Switch up your influences & build relationships: blogs to cut & add in 2009

January 8, 2009 by Jared Goralnick

Newspaper stands in Cambridge, MA (flickr: wili_hybrid) Radical change does not happen every day, but when it comes to your influences and relationships, it’s easier than you think.

If you’re like me, much of your information comes from the web, and you choose who to subscribe to.  And if you’ve been online for a while, there’s a good chance that those you paid attention to way back when are less relevant to who you are today.

As an advocate of information dieting, there came a point when I stopped subscribing to new blogs because my RSS reader was overfull.  I even hesitated to subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog for a while, which is kind of like visiting Switzerland and abstaining from chocolate.  A better solution was to periodically go through all my subscriptions and cut what I no longer needed.

Reviewing & Removing RSS Subscriptions

Over the last week I’ve been analyzing my blog subscriptions (and Twitter follows, but that’s a topic for another day) and re-evaluating, asking the following questions of both my existing feeds and potential new ones:

  • Does the site contain a topic I want to learn about?  (which in some way translates to who I want to be)
  • Is the author someone with whom I want to build a relationship with? (for either business or personal growth)
  • Is this site testing my comfort zone or just offering an agreeable and only slightly different way of re-learning the same thing?  (it’s very easy to read stuff we’re familiar with and agree with, but we grow a great deal more from new ideas)
  • Does the writing inspire and/or delight me? (I’ll save textbooks for the offline world, if I don’t really enjoy this author’s writing, I’ll never bother to read it)

These questions above all relate to my own hopes for growth and relationships: deepening my knowledge, connecting with great people, and surrounding myself with new ideas.  Well, that and the last point about enjoyment relates to whether or not I’ll actually read it.  And if I don’t read it then it’s wasting mental and physical space, like a To Do that remains forever unchecked.

I’m of course writing this to encourage you to do the same—to take the time to rethink your influences.  To not just keep subscribing or unsubscribing as time passes, but to examine and re-prioritize your whole reader.  If your reader is not up to date then you’re losing valuable time and many opportunities to learn (or laugh, or connect).

Expanding your RSS Subscriptions

If you’re not ready to cut, you can start by adding.  In addition to the questions above, here are a couple questions to get you started with new sites:

  • Are there people you’ve met in the last year who you really want to keep in touch with? Assuming their blog fits some of the criteria above, what are you waiting for in adding them?  (I know I waited to add awesome sites like Micah Baldwin’s Learn to DuckThanks, Chris, for reminding me…and thanks for the mention, too).  If you’re having trouble remembering people, consider skimming through your sent emails a week after some of the big events you attended, assuming you remembered to send a follow-up (if not, shame on you)
  • Is there something more specific or strategic you’re looking to learn about your subject area? If you build web apps, do you want to delve into the metrics side of things?  If you’re involved with social media, do you want to focus on uses for Twitter or perhaps consider some of the bigger questions?  It’s easy to stick with the the big-name, more generalist bloggers, but sometimes depth is better than breadth.  If you’re having trouble finding sites, try visiting AllTop, searching Technorati, or searching for “favorites sites x” or “top sites x” in Google where x is a very specific subject area (get more general if x doesn’t work on the first try).  More on finding sites is in step 1 of my Guide to Social MediaOr, better yet, ask your friends in that industry what they read

The Goal: Make this Stuff Useful, Make it Make You

Time and again I’ve heard people say, “I don’t use RSS anymore” or “I hear about all the good stuff from Twitter.”  If you’re looking for news, that’s fine.  But I call bullshit if you’re looking to educate yourself and grow relationships.  You can be the sheep or you can be the shepherd: your choice.

RSS is the best way for you to conveniently gather information from exactly the sources you choose while getting an opportunity to ask questions and participate.  (It’s not the only piece of the puzzle, but I think Twitter is complementary and not a replacement.)  If you’re not using RSS, it’s because you haven’t found a way that works for you.  My suggestions above may not be in line with your use for it, but there’s no denying that we’re influenced by the words we read everyday.

If you’re reading the right stuff, then you’re growing into becoming that right stuff, too.  I hope you’ll consider doing a big review of your RSS reader (just don’t cut me!) since now is a good time.  You’ll be astonished at how refreshing it feels to read new people…and how quickly you start growing.

How do you ensure that the right information is coming to you?  Are there other tools you use, such as Popego (example)?

You should really subscribe to Technotheory via Subcribe via email email or rss.

6 Responses to “Switch up your influences & build relationships: blogs to cut & add in 2009”

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  1. 5 Simple Words All Business (& Blog Owners Should Memorize — Mark Hayward)

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  1. YatterMatters (Larry Yatkowsky)

    Question of the Day: Are you the Sheep or the Shepard Hell of a question me thinks – http://tinyurl.com/d4wkb8


  1. Alexismichelle

    Thanks Jared– Very useful post (hence the reason your blog is one that I will not be unsubscribing from!).

    During my cleanse at the end of the year, I set an intention of cleaning out one area of my life per day… one of which was my RSS feeds, website memberships, etc ! However, I found the task so daunting that I ended up avoiding it altogether (cleaned out my refrigerator instead– an entirely different experience when you are in the middle of a fast, but that’s a different story!)

    I really do want to do some digital housecleaning though, so I think I’ll use your post as a model and give it another go.

  2. Jared Goralnick

    Thanks Alexis, good luck with the fasting and purging! I hope this is helpful…and that it didn’t just lead me to losing a bunch of subscribers! (as the number of comments indicates ;-).

  3. mark_hayward

    Hey Jared – I actually have a very small sampling of blogs I check regularly, probably somewhere between 5-10 on any given day.

    However, I am going to take your advice above and apply it to Twitter! A tool I enjoy using, but one that can be an all-consuming time suck (speaking from personal experience) if not used judiciously….

    Have a terrific weekend!

  4. anthony cousins

    Wow, what a terrific article. I agree wholeheartedly that twitter is a complimentary source and should not be the main source of info. You’d be relying on others to tell you whats relevant and cutting edge instead of you making that decision.

    As someone that has had upwards of 300 RSS feeds going through Google Reader I’ve paired them down to 200 this month and would like to get down to a slim 150 before its all said.

    As for twitter, I’ve quickly discerned that it really isn’t about the number of people you follow or follow you..it’s the quality of the information produced from these connections that should be the driving force

    great write

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