Information Rituals

Update (11march2013) – This post misses the point. I consider this a first, misguided draft. I am still working with the idea of information rituals. Step one: figure out what information rituals need to accomplish.

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I need to develop new information rituals. My current habits are not working for me. I have three email accounts — one personal, one for work, and one Gmail for capturing data posted to web forms. All three have become link hives,   hundreds of emails with nothing but unvisited links to sites I need or want to visit.

My email situation, though tragic, is not uncommon. But then consider the other places I have stashed unvisited links:

  • Google Bookmarks
  • starred posts in Google Reader
  • favorited tweets
  • Evernote for articles that require some action
  • Instapaper for articles to read during downtime
  • ScoopIt for articles to share with others
  • PDFs scattered across iBooks, Adobe Reader for iPad, Blue Fire and Dropbox

This is a mess. I not in control. If unvisited weblinks were physical objects, you would be watching my tearful family on Hoarders begging me to let these links go and just live a simple, uncluttered kind of life. I cannot let them go. I need these links. These links have something for me, some small but essential insight.

The problem here is discipline. My information habits lack purpose and rigor. My information habits are thoughtless and unexamined. I need clarity. I need a streamlined system that makes sense, and then, I need to develop the rigor required to operate and protect the system.

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I am kissed with a little bit of OCD. Some people wash incessantly. Some people drink or do drugs. Some people are compulsive about light switches. My manias are list-making and link catching.

I can’t stop catching interesting links. I am a librarian. I work on the web. I am online all day. I get interested in things. I share links. People share links with me. It is the nature of what I do.

I need a better system for organizing my link hoards into coherent clusters that can be dealt with, delegated or deleted.

I need new information rituals.

Something like this:

  • Only keep Google bookmarks that matter. If a link gets tagged read or explore, then read or explore that link. Delete the links that don’t matter.
  • Triage all interesting emailed links into one place. Maybe a folder inside one email account or a dedicated email account. Funnel all emailed links to that one place and prune that one place ruthlessly. Bookmark the links that matter. Delete all emails.
  • Do not favorite tweets or star items from your Google feed. Push them to the folder and deal with them when there’s time. Bookmark then delete.
  • Keep Evernote clean for links that require some follow-up or associate to a particular project, like this blog.
  • Read Instapaper articles daily.
  • Push all PDFs to iBooks because iBooks allows annotation and also allows organizing features on bookshelves. Adobe Reader and BlueFire  have no organizing features to prevent the tumble. Dropbox is crowded with other things.

There are the tenets of the faith. Here’s the ritual:

  • Read Facebook and Twitter in the morning, preferably via Flipboard. Push links as needed.
  • Read Google Feeds at lunch. Push links as needed.
  • Read ScoopIt in the late afternoon. Push links as needed.
  • Read Evernote before blogging in the evening. This is where the blogging ideas get saved.
  • Visit Google Bookmarks for new sites and to delete unneeded bookmarks.
  • Read Instapaper with evening leisure time.
  • Read PDFs as needed.

Fascinating. This is completely unsustainable and I sound like a complete lunatic.

Okay, you get the idea. I’m stopping now.

I need to think a bit more about the idea of information rituals, those habits of searching, finding, clicking and reading that get us through the day.

What are your information rituals? How well do they work for you?

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