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Gathering information efficiently

Picture_7In the past two weeks, I’ve met several self-professed ‘information junkies.’ I’m talking about people who are energetic and have jobs that compliment their desire to keep up with important news. “Have you heard of Google Reader,” I ask?

Nope. Not one of them has heard of Google Reader. One or two had this vague notion of “RSS feeds.” And one of them even knew what RSS stood for. But not one of them uses any kind of news aggregator.

When I explained what Google Reader (or any RSS reader does) they were mildly interested. Intrigued enough to seem willing to give it a try, but invariably offering up the dismissive observation: “I prefer to read magazines and real newspapers.”

“I read magazines and newspapers too,” I pointed out. It’s not an ‘either/or’ choice. Why is it that people seem to think that using an RSS Reader means you’ll never read another magazine again? I read a few key magazines: New Yorker, The Economist, Wired (not so crazy about it anymore, though). And I’ll read a real newspaper sometimes, usually on Sunday.

But I don’t have time to wait around for the everyday news to drip into focus. My daily information gathering has to be quick, and that’s where a RSS Reader comes in handy. Let’s see what’s up?

George Carlin died (and several bloggers have posted YouTube clips of great monologues); Political pundits are talking about Obama’s refusal of campaign financing and McCain’s advisor’s gaffe about him benefiting from another 9/11 attack; major military offensive in Afghanistan that appears to be successful; UPS reports earnings and stock dives a bit; Pundits debate the Republican strategy behind President’s idea to open up more offshore oil drilling, and so on and so on.

This takes me about 10 minutes to scan at most (which includes some time to delve into the stories that interest me). I know that this is the most efficient way to gather information, and I know that there is not much I can say to awaken those who want to rely on traditional methods exclusively.

At the extreme opposite end of the spectrum are people who watch only local news on TV. I used to watch local news and I know that it’s a hard habit to break. But now that I’ve broken it I can see that there is no nutritional value in local news, not if you have access to the internet. My DVR still records the local news (I’m too lazy to cut off the automatic recording) so every once in awhile I’ll click in to see what they are reporting. But, I always resolve not to watch any of the crime reporting (not because I don’t care about crime, but because the reporting is simply low level fear-mongering).

So last night when I checked in on the local news I had to fast forward through the whole news segment (all crime stuff), stopping briefly to see that the ‘Action reporter’ was helping to get the city to fill another pothole. At that point I gave up and switched to my recording of the Charlie Rose show.


P.S. If you appreciate these kinds of observations, you might want to read this as well.

One Comment

  • Tom O'Connor says:

    This reminds me of the disconnect we had with many lawyers in the early days of on-line research. You know, the ones who would only read cases printed out of a book and not off Lexis or WestLaw as tho somehow the information delivery medium was changing the informationinstead of just making it available in a faster, more efficient manner.We get the same thing these days in the lit support world with folks who don’t want to look at the new definition of a “document” and insist on printing out information stored in electronic format to “produce” and/or review it.I used to like to watch Bill Buckley and Tim Russert on Sunday mornings but now I just don’t subscribe to cable TV and my solution is to turn off all the electronic devices, go for a long ride on my Harley and stop for coffee at a little back roads diner where they never heard of RSS feeds or ESI. The conversation is pretty much the same as at a big city law firm only less traffic, cleaner air and great homemade pie.

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