Look at those small numbers!

Wow. My one-week experiment to pay better attention to things could scarcely have worked better.

I have unsubscribed from nearly all of my RSS feeds (I now follow 14 feeds, down from about 60, some of which were high traffic). I spend a lot less time leaning on the “k” key to scan through and process anything I may want to see. (You know Reader supports vi-style keys, right?). Justifications for removal include:

  • I was once interested in this niche subject, but now I realise I have a full life with no room for it. (Z80 microcomputers, Creating Digital Music (ahem)).
  • This website is a continuous fount of stuff, I will never reach the end, and if I stopped watching it for a few days/weeks/month, I would not have missed anything (Any LOLcat style feed, Lifehacker). If I need a fix, I can visit the site.
  • This is a feed which has a vanishingly small amount of articles which I care about, which I could search for if I needed an answer (Lifehacker and its “Hive Fives” fit in this category).
  • This feed contains content which I regularly get links to the best bits of by other avenues, like Twitter, friends emailing me, or links from other popular sites in the same vein. (Hack-a-Day fits into this, though out of sentimentality, I have kept HAD, as well as MAKE).

With the exception of a few comics which I don’t want to miss any episodes of (Penny Arcade, XKCD), what is left is:

The same goes for Tumblr, though I do follow a few more “fount of stuff” type people on there, the design of the dashboard (it just scrolls buy, instead of amounting to a big “unread” count in Reader) means that I can quickly ignore things I’m not interested in as part of my daily processing. If I find I’m ignoring a particular person a lot, I unfollow them. I’ve reduced my following count on Tumblr by half, with no feeling of loss. I am not following “fuckyeah-” anything.

Twitter has a similar but expanded set of rules: I also unfollow people who appear to completely disregard the medium. If you just use Twitter to push updates to your site or blog, that’s not interesting. If you block post 5-6 tweets in a row, you’re a candidate. If you can’t fit your thoughts in 140 characters: start a blog. I’ve reduced the people I’m following on Twitter by about two thirds.

The results? As I alluded to above: fantastic.

When I’m away from my computer, especially at peek social-network-update time: 5PM GMT, I don’t get daunted by a high unread count on any sites. When I’m reading a post written by or pointed to by one of the people left I don’t feel the compulsion to “check in” on social networking like I used to. I think I previously, subconsciously, didn’t want to fall behind.

Completest that I am, falling behind means reading every single fucking thing until I am bang up-to-date.

I read better stuff. I send anything longer than about a two screen-fulls to Instapaper. I then read this on eReader/iPad/iPhone – away from the distractions of my computer. When I’m at my computer, I’m less distracted by social networking. Computer for work. Mobile device for play.

None of this is brain surgery, except… it is. It’s my attempt to reverse the rewiring that I wrote about before. So far, so good.