Tag Archive for 'information overload'

Hacking RSS: Filtering & Processing Obscene Amounts of Information at SXSW

My SXSW session this year, Hacking RSS: Filtering & Processing Obscene Amounts of Information, is at the coveted 9:30 am session time on the final day of SXSW, so I thought that it might be a good idea to outline the presentation here in the hopes that I can entice a few people  to drag themselves out of bed early to attend.

Presentation

You can listen to the audio of my presentation.

Description

Information overload is less about having too much information and more about not having the right tools and techniques to filter and process information to find the pieces that are most relevant for you. This presentation will focus on showing you a variety of tips and techniques to get you started down the path of looking at RSS feeds in a completely different light. The default RSS feeds generated by your favorite blog or website are just a starting point waiting to be hacked and manipulated to serve your needs. Most people read RSS feeds, but few people take the time to go one step further to hack on those RSS feeds to find only the most interesting posts. I combine tools like Yahoo Pipes, BackTweets, PostRank and more with some simple API calls to be able to find what I need while automatically discarding the rest. You start with one or more RSS feeds and then feed those results into other services to gather more information that can be used to further filter or process the results. This process is easier than it sounds once you learn a few simple tools and techniques, and no “real” programming experience is required to get started. This session will show you some tips and tricks to get you started down the path of hacking your RSS feeds.

A few specific topics

Logistics

  • Tuesday March 15 at 9:30AM
  • Venue: Austin Convention Center Ballroom C
  • Tag: #hackingRSS

UPDATED to add embedded slides on 3/15/2011 and add audio link on 3/23/2011.

Want to see me talk about RSS Hacking at SXSW?

If you want to see me speak at SXSW, you can comment and vote on my session before 11:59 CDT on Friday, August 27. Here’s how SXSW panel selection is weighted: 30% popular vote (you!), 30% program staff and 40% advisory board, so I’ll need some votes before they will accept my session! Here are the details about my proposed session so you can decide on whether to vote for it.

Hacking RSS: Filtering & Processing Obscene Amounts of Information

Information overload is less about having too much information and more about not having the right tools and techniques to filter and process information to find the pieces that are most relevant for you. This presentation will focus on showing you a variety of tips and techniques to get you started down the path of looking at RSS feeds in a completely different light. The default RSS feeds generated by your favorite blog or website are just a starting point waiting to be hacked and manipulated to serve your needs. Most people read RSS feeds, but few people take the time to go one step further to hack on those RSS feeds to find only the most interesting posts. I combine tools like Yahoo Pipes, BackTweets, PostRank and more with some simple API calls to be able to find what I need while automatically discarding the rest. You start with one or more RSS feeds and then feed those results into other services to gather more information that can be used to further filter or process the results. This process is easier than it sounds once you learn a few simple tools and techniques, and no “real” programming experience is required to get started. This session will show you some tips and tricks to get you started down the path of hacking your RSS feeds.

Information Overload, Attention, and RSS

Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote a fascinating piece on ReadWriteWeb today about Ten Common Objections to Social Media Adoption and How You Can Respond. Those of you who follow Marshall on Twitter know that he frequently socializes ideas for posts like this one on Twitter as he writes the article getting real-time feedback on ideas. This one was a particularly interesting discussion to watch as it unfolded. I only wish I hadn’t been quite so slammed today so that I could have paid more attention to it.

I saw what I think is a common theme across a few of the items in Marshall’s list of common objections. Information overload. People increasingly have difficulties managing the stream of information vying for our attention every second of the day. If we participate in social media and the increasing numbers of new online tools, how can we possibly pay attention to all of it? Here are a few items from Marshall’s list of objections that seem to fall into this category:

1. I suffer from information overload already.
2. So much of what’s discussed online is meaningless. These forms of communication are shallow and make us dumber. We have real work to do!
3. I don’t have the time to contribute and moderate, it looks like it takes a lot of time and energy.
9. There are so many tools that are similar, I can’t tell where to invest my time so I don’t use any of it at all.

Quoted from ReadWriteWeb

This is where RSS and other tools that help us manage where we do and do not focus our attention come into play. I agree with some of these objections to a point. Yes, there is information overload; yes, it takes time and energy; yes, some of it is shallow and meaningless; and yes, it can be hard to figure out where to invest your time. However, and this is a big however, it can be easier than many think.

Tools like RSS can really help you prioritize where you focus your attention. I use Netvibes as my RSS reader with topics organized by tab and information organized by how important / credible it is. I have separate tabs for Web 2.0/social media, open source, community, Jive, and a few misc. tabs. Each one has the stuff that I want to pay the most attention to at the top with lower priority feeds near the bottom. It really helps me stay organized and focused on those things that are important to me.

Yahoo Pipes takes this one step further. You can aggregate information from multiple feeds and filter it by keywords and other items to create very specific targeted feeds. I’ve just started playing with Yahoo Pipes, so I hope to have a more detailed analysis on it in a couple of weeks after I’ve had time to explore more of what it can do.

The point is that we all have difficulty managing information overload and our attention stream; however, we can’t let this stop us from exploring new technologies and new ideas. The solution is not to avoid these new tools. Our focus should be on finding ways to better manage this stream of information in a way that increases, not decreases, our productivity.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts: