Advertising
Advertising

Do You Read Too Many Blogs?

Do You Read Too Many Blogs?
Are You Reading Too many Blogs?

    Ades of AdesBlog.com has a theory: that top bloggers don’t read other people’s blogs. To test his theory, he asked several big-name bloggers — Michael Arrington, Darren Rowse, Jeremy Schoemaker, and Yaro Starak — about their blog-reading habits. Except for Darren Rowse, they all said they read few or no blogs; Rowse said he subscribes to 700 but only skims the whole list occasionally — there are about 50 he looks at on a daily basis.

    This is far from an exhaustive sample, but it’s got me wondering: how do you know when you’re reading too many blogs? I can’t imagine dropping blog-reading entirely — I get too much useful information, both for my professional life and my personal life, to consider blog-reading a total waste of time. On the other hand, though, do I read too many (I’m subscribed to 295)? Should I be more selective than I already am — or should I have a better system for processing the ones I do read?

    Advertising

    Pros and Cons of Blog Reading

    There are lots of good reasons to read blogs, including:

    Advertising

    • Inspiration: Reading blogs gives me ideas that I can use or build on in my own work.
    • Keeping up with current events: Since local news is useless, and cable news only slightly less so, blogs are often where I learn about the most important news of the day. I also learn of important news that the regular news outlets aren’t even covering (or are covering badly).
    • The pulse of the times: As someone with a professional interest (as both an anthropologist and a writer) in how people and society act, reading blogs offers me insight into the way people see and react to the world around them.
    • Things I wouldn’t think to ask: While I am an adept Googler when I need answers to some pressing question, a lot of time I’ve learned things from blogs I wouldn’t have Googled because I didn’t even know I didn’t know them. For example, I learned this year that I can deduct mileage between my home office and my classrooms, since I don’t have an office on campus.
    • Entertainment: I find reading a strong writer’s thoughts on the topic of their expertise a far more entertaining prospect than watching 22 minutes of sit-com pablum (with 8 more minutes of commercial nonsense).

    Are those pros balanced by the cons, though? The negative side of blog-reading includes:

    • The echo-chamber effect: I read blogs that, for one reason or another, I like, which means it’s possible that I’m hearing viewpoints and opinions that resonate well with my own to the exclusion of others. To be honest, I don’t think this is a big problem, since blogs aren’t the only medium through which I engage with the world, but it’s something to think about.
    • Time consumption: I’m not really sure how much time I spend reading blogs every day. An hour in the morning and again in the evening seems about right for most days. I that time that could be better used for other things?
    • A sense of urgency: I sometimes feel pressure to go through more posts, because even a day or two of scant reading leaves my Google Reader inbox at “1000+”. A thousand of anything seems like a lot of work to do — am I setting myself up with a great deal of unnecessary stress and anxiety?
    • The other echo-chamber effect: There’s only so much news in any niche, so when something noteworthy happens, chances are several sites will end up running the same story with only slight differences. I can either spend time reading each story to make sure I don’t miss any subtle detail, or skip them (which also takes time, and may mean I miss some key detail).
    • Headlines that don’t pay off: You can process a lot of RSS feeds in very little time if you just look at headlines and delete anything that doesn’t look promising. There are two problems with this:
    • Lots of bloggers are better headline writers than they are post writers. They know “10 Ways to Be Sexier” will attract readers, but only know 3 good ways to be sexier.
    • Lots of other bloggers are better post writers than headline writers. Their incredibly insightful posts are given useless headlines like “I hadn’t thought of it like that…” and “Another Story I Like”.

      Developing a Blog Reading System

      One way to deal with some of these blog-reading downsides would be to change how I organize my RSS feeds. Currently, they’re organized by topic — I have a set of feeds for “productivity”, another on “writing”, a third on “education”, and so on.There are a few topics I try to read at least partially every day, and some I only read when I get around to it. But maybe I should adopt a system I’ve seen some others use, categorizing by priority?

      Advertising

      Like this:

      1. Daily reads: Top authorities in their niche; the top 10 or so blogs worth looking at every day.
      2. Weekly reads: Strong blogs that post less frequently or post stuff I really want to spend some time on, so I could review them on my day off and not worry about rushing through them.
      3. Occasional reads: Blogs on topics I enjoy reading about but which aren’t essential to my day-to-day life. To read whenever I have free time.
      4. Probation: For new subscribes while I figure out a) whether I really want to give them my attention, and b) how high a priority I should make them.

      I’m not especially thrilled at the prospect of re-tagging all my feeds in Google Reader, but maybe that’s what it takes to make sure that I’m not wasting my time on unessential reading when I could be doing something more important.

      Advertising

      What about you?

      I’d be interested in knowing how other people handle their blog-reading. Are Arrington and the others mentioned above anomalies? Do you read a lot of blogs? How many? Do you have a system for limiting the time you spend reading blogs? Do you not have one and feel like you do? And while we’re on the topic, what blogs do you consider “essential reading”?

      More by this author

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) How to Admit Your Mistakes How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart

      Trending in Featured

      1 Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) 2 5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life 3 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) 4 How to Master the Art of Prioritization 5 40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on January 21, 2020

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

      Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

      This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

      The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

      The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

      Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

      Curiosity

      Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

      People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

      Patience

      Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

      When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

      Advertising

      Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

      A Feeling for Connectedness

      This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

      A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

      The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

      How to Self-Taught Effectively

      With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

      1. Research

      Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

      Learning the Basics

      Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

      Advertising

      Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

      What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

      Hitting the Books

      Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

      Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

      Long-Term Reference

      While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

      My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

      Advertising

      2. Practice

      Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

      A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

      Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

      Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

      3. Network

      One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

      These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

      Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

      Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

      Advertising

      4. Schedule

      For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

      Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

      Final Thoughts

      In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

      If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

      At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

      More About Self-Learning

      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

      Read Next