I am reviewing how I filter information on the web by subscribing to information in a feed reader (Feedly) and following others in social networks (Twitter/Google+). I’m now realizing this process of filtering information is really more like a process of ‘tuning in’ information.
In the past, I used some keywords that I thought best described my areas of interest. I would use those keywords to make categories (which act like folders) in my feed reader (Feedly). After awhile, I had too many categories to check through, and some were too noisy. I began to think I needed ‘priority’ categories rather than ‘interesting keyword’ categories.
Tuning in information by goals and categories, then tools
Recently, I’ve taken time to more clearly define my own ambitions and professional goals (some might call this part of the personal branding process). Matching these goals to my categories or streams of information has been helpful in improving for how I find and decide how to “tune in” sources of information to gain new insights, improve a skill, or become better informed of activity in my network.
I’ve sketched how I have defined these categories (drawn as circles of people) in Feedly. My goal in reviewing/updating these categories is to create clear and useful streams, or those that I can easily dip into as needed for a specific purpose. (As I mention later, these categories also inform how I decide to follow people through Twitter/Google+.)
Why, how and when I dip into my Feedly categories
* Social change (and networking): This is my “crystal ball” category, the stream of information I most frequently read, which helps me to see the road ahead, or navigate a path in unknown (to me) terrain. To keep this stream clear and useful, I have developed a habit of only subscribing to one or two people that present a unique and insightful perspective for something I want to understand more fully. As of now, these are people interested in how people are working through behavioral, organizational, educational, networking, technological, or societal change in one capacity or another.
Science and nature: I don’t make it a rule to check here as often as my other categories. The information in this category applies to my formal education in the natural sciences, but indirectly applies to my current work. I still get new ideas here (ecological and social networks have a lot of similarities), which is why it’s nice to check on this stream less frequently or “every once in awhile” in Feedly.
Science communication: This includes behavior change. Upon further thought, I will probably fold subscriptions in this category under science and nature or perhaps social change.
*Visual communication: This is a specific skill I’m targeting to improve this year. Next year, this folder might be about another skill I’m targeting to improve. This has proved be be extremely valuable to have a separate ‘skill improvement’ folder so I can dip into the stream when I’m looking for new ideas and inspiration.
*Colleagues: “Colleagues” used to mean everyone I was connected to in my organizational network. This now includes a broader network of people that I interact with on Twitter or other social networks. I occasionally dip into this category in Feedly to stay up-to-date or informed of what they are learning.
Other categories: I’ve recently updated my feed reader to include two new categories…
- Local community: I want to do a better job keeping up with the news in my local community.
- “Maybe”: These are sources I find, but I’m not sure I want to subscribe to in the long term. If I like them, I’ll likely move them to one of the other folder I previously mentioned.
Social networks (Twitter/Google+)
As a rule of thumb, I use my Feedly categories as a guide to decide who to follow or search for through my social networks (Twitter/Google+). Then, I end up deciding if they should be viewed in one of two streams, the “Home/Follow” or “Colleagues” stream.
My “Colleagues” stream slows this information stream so I can see the best information from anyone I don’t want to miss hearing from. Deciding who goes in the colleagues column is really subjective, in fact, I’m not sure how I can tell you how I decide this — as it’s some “very scientific” combination of your-helpful-with-a-good-signal-to-noise ratio-and-I’m-just-curious-what-you-are-saying kind of rule. Yet, it is a really helpful rule!
On Google+, my process is similar. I have ‘Follow’ and ‘Colleagues’ circles.
What did I learn from reviewing my information filtering process?
The above process has brought about a fair amount of relief to my information seeking routines. The frequency of feeling overwhelmed with information is a lot less now, and I’m a bit surprised how much useful information I’m running across. I think I’ve begun to discover what a good signal to noise ratio looks like. Based on some careful thought about my ambitions and goals, I see that tuning in information on the web can even be conjoined with a continual and annual goal setting process.
This blog post was part of my participation in the ‘Filters’ activity in Harold Jarche’s PKM in 40 days workshop. (It also related well to “Finding the Right People” activity.)