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170 :: Panning The Streams

Last week I spoke about using an RSS reader and choosing your own Internet, and received this thoughtful comment from Ilja:

Ilja October 27, 2020 at 08:30

Hi Jay,

I used to be an avid RSS reader, but I always abandoned my feeds eventually because I got overwhelmed with the sheer volume of the incoming stream of posts. I just could not accept any unread badges, which is impossible to attain if you don’t clear your feed several times a day, even with just a few dozen feeds.

So I’m wondering do you have any advice how to approach feeds more meaningfully? How do you make sure you stay sane? How do you choose what to read and what to skip? Do you hide the unread badges and use a feed curated by Feedly?

I know it’s a lot of question. Any advice in this matter is much appreciated.

I thought this was an interesting question and as a result, I spent the week thinking about/observing my own behaviour in Feedly a little more closely.

I know what Ilja means about being overwhelmed with the sheer volume the incoming stream. Not accepting any unread badges etc. Back in the early days of Twitter I had a Firefox plugin in my web browser that would some how bypass works firewall. I became obsessed with “not missing a thing” for years. This obsessive behaviour evolved in to checking my RSS compulsively too. I was ‘big on Digg.com’ for a while, because I was SO up-to-date with my feeds I would be first to submit. It honestly played a considerably role in making me miserable, and disconnected from the world around me for a decade.

Why I allowed my self to get to the point where I thought Twitter was more interesting than my friends sitting right next to me in a pub garden I don’t know. It got so bad when I was in the hell job about 5 years ago that it starting to effect my relationships with people. “Whats the point of meeting you in the pub if you are only going to stare at your phone” 🙁

As I wrote in my zine. Once you realise that You, personally, get to decide where you put your attention. You then have to take full responsibility for where you have put your attention in the past.

This includes examining behaviours that allowed this messy relationship with ‘the machine’ to develop in the first place. This is not to apportion blame of course. I honestly feel that numbered unread badges are the scourge of UX world. Where possible I turn them off on all apps. The only notifications that make their way to me are messages from my closest friends and family. Craig over at aloneinthefrontfow today has a wonderfully honest post about his relationship to communications tools and notifications from whatsapp etc.

I often worry that talking openly about my relationship to social media will be read as talking passively about my relationships to my friends. I have no idea how you avoid that; it seems frustratingly inevitable.

I have tried really hard over the last few years to develop a fairly relaxed relationship to INFO-FOMO. When I do use Twitter I have it set to the algorithmic Home timeline and not newest tweets first. Twitter is a just machine that wants to eat my attention. I have a look at what it wants to show me and then put it away/down. Or at least thats the theory anyway. My average daily usage across both desktop and phone has crept up recently:

Daily average time spent since April 2020

Mostly due to the fact I’ve been having quite a lot of DM convos with people and….. *gestures at everything*.

RSS readers are a little different of course. They are your own Internet feed. Self selected internet on your own terms.

If I have time, I’ll hit ‘J’ and scroll though the whole feed usually after/over breakfast. Though I prefer to listen to a short 20min podcast, or not do anything and just speak to Eve if our schedules are aligned.

Mainly, I read all the posts from ‘people’. Then take and/or leave the rest.

I have a lot of slow moving news about developments in synbio, photovoltaics, and battery technology etc that I like to keep an eye on. But I don’t need to stay up to date on industry news.

I took a screenshot the other day when I looked at Feedly one afternoon. I’d cleared the whole feed of about 130 items in the morning and by the afternoon it was back up to 60. Here’s the un-read count before and after just reading posts from real people‘s blogs.

Before

After

I nuked the remaining 46 posts. It will only fill up again anyways, so there’s no need to be precious about seeing everything. Or worrying about it.

I should also note that I don’t ‘read everything’ in this category either, I look at the headline and the opening lines etc of the post. If it looks interesting I’ll open the website in a tab for further reading. Out of the 20 or so blogs I ‘read’ in Feedly above I think I opened 6 in a new tab. It’s a question of casting as wide net as you want, then progressively parsing the information that comes to you down to the 5 or 6 things you want to read. I think of a full Feedly inbox of (say) 200 unreads: I’ll read 5/6 posts from real people and then maybe 10 more posts? If I’m clearing the feed by looking at it I’ll just hit J and skim read the Lede’s.

Note: I also use stoopinbox.com for many newsletters and then pipe them into Feedly with the RSS it spits out. My friends and newsletters I pay for still go to my phone/email.

If I subscribe to a blog that puts out more than 3 posts a day (like a topical news site) I will stick with it for a week or so and see how I feel. But if its too noisy I’ll remove it again and either seek a slower moving and more considered outlet.

