Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Now we're getting into something I'm unfamiliar with. O.k., I'll admit I'm deliberately unfamiliar with it.

I forsee the possibility of being overwhelmed. For years I've have a couple of discussion groups piped into my e-mail. Some days I only get a managable handful of posts, but some days I get fifty or more.

This kind of thing gives a false sense of urgency. And as soon as enough people are choosing to do it, it artificially creates a cultural imperative of urgency. For example, in the days when letters arrived once a day by mail, it was permissible to answer a letter a couple of days after it arrived, and not too bad to answer a casual one after a week or so. With e-mail, that kind of delay is largely considered rude. Indeed, some people expect you to check your e-mail several times a day and answer within hours, if not minutes. At what point is "check your blog feeds" going to become mandatory?

(Yes, I'm guilty of bringing this upon myself, to some extent. In addition to the aforementioned discussion group e-mail feeds, I have e-mail feeds from one blog site and from MySpace and Facebook, and even get notified on my phone when I get a Facebook message.)

There is a simpler, saner way.

I keep a list of blogs I follow linked to my browser home page. (My home page is an HTML page of links to files and websites that resides on my hard drive.) It's a text file, so it's easy to update (this means copying and pasting into the address bar instead of clicking, but this is only milliseconds less efficient). The important thing is that I'm in control, rather than the machine. I go to my list when I want to read something, rather than it nagging me that "Hey, there's something new here. Better look at it. Now." And I don't have to sign in to it.

Yeah, I can see how RSS might be useful to someone in some fast-tracked type of job who needs to keep up with a certain type of news or other information and can keep Bloglines constantly open in a small window. For that matter, a feed to the local news and weather might be useful on the reference desk.

To be truly useful (and truly annoying), it needs to beep every time something new comes in. Otherwise, its sort of like a to-do list. -- It's only useful if you remember to keep checking it.

This is one "thing" that I'll have to live with awhile before I can guess what its impact will be.

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