[personal profile] flowerhack
Something I've struggled with more and more these days is keeping up with all the stuff there is to read on the internet. Every day, there's an update from a friend's blog, or a cool article on a tech news site, or a post from my favorite blogger… I wind up letting myself get interrupted by all these irresistible information-trinkets, trying to skim each article quickly so I can move on to the next one, and searching for more once I've finished all my skimming, hungry for yet more little factoids.

One solution, obviously, would be to just cut down on the number of blogs and feeds that I subscribe to. I'm working on doing that, but it's a hard problem to tackle all at once—how do I decide which feeds are valuable, and which are useless? how do I handle a site which I really enjoy, but has a low signal-to-noise ratio? and so on.

If I could just filter these articles better, though, that'd be another solution altogether.

And it's a solution that works really well! I've been trying out a new article filtering system these past couple weeks, and while I hate to crow "success!" prematurely, I do feel like I'm spending less time "keeping up," and the articles I'm reading are more useful, and I don't feel weirdly anxious about missing out on news.

The idea's very similar to inbox zero, if you're familiar with that.

Basically: I browse the internet as I usually would, going through any blogs or RSS feeds and such that I like. When I see an article I'd like to read, though, instead of reading it right away…

1) I bookmark the article. (I use Pinboard for bookmarks but I'm sure other bookmark managers work too.) Most of the time, I try to tag the article with a relevant category right away—for instance, some tags I've used today are "https," "game design," and "security." If I'm pretty sure I'll want to read the article later on that day, it can remain untagged.

2) Once a day, I look at all my untagged bookmarks. All of these bookmarks must be read on the spot, or else tagged with a relevant category for later reading. No leaving untagged bookmarks lying around!

Using this method, I'm down to about 3-7 articles left untagged at the end of each day, which makes for about a half-hour of "keeping up" with the basic news and shorter pieces of the day. That's just about how long I spend commuting on the bus, so I can get my reading done while in transit. Awesome! It's like a little newspaper.

And the articles that were tagged for later wind up being more like little magazines: read less frequently, and specialized into different topic "groups" based on the tags.

Thus, when I'm in the mood to soak up some long-form journalism or some more technical reading (yay, lazy Sunday afternoons), I can pick one of those tags and spend an hour or two reading about a single topic. This lets me comprehend particularly technical articles better—rather than switching between wildly different areas of computing while going through all the "tech news" links of the day, I'll instead sit down and read several articles about, say, the logjam vulnerability at the same time, and do more of the "try it in your own terminal!"-type experimentation that I don't tend to do when I'm just trying to read over the day's news.

And at the end of the day, my "article inbox" (untagged articles) count remains fixed at zero, which leaves me feeling very relaxed and happy indeed :)
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