Distracting chatter is useful. But thanks to RSS (remember that?) it’s optional.

When I left the pageview business I walked away from an engine that had, for many years, manufactured an audience for my writing. Four years on I’m still adjusting to the change. I always used to cringe when publishers talked about using content to drive traffic. Of course when the traffic was being herded my way I loved the attention. And when it wasn’t I felt — still feel — its absence.

There are plenty of things I don’t miss, though. Among them is the obligation to be an aggressive early adopter of (and opinionator on) every new tech fad. Now I can hang back, wait for the fads to spread beyond the geek echo chamber, and watch how my civilian friends, family and acquaintances react to them. Since none of the civilians I know have moved to Google+, I can’t gauge their reactions yet. While waiting for some of them to jump into the pool I’ve dipped a toe in the water, considered my own reaction to the New Thing, and compared it to the collective reactions of the geek tribe.

Mine seems atypical: I’ve reached into a corner of my closet, pulled out the RSS reader I left there, and used it to find nourishment that online social networking seems no longer to provide. Last night’s 17-course meal was a selection of recent essays by Gardner Campbell, Brian Dear, Lorianne DiSabato, John Faughnan, Paul Ford, Cliff Gerrish, Ned Gulley, Eugene Eric Kim, Adina Levin, Hugh McGuire, Cameron Neylon, John Quimby, Antonio Rodriguez, Scott Rosenberg, Doc Searls, Ed Vielmetti, and Ethan Zuckerman.

These writers are among many who write because they want to and because they can. They write in their own online spaces which I follow in my RSS reader. When I seek nourishment from them I can go directly to their spaces. No business models drive me there. Often, to be sure, I have been led there by way of a comment on one or another of the social networks. That had become so common that I came to accept a lot of distracting chatter as the price of discovering things to read. But Google+ seems to be the camel’s-back-breaking straw. The price has gone too high. So I’m rediscovering what made the blog network so thrilling to me a decade ago: unmediated access to people writing for the love of it in their own online spaces. Distracting chatter has its uses. But it’s optional.

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8 thoughts on “Distracting chatter is useful. But thanks to RSS (remember that?) it’s optional.

  1. My feed reader (Google Reader in my case) remains my indispensable knowledge acquisition tool. I read much more online there than anywhere else. It is supplemented in shockingly old school fashion with emailed links from colleagues and friends.

  2. One thing I liked about FriendFeed was how it merged all those creator-controlled streams and then layered discussion on top of it. So it gave some synergy between feed-following and person-following.

    On the outbound-side, I’m having a hard time posting to G+. Blog, flickr, and twitter->facebook. Not really prepared to give those up, though if there was a G+->twitter publisher, and a G+ archiver, I might be tempted…

  3. Spot on, Jon. For me the order is:- Google Reader, Twitter, then Reader Recommendations depending on how much I want to hear about new and random things.

    Facebook – meh, never really got into it. I’m still an email discussion list person for the communities I’m part of.

  4. Here’s an interesting aspect of the current moment. Now that the social networks have sucked much the casual writing out of the blogosphere, its signal-to-noise ratio has improved. We’re down to the people who want to say thoughtful things carefully. You can make a list of them, scan it, absorb the good writing, and then … be /done/ and get on with your work.

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