Go ahead, mark this as read

I’ve been thinking for a long while about some of the angst people feel about content and keeping up. We definitely are suffering from an old school belief and/or understanding that in order to be current we have to have a handle on the very latest research or content in our field. Obviously 20 years ago, actually you probably only have to back about 5, it was quite easy for educators or anyone for that matter to feel like they were aware of the latest greatest. Subscribe to a few key journals, read a book or two and year and you were done. The good old days?

So now we add to the mix every blog, social network, new tool, changing media, easy publish, youtube, rss reader and the list goes on. We hear about information overload. We hope these tools will help us manage. They won’t.

Is this a generational thing? We need to get comfortable with the messiness as a virtue. Most of us don’t like messiness. My kids don’t seem to have a problem with it. Although I razz Will at times for his struggles with managing it all, I heard him say recently that doesn’t worry about missing things because his network is his filter and that the cream of content will eventually rise to the top. Good advice.

While there seems to be a desire for first posts, I’m also grateful for the revisiting of old links. Today I was reacquainting myself with the lectures of Randy Pausch. Although I posted on this back in the fall, I noticed Wes Fryer just recently discovered him and posted on him today as well after someone posted this on twitter. I think this is great. Ideas, people and stories worth telling are worth telling about more than once and they will. So if you missed Randy Pausch in the fall, you got to hear about him again. (if you’d like a great lecture on time management, watch this one)

I missed the whole color war thing, don’t really get diigo, still don’t really know all the my new Macbook can do. I don’t care. I’m not sure if I was Alec who said it, or where I heard it, but understanding that learning and content today is not a reservoir but a river, is a great metaphor.

Don’t panic if you don’t get twitter. If you don’t check your facebook account for 3 weeks, who cares? So I’m urging you to mark this post as read in your reader. Don’t worry if you don’t read it. Okay, that may be stupid to say since if you’re reading this it’s already too late. But the fact that you’re around, sipping in the river leads me to believe you’ll be fine. If you don’t read this post or the next, it’s no big deal

Update #1: Stephen Downes may have said it first
Update #2: Rob Wall posted a similar idea a month ago. See good ideas resurface. 😉

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Facebook Comments

One Pingback/Trackback

  • Thank you for writing this. It’s great to know that I’m not the only one who was thinking this way – That keeping up with the joneses doesn’t really matter and that it’s ok not to read everything. I’ve even read a post today about not caring how many subscribers you have. Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for that! I’ve decided not to use things like Tweetscan and Twitter link monitor – if I miss Twitter conversations, then too bad. Love the reservoir and river metaphor, but the bit I like the best is ‘messiness as a virtue.’ I struggle with that, but realise that I’m fighting an ever-losing battle and should really look for the pleasure in messiness of read and unread posts, of updated and un-updated (is that even a word?!) of finished and unfinished conversations. It means there’s always something new to learn and discover, but that if you don’t want to, that’s fine. There is so much value in making all this information into what we want it to be for ourselves rather than trying to keep up with silly standards or all write/tweet about the same thing. If we do too much we tend to lack focus and so our work may lose meaning. I will treat the Web my way and if means missing out on some stuff, then so be it.

  • Chris L

    I’m with you completely, and preaching from the same book all the time. It’s the Downes-ian, info as water, turn on the tap don’t try to store it all in jars in the cupboards idea.

    That being said, I do still purge feeds and empty the trash once in a while 🙂 And I do– occasionally, but it’s not unheard of by any means– still get a twinge of frustration when something comes back around and is hailed as new and innovative that I personally tried to bring people to long before… I’m only human!

  • Great post.

    It may not surprise you that Stephen Downes said something similar a few years ago. “Think of information as something you can access as needed, like electricity or water. I don’t sit around my house collecting glasses of water.” (Probably mangled from memory, but you get the gist…)

  • I only read the last two sentences, since I like to read back-to-front. Wonder what the rest of the post said. Loved the conclusion.

    Tee hee.

    This points to all sorts of fun things. Virality as a new road to “classicism” in UGC, like Pausch or Fisch; the decline of RSS after all our hopes so very recently (I’m thinking of how I too use my network as my filter more than my feedreader these days – I came here b/c you tweeted it, you shameless self-promoter. Figured it would be better than Buffy re-runs).

    And it’s absolutely hilarious that Jess’ comment, just above mine, references the great Flying Spaghetti Monster, which I just tweeted to her in a link today.

    Call me crazy, but I think Twitter is the new RSS, cocktail party, exhibition hall, Spaghetti Monster, and diaper-changer. What doesn’t it do?

    I’m joking, but seriously – does network size on Twitter correlate at all to neural activity? I’m following about 500 people now, find it easy enough to do, and love how many of them are from circles outside of education. I don’t know where this wave will end, how much bigger it will get, or what it will morph into – cut to Baron Munchhausen flying ship – but I know surfers like me look at it in awe.

    Nice post.

  • Brian,

    My fear in writing this or just about anything now is in attribution. My thoughts are rarely my own but “mangled” and messy combinations of all that I read, hear and watch. I guess everyone would say the same. I like the glass of water metaphor too. Will use that one as well and probably forget where I heard it.

  • I was getting worried that I would never be able to ‘stay current’. You point out that it is not necessary to do so, yet the ubiquitous links to other resources invites us to spend our time jumping around soaking up as much water as our drenched-sponge minds can take (to keep the water metaphor going). I applaud you for bringing this point up, but I wonder if you aren’t sending a double message out? I was thinking while I was reading that I COULD slow down and read some of the classics….or go for a walk instead of reading all the tech blogs at the end of the week…then I realized how much more information there was on Will Richardson. If we want to encourage simplicity and serenity, maybe we should simplify ourselves, our blogs, our websites, our conversations. Lead by example.

