On Neophilia

My mind’s distracted and confused..” for some reason that snippet of Simon and Garfunkel popped into my head this evening as I sat down to write. I’ve obviously been making an effort to get back into blogging more consistently and seriously over the past few weeks. And I’ve done well.

I’ve changed my blogging process as well. I’m currently collecting snippets of ideas and partial drafts inside of Ecto on my computer. There are currently 19 draft entries in the queue, but none of them are hitting the sweet spot of my attention tonight. I have more to say on economics, education, copyright, etc.

Instead tonight I’m thinking about how much I news I consume. Back in 2001 when I first discovered blogs and began reading them regularly I would routinely go from one blog to the next, following blogrolls or in post links to new people and then adding the new sites to my feed reader. In 2004 I stopped accumulating new blogs and pared my reading lists down drastically. I probably went from a list of 300-400 down to 100 or so. This was still more input than I wanted. I kept paring down and finally arrived at a list of 30 sites.

This summer the reverse cycle has begun again. I keep my subscriptions organized by folders inside of NetNewsWire. The top 30 are in a single folder and the other 100 are organized by rough topic areas, such as knowledge management, education, science, etc. So far this summer I’ve probably added another 75-100 new sites to the feed reader. I’ve deepened my links in some areas, such as science, and added new folders for economics and film.

Keeping up with the information doesn’t bother me too much. I’m not too worried by the unread count, and if I need to I’m not afraid to use the ‘mark all as read’ button indiscriminately. This all helps to keep me sane, but it does lead to nights like this when I just don’t know what to say about the world around me or what I’ve read.

A mailing list I’m on recently pointed out a book by Barbara Sher called ‘Refuse to Choose. Her core idea is from the book summary on Amazon:

Sher identifies someone she calls The Scanner—someone who frequently has a multiplicity of interests, but finds it hard to create a successful life he or she loves because their passions and abilities are taking them in so many different directions. Sher identifies 7 types of Scanners—ranging from the Serial Specialist (someone who learns all about one subject, only to get bored and need to move on to the next) to Sybil (a person with so many areas of interest, she can’t finish a thing).

Contrary to popular wisdom, Sher tells Scanners that theirs is a unique ability, not a liability. She also states that they must do everything they love, not zero in on one pursuit at the expense of all others. With dozens of powerful techniques Sher has developed to free people from “goal paralysis,” readers will stop thinking of themselves as dabblers or dilettantes, and find innovative ways to live lives of variety, challenge, and joy.

There’s a time and place for this self-help language. Sometimes hearing about the experiences of other people is a useful tool to jog yourself out of a rut. Other times the corniness gets to be exasperating.

There’s also a problem with relying on too many information inputs - sometimes they take energy away from deepening current connections to actual friends or acquaintances. It’s a struggle and tonight I don’t have much more to say than that.