The last comment “Do you hide the unread badges and use a feed curated by Feedly?” is interesting. I basically read the subcategory ‘blogs’, then if there are any other posts in ‘favourites’ I’ll read them too. Apart from that I don’t really register the unread badges at all. Perhaps I’ve friend myself to ignore them? Seeing as they have no relevance to the amount of information I consume there?

It’s a lot of information to parse quickly. But looking at the daily average, I only spend 10mins a day in my RSS reader.

Which I think is a reasonable amount of time to spend sifting the Feed for nuggets of interest.

On a semi related subject the good Max Anton Brewer recently wrote about Digital Gardens and his frustration with blogs, and streams of content. Tom Critchlow is also writing from the same lawn.

The internet is all fucked up these days, said I. Social media is annoying, blogs are boring, portfolios are glossy but hollow. I wish I could publish more, but it just all feels so fake and corporate.

But, said he, those aren’t the only options. What about a digital garden?

COME INTERNET WITH ME – Cade Diehm Searches ‘Economic Subcultures’

This week I’m joined by The New Design Congress founder, and digital infrastructure and security researcher Cade Diehm.

We search ‘Economic Subcultures’. Discover Furry Socialism, and Take a deep dive into spending in the Furry Fandom.

Permanently Moved

About Doin’

I have a Solarpunk short story coming out in the e-anthology ‘And Lately, The Sun’ next month!

Update From The Island

The big news is obviously the Halloween event. Honestly I was absolutely delighted to see both Isabelle and the Nook boys getting in on the action.

The Ministry Of My Own Labour

Lots of calls this week, amongst other things.

  • I attended Imagining our Climate Futures Zoom conference this week. Organised by the University of Huddersfield and Cosmia Festival. It was great to drop in to a huge zoom call and see a bunch of familiar faces including: Sarena Ulibarri from Worldweaver press and G from Commando Jugendstil and others I’ve had correspondence with but never spoken to in person. Met a bunch of cool people on that call it was one of those 4 hour zoom calls that you enjoy every moment.
  • Met Hal from demandabetterfuture on a zoom call and had an absolutely blast.
  • Spent nearly 2 hours on live chat with a very helpful member of Dreampress’ support team. Went though a laundry list of things that were pissing me off about my WordPress instant and they are all resolved! hurray! The main one being the crashes I was experiencing if i left the wordpress block editor open for too many hours. Fixed by reducing wordpress ‘heartbeat’ with tools from wp-rocket. That also needed to get fixed as it was crashing my site earlier this summer.
  • I’ve also moved over to cloudflare for DNS services and intend to move all the other sites I host for people over too it at some point too.
  • Posted the first Dimensino essay.
  • Plotted the rough shape of my Nanowrimo novel. Scared and excited about starting it tomorrow.
  • A big project once November is over is moving the blog over to a child theme and putting in all the PRINT CSS. so pages like my Verticals of One essay or the solarpunk long read will look nice printed as a PDF.

Dipping the Stacks

They dreamed of esports fame. Then their bodies broke down | WIRED UK

the sceptical futuryst: Introducing Experiential and Participatory Futures at the BBC

Origins and genetic legacy of prehistoric dogs | Science

Despair Fatigue | David Graeber

Reading

I attended trust.support’s reading group this week. On Emissary’s Guide to Worlding by Ian Cheng.

All online reading groups should be like this!

As I’ve been saying over the last 2 years or so on this blog Trust is doing incredible work over in Berlin. Check them out and become a remote member. The discord chat is worth the price of entry.

Music

I’ve been listening to John Frusciante’s (Red Hot Chili Peppers) Maya all week. If you didn’t know Frusciante has had a side gig producing acid house and breakcore albums on Venetian Snares’s planet mu sublabel Timesig. I must admit I didn’t realise who he was and his RHCP connection until a couple of years ago

Maya is way less glitchy than pervious albums. Maya to my ears sounds like a shining example of the Jungle revival thats happening over in the US. Maya also makes use of a lot of synthwave sounds and is a really interesting album sonically.

You can grab it on bandcamp, its embedded below.

Remember Kids

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About Author

Jay Springett is a Solarpunk, Theorist and Strategist for hybrid environments. His concerns are with culture, humans and technology and the environment. He is currently writing his first public book: Land as Platform.

2 Comments

  • Jeff V
    November 18, 2020 at 18:32

    I wrote myself a one page dashboard that has four columns. I have RSS feeds from a few sites in boxes (like news sites) but I also have a section where there’s just a link or two to a blog or site that I want to follow. The link changes daily. So I’m only checking in on them once a week. It slows me down while still keeping up with everything.

    Reply
    • Jay
      November 19, 2020 at 11:51

      WOW this sounds great. I really wish that there were more ‘toyboxes’ out there for people to experiment with alternat forms of media consumption. Do you remember netvibes? I had something similar in the mid noughties but not as advanced as the RSS would always be a full feed.

      Have you documented it anywhere?

      Reply

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