This post is mostly for my benefit as I’m sorting out my information flow and consumption. But in addition to the meta-cognition of thinking about what I’m thinking about, I thought I might get some ideas from people. If this seems boring or overly pedantic, feel free to skip it, but I enjoy these sorts of things from time to time.
So, like almost everybody else, I have a surplus of incoming data. The firehose unleashes as soon as I wake up:
- Work email
- Personal email
- Reddit / Hacker News / occasional forum usage
Meatspace interactions should probably count here as well, but talking with my wife and kids, or the friendly barista who brews my soy latte, don’t need the same sort of management process. Depending on how much time I spend on the items in that list, or rather how much energy I choose to devote to them, that can become overwhelming. Some of them offer more value or take higher priority. For example, work email gets much more of my attention than Reddit (most days).
In order to handle that flow, I have several tools with which I’ve grown comfortable (and a few others that I use for experimentation).
This lets me filter and organize diverse inputs, possibly collating them into several tools (e.g. blogs -> RSS feeds -> Google Reader) or even structuring data that may not be presented as such. Yahoo! Pipes in particular may need replacement soon, as I haven’t set up any new projects with it in a while.
Sometimes, I want to share what I’ve come across. This might be for fun or it might be due to work needs. Other times, I end up producing something as I integrate and synthesize this information (like in a blog post or internal analysis).
- Work email
- Personal email (rare)
- Blog post
- Internal document or other work product
- Sharing (Google+, Twitter)
- Link blog / social bookmarking
I notice that nothing here really comes from Reddit and Hacker News. That stuff mostly just goes straight to internal consumption; I certainly don’t share back there much except for the occasional comment and really occasional link submission.
I really need to stay focused on continual improvement here, because the real bang for the buck comes from focusing on things that matter. The best example of this? Eliminating almost all Internet fora (message boards) has helped, not just in terms of time spent but also in my general mental state.
However, I make a point of starring things in Twitter or Reader that deserve more attention than I can give at the moment. Emails get flagged for attention so that they show up in my Outlook Tasks, or perhaps get added to my personal kanban. If I’ve read it and think it might be worth someone else’s time, I’ll share it via Delicious. If I think I’d like to invite some discussion on it or find it particularly awesome, I’ll share on Twitter or Google+ (rarely both as I don’t have much intersection between my networks).
When I notice that some class of input seems to require more manual processing than it should, I look for ways to streamline it. That might mean a rule in Outlook or assigning an OIB label, or finding an appropriate method to automate its processing. Like any other optimization process, this usually involves looking for the best bang for the buck — including possibly dropping the input altogether if it doesn’t give enough value.
As part of my job, I often handle incoming threat (or risk) intelligence, including via internal methods like an FS-ISAC alert or via my own open source monitoring. That’s a special case and one I’ll tackle in a future article due to its sensitive and specialized nature.