I’m feeling twoverwhelmed. It’s not Twitter’s fault – it’s just another tool. But I did get on Twitter this week. The Twitter roar (“you don’t use Twitter?”)* was getting deafening, and I know enough about myself to know that the only way I can learn something is to use it. (I finally got a handle on Squidoo this week too).
I’m not ready to commit to tweeting just yet – at least for now. This blog and my day job are more than enough for now. But how can I pass up the opportunity to follow the latest musings of Nicholas Kristof, Sarah Jones, Chris Anderson, and Evan Williams, to name a few? It’s a window into what’s top of mind for some pretty amazing people.
But wait, let’s take a step back. Evan Williams, Twitter’s founder, recently tweeted, “Contemplating new email strategies. Current practice (responding to most of them) not scaling. Interested in doing other stuff.”
Of course Evan doesn’t just care about his Inbox, it’s one of many streams of incoming information / communication he’s managing.
If conquering your email inbox was the “can we be productive in a wired world” question of 2002, things have gotten exponentially more complicated. (If you want to be surprised by how exponentially, this video gives you all you need to know).
My A-list (stuff I truly want to stay on top of) looks something like: all my email, “must read” blogs in my RSS feed, articles and reports that are forwarded along by colleagues and friends, and now maybe Twitter.
What about the B-list: “contender” blogs in my RSS feed, magazines I subscribe to, the NY Times, Facebook….oh, and don’t forget all the absurdly amazing TED talks that are out there free to the world. Like Bill Gates talking about what he’s doing to save the world. And there’s always the Guardian’s 100 greatest works of fiction of all time, which has been nagging at me for some time.
And then there’s the C list, divided between stuff I haven’t spent any time on and stuff I, regrettably, don’t seem to have any time for: Digg, Reddit, YouTube, etc, but also Huffpo, CNN.com and the Economist.
And have I mentioned that I have a full time job? And a family?
Pratically speaking, there’s always been an infinite amount of content out there. But the ease of getting truly fabulous, up-to-the minute content delivered right to my laptop is categorically different than the world of even 5 years ago, before the explosion of user-generated content and social networks.
It’s suddenly realistic to expect that every day, in the 30-60 minutes I have to read up on things, I’ll discover something amazing.
This is my (and your) new curriculum – which is different from “the news.”
I can get really smart about just about anything now. So I have to choose from whom I want to learn: Greg Mankiw (great economist), Seth Godin (brilliant marketer), Mark Bittman (fabulous chef), Google (organizer of the world’s information), or Michael Sandel (to take his Harvard course on moral and political philosophy – at home!). Or I could forget all that and just take free drum lessons online from a pro. You get the idea.
Multiply that by a few decades, and I end up a whole lot smarter about some things, but not about everything. It’s impossible to keep up with everything.
This forces hard choices, not only for me, but for content producers who are trying to find ways to make money in this new world.
Oh, and here’s the kicker: this is all going mainstream, and 10-year-olds today who are growing up on Facebook and with iTunes won’t have any vestiges or nostalgia about the daily paper being delivered at their doorstep every morning and of mom and dad reading that paper over breakfast.
If you don’t figure out how to succeed in today’s world – personally, as a consumer of all this information; and as a content producer / business / nonprofit / you name it – you’re going to end up as quaint and finished as some soon-to-be-defunct weekly news magazines.
* For the tiny sliver of you who are die-hard Marx Brothers fans, the line that comes to mind is “You no gotta’ a Breeder’s Guide?!” uttered by Chico Marx to Groucho Marx in a Day at the Races.