  • @ChrisL, a frustration I used to feel but now there’s enough credit to go around that I don’t worry too much about that.

    @Clay, Twitter is definitely a 3 headed monster of major proportion. I’d encourage to listen to Podcasts #134,135 and 136. In it, they really uncover some powerful insights as to the potential and nature of twitter. I know you’d love it.

    @fritz hmmmm. not sure what you mean exactly? I do love to go for walks but do carry my mp3 and listen to podcasts. I’m personally not a great example as I realize I spend way more time than most in this stuff. Part of the way I lead is not to get too excited about what’s new. Not to discourage those that are, but I liken it to letting my research team do the grunt work unit they’ve ironed out the kinks.
    I really thing this is a mind-set. Slowing down might mean wading in a few ideas and fleshing them out. At the same time, slowing down might me digging deep into one or two posts but following the links. To some, that might not seem like slowing down.

    I guess it doesn’t matter. I’m just trying to alleviate some of the angst that many feel. Maybe I am sending a double message but even then, mark it as read….move on.

  • Dean, good thoughts. The other day I remarked on Jeff Utecht’s blog that I aim to treat my PLN as I do my hobby of record collecting. In short, if I attempted to collect “everything” the end result would always be incomplete in tandem with a feeling of dissatisfaction and frustration. Rationalising the hobby has provided a sense of enjoyment and achievement. One’s PLN should not be treated as the latest toy from a packet of Corn Flakes. Don’t try to “Collect ’em all!”.

  • Thanks Dean. I’m just at the beginning of this “water” experience with only 13 followings on twitter and 20 sites on my reader but I appreciate your warning. It is easy to get caught thinking that if I miss something then I am “missing something” and I will be the lesser for it. The key is that I won’t. If I just today find out about Randy Pausch, then good for me even though his video was dated 11/07. Say, maybe I can finally get to Aristotle and learn something else. We really are life-long learners. It’s that the tols we can use sure make it easier and immediate.

  • I don’t care if others said it before, this is still a great post Dean. If we do try to read everything, stay on top of every account we’ve created on a social networking site or follow every tweet we will fail to give the time and attention to the important stuff that comes up. Will is right, we act as a big filter for each other and it seems to work.

    Thanks for the reminder that I shouldn’t feel guilty for marking items as read and ignoring my Facebook account.

  • Good post! I think often the temptation is to dam the river so as not to let something escape our attention, but we all know what happens when a dam has no pressure release system. My problem is that once that dam breaks and I clean out a bunch of unread articles/links/whatever, I start all over again assuming that everything that crosses my desk needs to be given my full attention. Good to hear that others are dealing with the same thing.

    P.S. Out of curiosity, why did you remove the “subscribe to comments” option from your blog?

  • @JohnB. I’m confident your method and attitude will take you far and satisfy you.

    @John Larkin. The record collection is another great analogy. Should we be creating a list of these somewhere?

    @Heather. Stay away from Facebook 😉

    @Ian. I upgraded my WordPress and likely forgot to activate. Thanks. I’ll see what I can do.

  • Thanks for that! I spend much time trying to be ‘up on everything’ and then go to work with teachers who are still just challenged with the concept of email. Thanks for twitting the important stuff- y’all are my filter.

  • Thanks for the information. I stress a little when I get behind on my blog reading. I get a little stressed when I wonder what I’ve missed on Twitter. I do have to realize that I will always miss something and getting a little of something is certainly better than getting nothing.

  • I also wanted to add my ‘sigh of relief’. I am a classroom teacher. There are not enough hours in the day to be up on the newest, greatest, hottest plus make copies, mark report cards, attend about five meetings too many and return a few parent phone calls. My initial response was to dive into the midst of the river and try to keep up with the strong currents. It was relentingly swift and overpowering. Now I know it is wiser to float-keeping your head above water, with a few strong people around you in case you need assistance. My network is a great bunch of lifeguards.

  • I just marked your post as read. Now what did I miss?

  • Reader? What’s a reader? I don’t really get to it anymore. I count on my PLN on Twitter to keep me posted on what’s important and I try to do the same for them. I agree with Will that what’s important will float to the top. I chuckled when I saw David Warlick post the Ellen Hawaiin chair video clip earlier today as I posted that a few nights ago. But David doesn’t follow me. That’s okay – it’s a dominoe effect and what’s important, intillegent, amusing, and educational will float to the top.

    I need to go to my reader and mark this as read as well as the other 1000 posts I probably have read half of already thanks to my PLN.

  • I actually do have glasses of water all over the house. What does that mean? I’m not sure I want to know… Either way, I’ve always been a hoarder – of food, of books, of clothes, now of information – the web is clearly my enabler. Someone needs to stage an intervention 😉

  • Pingback: Commmitting to Conversations | always learning()

  • I just read this for the first time thanks to your tweet in response to Alec C. It is very helpful to me to read it now. It doesn’t matter one bit that I didn’t read it last April (when I didn’t know what Twitter was or that this blog existed). Whether this is a pool left behind by the flow of the river or the river flowing slowly from you and taking months to reach me I can’t say. But my experience reading it bears out very much what you say here – the allure of the new is beside the point, and ‘staying current’ probably means most of all making sure you have a network of smart people to help you find what you need, particularly what you didn’t know you needed before they showed it to you. Thanks!

    Ed Webbs last blog post..Media & Identity in the Middle East – Noted This Week (weekly)

    • Thanks Ed. We really have to get over our obsession to stay so current. There’s plenty of great stuff out there that will show itself and plenty of old stuff out there that we need to rediscover.