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Why I changed the jonerp newsfeed, and what that means for content curation

Some time ago, I published a piece on JonERP.com riffing on the power of pull, which was inspired by the book of the same name, but geared towards individuals rather than the corporate focus of the book. It was my tribute to listening and context in a world where most of us are in relentless broadcast mode, in a desperate bid for our slice of attention amidst a media pie that is getting more crowded by the day.  Believing that our friends will surface everything we need to read is naive and lazy. I went into a further rant on this topic in my blog post, "Twitter is not a content meritocracy." Though the "Power of Pull" was not about pimping tools, I did say that Google Reader was the ideal tool for those who want to get a leg up by pulling the best content into one location.

Since that piece, Google Reader neutered its sharing capabilities in a small-minded nod to Google Plus, which Bob Warfield skewered in a classic post. For those who enjoyed following my newsfeed, that means there are some changes afoot. The good news is that Google Reader is still effective for "pulling" content in from a variety of sources. Just about anything you can RSS you can still get into Google Reader. The cumbersome news is that sharing is a bit more complicated. After a consult with fellow enterprise news curator Dennis Moore, I went with a new setup that is working well for me:

1. Consume my newsfeeds, essential bloggers and keyword searches with Google Reader as always.

2. Regularly prioritize and adjust my incoming Reader feeds based on the relevance and insight of the content I am subscribed to.

3. Share the best of that content on the Twitter @jonerpnewsfeed account (typically 9 to 12 content pieces a day in a couple of posting sessions). That part hasn’t changed. The process of getting to @jonerpnewsfeed has.

4. The very best of the content that I consider impactful, I personally tweet via @jonerp (usually about 3 pieces a day, whether the person who wrote it is someone I like or someone I can’t stand. Doesn’t matter. If the piece carries weight, I push it).

a. Since Google Reader doesn’t allow "sharing" anymore, I use the "send to" option, and send the content to my jonerp links on Delicious.

b. The jonerp Delicious account containts the posts along with brief commentary notes, keyword tags, and the author’s Twitter handle when I know it. (You can subscribe to the Delicious version of the "jonerpnewsfeed RSS"):

http://delicious.com/v2/rss/jonerp

c. The Delicious jonerp RSS feed is then fed through dlvr.it, which adds the #ensw (enterprise software) hashtag, shortens the URLs and posts no more than three news stories at any one time to the @jonerpnewsfeed in order to control the pace of article tweets.

d. There is the problem of the occasional great article that does not make its way into my Reader because I am not subscribed to the feed. In some cases, I solve this by subscribing to the feed in question, but in other cases, that doesn’t work (for example, an RSS feed for a huge site like CNN I don’t want in my Reader). I used to be able to use Google Chrome’s "share" plug in for that, now I use the Delicious Firefox plug in, and I share those articles to the jonerp Delicious page and the process carries on from there.

There’s no real loss to this revised process, except that I lose the benefit of having a comprehensive article store in Google Reader searchable by keyword, since some of the articles never make it into Reader if I share them directly to Delicious when I’m not subscribed to the feed. The upside is that Delicious has a very nice search and the jonerp shared article base is now public for those hearty souls who want to browse the tags and articles.

I thought you might be interested in a few refinements I have made to my Reader setup in the months since I published the piece. (my YouTube video series on the Power of Pull for SAP professionals goes into how I originally set this all up):

- I have found that there is some crucial content that I need access to that I can’t RSS, for example backchannel email threads from groups I belong to like the SAP Mentors and Enterprise Irregulars. There is also the occasional specialty newsletter that simply has no RSS option. While you can subscribe to that type of stuff in your regular email client and filter it into folders, I have found that having a separate gmail account simply for tracking incoming content is really useful. I have that tab open next to my Reader and so that’s all my "pulled content" in one place. This is one more step towards reducing my main email account to the bare minimum of essential private correspondence - no newsletters go into my main email anymore.

- I still have my Reader carefully prioritized into the topics I need to be on top of. The top priority is the stuff that might contain items that will rock my world, so I need to be checking them frequently, at least once a day if not moreso.

- The point of such prioritization is that on busy days, or weeks, I need to be able to focus only on the folders where the most important content is. The less relevant topics can pile up with articles until I have the chance to sort through them.

- There is no way to order your feed folders on Google Reader except by alphabetizing, but that’s enough as long as you’re willing to be clever in your folder labelling.

- Unlike those who have given up on their newsreaders because they can’t keep up with them, I don’t mind falling behind on certain topics, it’s a great chance to revisit them later and see if I paid any kind of time delay price by waiting on any of them. If I did, I move that blogger or feed up higher in my Reader. Or if that blogger has taken to posting shoddy stream-of-consciousness whatever, I’ll move them further down the Reader.

- I have found that subscribing to a handful of select peeps in the SAP field across time zones in Twitter is a nifty way to get a read on what the issues of the day are. I pick one or two folks in each major time zone and subscribe to all of their tweets. When needed, I can quickly scroll through them and get a feel for the issues of the day. The point here is to get a feel for the issues, then I can hop onto Twitter and/or Hootsuite and join the conversation, or, if there’s no pressing topics in play, plow on with my projects and deadlines.

- Subscribing to an individuals’ tweets is an RSS hack now, and the format constantly changes so I’m reluctant to post it here. Contact me personally if you want the latest iteration that is working for me.

- You can now subscribe to a Google Plus public feed, though not through Google officially, it’s a third party hack as well. I have a Google Plus folder that is not a high priority folder, but it’s an additional area I can check. I subscribe to a select group of folks who I perceive as adding unique things to G+ rather than frantically cross-posting, and who are saying things there they don’t already post on Twitter.

- For my own content, I still run a Yahoo pipe that pulls all my content into one JonERP Feedburner feed you can subscribe to via RSS or email. That feed will give you everything from the eight or so places I post (including Enterprise Irregulars), with the exception of JD-OD.com. You get the shows we put out on my JonERP Feedburner feed, but to get all the JD-OD.com video content you’ll need to subscribe to the relevant feeds on JD-OD.com. The iTunes podcast feed is still there for the JonERP audio podcasts.

While Google’s neutering of its Reader functionality was a sad sign of the times, I’m glad that such free tools are still available to create our own "information portals" rather than settling for the increasingly hectic, marketing-bloated and generic interfaces we see on Twitter and Facebook. I’m can’t hide my increasing disdain for the herd mentality I see on these sites. The idea that "liking" the things that fly across activity streams makes the world a better place is, to me, almost an apocalyptic idea. Increasingly, Facebook resembles a high school cafeteria and I’m skirting clear of it in favor of the smokey fringes and deriving the same value from mining the edges that I did back in high school. 

I don’t reject these web sites as much as I push myself to unplug from them long enough for the deeper kind of listening that, in my world anyway, is the price of the ticket if we want to truly advance conversations instead of preening for Klout with a fistful of likes.  My hope is that the creative work that results from the cycle I have chosen (listen -> curate -> share -> -> reflect -> create) makes a good argument for the less trodden path. Or at least you can learn from my misadventures.

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