts you can feel you need to listen to them all.

The more RSS feeds you subscribe to, or the more people you follow on Twitter, the larger the number of those unread messages becomes… Likewise with a lot of podcast subscriptions you can find the number of podcasts you have not listened to growing…

Then after a while you feel you are not coping or those unread feeds and Tweets are always there…


The number also gets larger… and larger…

You start to set yourself targets, you will read all your feeds by Sunday night! You will catch up with Twitter over dinner!

You go away to a conference or on holiday and when you get back the list is even bigger!

Eventually it will reach the point that you have to give up. Then you mark all as read and start again down this downward spiral.

Is this a wise course of action?

Of course no it isn’t.

The key in my opinion dealing with tools like Twitter and Google Reader is to rethink them as streams of information rather than as an email inbox.

In the same way that you don’t watch every TV channel or even watch ALL of your favourite TV channel.

Or reading the weekend paper, you don’t attempt to read every article in every section. Likewise if you didn’t read the paper yesterday, do you read it before you read today’s paper?

Or continually listening to Radio 4 all day long… well I know some people who do that, but you know what I mean!

It doesn’t matter that you don’t read every Tweet posted. It won’t be the end of the world if you don’t manage to catch every article in your newsfeed. So what if you miss a podcast?

What is the worse that could happen?

Well yes something bad could happen, but not very likely! But every day because you didn’t read all the Tweets in your Twitter stream, something bad would happen, no I don’t think so.

To be honest nothing bad is going to happen.

So what if you miss an exciting blog post on a subject you care about?

Does it really matter that you missed out on an interesting conversation on Twitter about PLEs?

The thing is you miss stuff all the time outside RSS and Twitter. More often than not, the good stuff resurfaces again and again (well it certainly does on services like Digg).

You need to treat Google Reader, Twitter and iTunes all in the same way. When you have time dip into the Twitter stream. Allocate time during the day To peruse your aggregated feeds in your newsreader. Listen to the most recent podcast, not the one from three weeks ago.

This is a much easier way to manage the huge amount of information that comes into our lives. Yes you will miss stuff, but the stuff you don’t will not be rushed, it will be perused with care and attention not just glanced over because you need to ensure that all your articles in the RSS feed are read.

It’s never about all the stuff it’s about the right stuff.

Now should we talk about e-mail?

9 thoughts on “But I have to read everything…”

  1. I’ve found that even after setting up my Google Reader feed. I quickly became adept at ‘skimming’ the preview text and deciding whether I should continue reading….

    … of course that is a given with ‘e-learning stuff’


  2. I agree and tend to read on a basis of a specific theme. That is to say, I may focus on gov’t policy or iphone/pad/android or esafety – and choose to skim or ignore all but one or two themes in any given time period.

    It’s also fair to say that a key benefit of twitter (and to a lesser extent Google Alerts) is to trust other people to do the reading for me. if I have a serious frustration it’s that Twitter has been so flaky recently that I find I simply don’t see some of the key people I follow in my timeline. When I become aware of this I set up individual searches for those people so at least I have a column of a person’s tweets, even if I don’t get round to reading them.

    And finally there are a few people like you who can be relied upon to provide blog posts that provide a summary and comment on current topical issues – and for this, I’m grateful 🙂

  3. Just what I have been thinking. I remind myself that I will see what I need to see.
    I like your line about not treating it like an email inbox.

  4. Deviously I don’t read everything – I follow a few key bloggers / twitterers (like your good self) who *seem* to read everything and make a very good job of digesting what is worth following up.

    A bit like reading ‘The Week’ instead of reading all the newspapers.

  5. Yes, good way of looking at it. It’s going to involve a culture change for me to try to stop reading/listening to everything. Up until now I’ve hated those unread/unplayed icons and end up wasting loads of time going through things just to get them ticked off. I try to limit what I subscribe to.

    What I shall try is marking as read even when I haven’t! (Shock).

    To echo your words, I’ve had up in my office for the last few weeks a poster saying “Don’t just get it done… get it right!”.

  6. Some good points. I’ve found Feedly really helpful in this regard — its Digest view presents me with a combination of the most popular and recent bits in each of my categories, and when I’m done, it’s a single click to mark everything else as read.

    For those who haven’t tried it, Feedly (http://www.feedly.com/) is a Google Reader based feed reader available as an add-on for Firefox and Chrome.

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