Read slightly less, practice slightly more

Chris Wanswrath, a smart and distinguished fellow, advises us to burn our news readers and just “hear it through the grapevine.” But how far can one go with that?

For myself, reading feeds gets me a few things:

* Aesthetic where I have none. Feeds like BLDGBLOG and Coudal point me to things that make me better at what I do, in a tangential way, and a more interesting person. These are things that otherwise I wouldn’t know where to start.

* Awareness on the edges. Reading folks like Simon Willison or Jason Kottke make sure that interesting topics in programming or erudition don’t go unseen even though I am focused on that topic.

* Aggregation of ideas. This cuts two ways. Most people worth reading compress a bunch of different sources down to a manageable stream. This gives me more bang for the buck in my feed reading time. On the other hand, if a link is mentioned several times in the aggregate of feeds I subscribe to, then its probably worth checking out.

I can see how following interesting folks on Twitter and reading aggregators occasionally can you get you some of this, but not all of it. With sources like Reddit or Hacker News, signal to noise is a problem – you can’t control who posts what. Some people have a lot of extra angst and/or spare time. Which is also the other side of the Twitter story. Some people are great to read, but a pain to put up with at times. So it goes.

When Chris’ essay first hit the wires, I was tempted to adopt his ways. But, I think I’m pretty good at ignoring the need to unbold things and cut down to business. What has proved immensely useful to me was has encouragement to just code all the time and make lots of stuff. I’m just getting started with this, but already I’m liking the increased feeling of accomplishment.

Regardless, we could all probably stand to trim our feed lists and hunker down on our projects, no?

2 thoughts on “Read slightly less, practice slightly more

  1. If everyone followed Chris’ advice, there wouldn’t be anyone informed enough to hear the news from. But I’m sure that a lot of us read feeds as a way to procrastinate doing something useful. I think moderation is the way to go.

  2. Unsubscribed.

    (just kidding :-)

    I think many people still need blogs to get introduced to new concepts, and when a 1-line tweet doesn’t help. Not everyone is as savvy as Chris on finding the information he needs, especially those who are new to a topic or community and aren’t immersed in it yet.

    But Chris might be right in the sense that blogs may have become a crutch when just digging into a problem is much more beneficial.

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