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Fragmented Development

Information Overload

I've recently been reading the planets: Planet Ubuntu and Planet Web Security, in addition to my daily blogs. Planets are really just lots of blogs tied together into one RSS feed, so in essence I just started reading forty more blogs in two additional subscriptions.

In addition to that, I've been reading more ordinary blogs. I really like subscribing via RSS feed, and having interesting information delivered to me on a regular basis. On average, I'd say I read about thirty posts a day, of varying lengths, depending on the blogger. This is a nice, steady stream of information – not too much, not too little – until you miss a day. Thirty doubles and becomes sixty, which is way too much information for one sitting. Imagine if I miss more than one day?

While this daily deluge of information is keeping me up to date, and I'm learning more than ever before, it is also quite daunting to manage. I've found that sometimes a busy day on Planet Ubuntu can make me late for work if I spend too much time on reading. The more I read at work, the less time I have to devote to actual work. To balance things out, I've created a few rules I follow when keeping up on the blogosphere:

It will be there tomorrow.

Since I use an RSS reader, I have no reason to rush through todays blog posts. They'll still be there tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that if I really need them to. Letting your daily reading impact the rest of your day is nonsense.

If you're really behind, try and read a little out of your daily routine. I usually read just in the mornings, so if I'm drowning in information, I read a couple posts when I get home from work or before I punch out.

Read It Later

If there's a thirty page long blog entry, and it seems awfully good, mark it for later and move on. Odds are that you'll have some free time to kill someday, and that will be great for reading that epic entry on interface design, or how to configure a streaming media server using open source software.

If you try to cram how-tos and in depth articles into your daily reading, you won't get anything out of them. Information that requires that level of involvement is better left for later reading, or applied to a project when it's needed. Most RSS aggregators have the ability to tag items as “ToDo ” or “Later ”. Take advantage of that, and put if off until you can really benefit from it.

Skim The Planets

One thing I've encountered continuously on the planets I read is that some posts are not aimed at me at all. Whether it's a technical comparison of different methods of managing packaging repositories in Linux, or new heuristics for penetration testing web applications using Javascript and the DOM... I couldn't possibly be less interested. These are posts with extremely specialized information, none of which will ever be useful (or understandable, for that matter) in the foreseeable future.

I know it sounds cruel, and I know it's hard to do occasionally, but you need to delete these posts. Don't read them, don't look at them, just get rid of them. If the title of the post involves a function, program, technique or language you don't use and have no interest in, odds are you're not going to gain anything out of the post itself. As a blogger, I don't mind if the knitting community never gets into this blog – they're not who I'm targeting with my writing. I'm sure the penetration testers, packagers, and kernel hackers out there don't care that I'm not reading their latest tips and tricks.

Hopefully these techniques will help you keep your head above water, and stop you from becoming overwhelmed when dealing with all of the information available to us as part of the net. We're stuck forever keeping up-to-date, but you don't need to let current events take over your life.

Tags: linux security general

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