RSS & Information Management

I’m an RSS addict and pusher — it makes management of certain kinds of
information so much easier — but I’m not sure I want to live in an RSS
world where everything is weighted the same and context can be
elusive. It’s like the difference between libraries that bring books
to you and those that let you roam through the stacks. Sometimes, I
want that one book and I want it immediately. Most of the time, I want
to wander, trusting instinct and serendipity. 

This
morning I went offline and took some newspapers (we still get four delivered)
to my favorite bakery and oatmeal provider,
where I wish they’d install WiFi and often appreciate the lack of it.
I battled the wind  to sit outside, eat and read the papers, picking up bits
and pieces that probably wouldn’t have been in view otherwise. Could I live without them? Yes. But I often gain something — story ideas of my own, a sense of current culture, news outside of my usual realm. One of my favorite scenes in "Working Girl" is when Melanie Griffith’s character explains how she concocted a deal by playing mental hopscotch with published articles. Sure, you might get the same inspiration from collated, aggregated feeds but that sense of juxtaposition is much more elusive.

Similarly, looking at someone’s web site can be more rewarding than the streams of copy flowing through my RSS readers (Usually Feed Demon and Bloglines). I can see images, text, design coming together, a holistic look at someone’s personal space. I get a glimpse of how a public company treats its responsibilities to shareholders by how hard it makes it to find  information or whether earnings make the site’s front page.

It’s probably the same part of me that believes songs have a certain kind of resonance as singles but a different kind altogether as part of an album with songs placed by one another for particular reasons. Recent proof of that theory: Grey Seal on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road a few songs after "Funeral For A Friend" and "Candle In The Wind" provokes an entirely different, uplifting feeling for me than it does paired with different songs on the remaster of earlier album Elton John . I can — and do — mix my own playlists but some songs can’t be separated from their original company; splintered, Springsteen’s Nebraska, for one,  loses power.

RSS offers its own serendipity of my choices mixed together. But  information management alone would be a pretty spare diet for me.

Coda: I firmly believe if you  read USA Today’s  Life section at least three
times a week you’ll be conversant in pop culture even if you never turn
on a tv, something too many editors claim as a badge of honor. Editors who followed
that prescription wouldn’t have been caught off guard when Kurt Cobain
committed suicide. I don’t know why but it doesn’t  work the same online; in fact, of all the papers I read both in print and online, USA Today is the least satisfying electronically.

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One comment

  1. Josh Hallett

    On your coda: I used to subscribe to Entertainment Weekly just so I could be on-top of current entertainment. It would always help as a conversation starter. Even if I did not watch the ‘hot new TV show” I knew enough about it to carry on a conversation. Often by reading EW I actually knew a bit more than the casual viewer.

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