14 July 04. |
So back in April, I'd written about the joy and delight of the RSS feed. The summary: whereas the web had once been an endless pit of time-consumingness, RSS made it manageable and easy. Whereas I'd spend all day in glassy-eyed clicking before, I could now spend a little under an hour reading everything I could possibly read, and could then move on to do things involving the real world.
Oh, how times have changed. I now have so many RSS feeds that it is a truly Sissyphean task to read them all. Whereas before I could have a set, fixed endpoint (`stop when I've read all the feed updates'), this is now impossible. Meerkat, O'Reilly's wire service, will feed me a thousand links a day. Seriously reading two percent of that is already an hour. And I haven't even gotten to the newspaper yet: the New York Times will feed me a hundred articles a day, of which I'll want to read a whole lot more than two percent.
In other news, I've entirely stopped reading anything that doesn't have an RSS feed. I paid some guy to write up an RSS feed for Toothpaste for Dinner because it's funny in a severly embittered kind of way, but with no RSS feed pushing it upon me, I never looked at it. So I'm more lazy, but not actually saving more time.
The other thing that amazes me about all of these RSS feeds is the immense repetition. First, there's direct copying: Meerkat aggregates other RSS feeds, without editing, and puts them out for you in one feed instead of several. [And so, given that feed readers are now a dime a download, I'm not sure what its point is anymore.] And of course, other blogs frequently have entries among the original content in the way of `so over at this blog, they say...' without really adding much of anything.
But beyond that is the original generation of the same idea that ten other people also originally came up with. As some of you may know, I'm writing a book on software patents, so many of my feeds are about intellectual property, and frankly, the news is almost exactly the same on all ten of `em. Even the stories themselves tend to repeat; I've simply stopped reading DMCA cases, they're all so alike (as is the outrage they inspire again). This form of repetition feels even sillier than the blatant copying above---at least there was no effort expended in copying. Here, there are extensive write-ups which boil down to the same facts and the same emotions; if these guys all teamed up, they'd have one feed with the same content and a tenth of the effort.
In my own head, this turns into a constant pressure to not repeat myself or others. The `others' part is frankly kind of easy: since all ten of our IP authors look at IP in the same way, I really only have to distinguish myself from one mindset. The `self' part is getting harder and harder. This is my 75th blog entry, and I simply don't have 75 actual real live ideas. This blog has been up for almost a year, but others have been up for the better part of a decade---how do they do it? It constantly worries me, and is the reason I've been posting less lately: when am I going to hit that age when everything I say is just repetition, and have I already hit it?
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