How to replace Google Reader and be better off for it


It’s perhaps sad that I look for ways to maximize my reading efficiency, but I can’t keep up with everything I want to keep up with. I like making sense of the world through connections and ideas and stories. So I’m constantly reading, usually on my iPhone and MacBook, the news and blogs and articles and books.

Google just announced they’re shutting down Google Reader in 3 months. If you don’t know what that is it’s a magical tool that takes anything I want to read on the internet and puts it in one scrollable place. I don’t have to visit every website because every website comes to me. Magical, yes.

The Google Reader community is understandably pissed. Many bloggers will lose a chunk of their readership. I don’t know if anyone uses GR to read my blog, but if you do just switch over to Feedly on your favorite web browser and you’ll be good to go. I even got the app. I think it will be better than GR and it has a nicer looking design.

Other tools I use everyday and can’t do without in my reading/writing efficiency toolbox: Flipboard app for iPhone, Instapaper, and Evernote. If you want to shop around for RSS readers maybe sift through this reddit discussion with lots of links.

We are in a long-term process of altering our view of what constitutes the ideal intellectual life

The European: Well, seeing that becoming aware of a problem is the first step to doing something about it, how do you believe the adverse effects you talk about can be counteracted? There is, after all, hardly a way to opt out of the modern media economy: I can’t just turn off my computer.

Nicholas Carr: My hope is that we will have a more balanced experience of the technology and become willing to turn it off for substantial periods in order to engage in more contemplative thinking. My view of recent history suggests that we won’t do that and that we will continue in the path we are on. We like to be distracted and technology keeps expanding its hold over our waking hours – for business, social or shopping reasons. The internet is a culmination of a much longer-term social trend that goes back to the beginning of mass media. People place less and less value on contemplative thinking and more on practical, utilitarian types of thinking, which are all about getting the right bit of information when you need it and about using it to answer very well-defined question. We are in a long-term process of altering our view of what constitutes the ideal intellectual life: Moving away from the ideal of conceptual thinking, reflection and taking the big picture and moving to this very utilitarian mode of constantly collecting little bits of information, not really ever wanting to back away from the flow. Society and individuals can change, but to me the trend is in the direction of interruption, distraction and shallow thinking.

(The European Magazine)

Without great solitude, no serious work is possible

If our ideas seem smaller nowadays, it’s not because we are dumber than our forebears but because we just don’t care as much about ideas as they did. In effect, we are living in an increasingly post-idea world — a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are disseminating them, the Internet notwithstanding. Bold ideas are almost passé. (Neal Gabler at NYT)

Susan Cain, in the following piece, argues that the reason great ideas aren’t exploding into our world is because creative individuals aren’t being allowed to come up with ideas on their own (at least in the corporate world, a little bit in academia). Instead of creating ideas in solitude like many great idea makers, there’s a fad called “groupthink.”

SOLITUDE is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in. 

But there’s a problem with this view. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted…

…Solitude has long been associated with creativity and transcendence. “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible,” Picasso said. A central narrative of many religions is the seeker — Moses, Jesus, Buddha — who goes off by himself and brings profound insights back to the community.

Culturally, we’re often so dazzled by charisma that we overlook the quiet part of the creative process. Consider Apple. In the wake of Steve Jobs’s death, we’ve seen a profusion of myths about the company’s success. Most focus on Mr. Jobs’s supernatural magnetism and tend to ignore the other crucial figure in Apple’s creation: a kindly, introverted engineering wizard, Steve Wozniak, who toiled alone on a beloved invention, the personal computer. (Susan Cain at NYT)

I like these articles because I’m an introvert and come up with genius ideas in solitude all the time that can change the world.

NPR also has a piece on “What to think about think tanks” which looks at how often even NPR reporters don’t know what think tanks are about. 

Where do you come up with big ideas?

What I want from Web 3.0

I don’t want Web 3.0 to predict my buying habits or push products on me. I don’t want it to be an extension of consumerism. I want it to help me put connections together. I want it to help me research and think and find new ideas. I want it to be an extension of my brain, not my wallet. I want it to guide me to the best ideas on a subject. I want it to compare and contrast. I want it to know meaning and context. If anything, I want it to create a story out of my life, looking at the themes and motifs that crop up. And I want it to do this for the world around me.

But that means it must use words, which is why Web 3.0 will be about semantics, and not the ad-driven semantics that ask me if I want a Quiznos coupon after lunching at Subway, but the meaning-guided semantics that make sense of the endless connections I don’t see or realize or begin to comprehend. Which is also the job of the writer, I presume.