Keeping up with the increasing fountain of information is a challenge for anyone. It's especially challenging for me because I'm always adding new sources to my existing flow. If it weren't for Google Reader (a web-based RSS reader) and NetNewsWire (its companion program that syncs to Google Reader), I'd be lost. But the truth is, I really gravitate towards a few basic sources. And so, as my New Years resolution to share more information, I thought I'd pass along my really key sources.
First, let me say that RSS is an amazing technology and I wish more people would make use of it. In fact, if you want to use an RSS reader and simply want to subscribe to everything I read (you can delete what you don't want) then download this OPML file and import it into your RSS reader.
Everyone laments the downfall (or, at least, serious downgrade) of newspapers. I don't waste time lamenting things that are inevitable. Newspapers (or any daily paper-based publication) face the harsh reality that printing every day, coupled with every day physical delivery, is an frighteningly expensive way to deliver information. And, if the reason you're printing every day is to cover 'breaking news,' then you're basically trying to defy gravity. Twitter is fast, free and scaling virally. So good luck to the newspapers. I predict that in ten years there will only be 5 national papers, and a smattering of local ones.
What will we do then? Sad as it may seem to you, you'll be on our own. You'll have to sift through the mass of information and latch on to the good stuff. Wouldn't it be cool if you could subscribe to the best online feed for each topic that you were interested in? Well, you can. RIght now. The future, my friends,"is here but just not evenly distributed." So, tap into the future now, and let the newspapers arrange their funerals on their own.
So, if I were building my own personal newspaper from online sources here are the feeds I'd subscribe to.
Security: Bruce Schneier
After 9/11 our lives became filled with paranoia and misinformation. People who want to gain more power are happy to exploit this mindset. If we don't educate ourselves about what kind of security is practical and important (as opposed to stupid and reactionary) we'll wind up with a world where the government has more control than they really need. The mainstream media is hopelessly unable to understand or explain these issues.
Bruce Schneier, however, is able to explain security. He is a serious technowizard, who has written a couple of books on the subject. I read Secrets & Lies back when it first came out and was surprised at how balanced he was, and how thorough and reasonable his explanations of security issues were. Let's face it, security can be complex if you want it to be (which is what most 'experts' and demagogues want). His blog is one of my go-to, everyday reads. He's on top of almost every widely discussed security issue of the day. If you want common sense security analysis (and you should) then he's the guy.
Marketing: Seth Godin
Why would you care about marketing? If you read Seth Godin you probably would. Why? Because he knows a lot about how it operates in everyday life. You've been bombarded with advertising and marketing campaigns since before you learned to speak. Understanding these forces might be useful, if you want to understand how people make friends and how businesses make money. Dale Carnegie's famous book has been read by many people who weren't in sales, you know.
Seth Godin's ideas are powerful, mostly because he takes into account this wacky new thing called the Internet. Most conventional marketing people either don't understand the scope of the Internet, or can't explain it. The best way to get Seth is by daily email. He writes one thought-provoking post per day, sometimes two. His books are freakishly awesome too.
Presentation: Garr Reynolds
It's not enough to just 'know things.' There are plenty of lawyers who 'know the law' and simply can't explain it. This makes them ineffective advocates, to say the least. Once you've gathered information it helps if you know how to present it. Today, that usually involves visual information in the form of PowerPoint slides. Unfortunately, most PowerPoints are abominable.
Garr Reynolds has written two excellent books (the second one just came out, and I'm in the process of digesting it). But above all, his weblog is the best source of information on how to create inspiring, and visually appealing presentations. His web page on presentation tips should be required reading for every business student, law student, or basically anyone who conveys information for a living (check out 'delivery tips'). Ditto for his 'sample slides.' I'm not saying I incorporate all of this into my presentations. Just that I aspire to. Garr Reynolds is my North Star for all things related to design and presentation.
In addition to his observations on presentations and design, he also will recommend books from time to time. I have found that I pretty much buy (and thoroughly enjoy) every single book he recommends. He was the one who turned me on to Brain Rules. 'Nuff said.
Photography: Scott Kelby
Everyone has a camera it seems, and everyone would like to make beautiful images of the things they cherish. Digital photography has made it easier to create those images, but you still have to know what to do. If you want to to make portraits more intimate, and landscapes more breath-taking then you should buy Scott Kelby's books (especially The Digital Photography Books 1 through 3).
Scott also has a blog, and it's a steady stream of insights and tips and reminders of how easy it is to get great pictures if you focus on some key principles. The more you learn the more you want to know, and Kelby can walk you through the whole process. He also has a keen sense of design (he was a designer before becoming a photographer), so he's a great compliment to Garr Reynolds. And if you follow Scott you'll probably wind up following Joe McNally and that would be a good thing.
Curiosity: Scott Adams
More than just creating Dilbert, Scott Adams is smart and extremely curious about the world. He is willing to share his thoughts as they are being formed (which is remarkable in itself). And often he's not so much making a point, as asking a question without preconceptions about what the answer might be. His open-mindedness invariably draws fire from commenters who feel that he's taking a position against some entrenched view. Apparently, many of us have lost the ability to detect a question because we think only in declarative sentences. We need more people like Scott Adams, who teach us that it's more about being curious than about having our hands on the buzzer.
Social Trivia: Jason Kottke
A web-designer in New York, Jason Kottke has been paying attention to the information economy for quite awhile. He comes at it from the web, but most of his tidbits are about analog stuff. I get the sense he wants to remind us there's a lot of interesting stuff outside of an LED screen. His observations are a soothing river of eclectic serendipity. You should read him everyday. Trust me, or I should say 'trust Al' since he's the one who turned me on to Jason Kottke. Which brings me to…
Filter Friend: Al Robert
Everyone should have a friend who's good at finding out lots of interesting stuff. Since they're your friend, they know what you'd be interested in. My 'filter friend' is Al Robert. I met him because he started this website while in law school. He doesn't keep it up anymore, but I still use it as a way to find Louisiana statutes since his interface is more user-friendly than the official site. I'm sorry he doesn't but he does keep posting things to his delicious account.
If you read this blog frequently and wonder where I get my information the answer would be Al Robert. If you keep up with his delicious page you'll notice that a lot of my stuff will appear shortly after he posts it. Everyone should have a 'filter friend' like Al. And in Al's case he's more than just a filter friend; he's an awesome guy and really down to earth. If you're really lucky you have a good friend like Al.
Oh, and he just asked me in an email if I read Techmeme. I don't, but since Al thinks it's good I will no doubt start reading it tomorrow.