Last april I wrote about how I read RSS.
I described two main approaches:
One is to simply browse through the feeds to get a feeling of what is going on, what themes are getting attention. To detect patterns. Because I try to see RSS feeds as parts of a conversation (I subscribe to people not feeds), listening to what these voices are telling me, is using my social network as a filter, a community filter. Gossip 2.0, so to speak. In this mode I hardly read any specific postings, and if I blog something because of it, it is triggerd by patterns I see.
The other approach has its starting point in myself. Whatever I am currently working on or interested in, questions I am exploring etc. (such as information strategies right now), trigger reading specific postings, commenting and blogging.
The first approach is based on pattern recognition, and filtering sources through an understanding of their origin and context. Objectivity is replaced by multi-subjectivity to weigh information. Information items do not stand by themselves but are built into social contexts (the experience and attitude of the source are factored into the perceived value of the information), and are only evaluated on an aggregated level. Observed patterns are then categorized as requiring action, requiring observation, or they are ignored. This is very much an outside-in approach and requires awareness of which sources of information I have and purposefully seeking out large numbers of additional sources.
In short in this first approach it is you, the collective of yous, that is my filter. This filter is based on its social characteristics, and it gets better when additional people (that I have some knowledge of: context is needed) are added to it. So this filter thrives on having more information not less. This is the main reason I say that information overload does not exist.
In the picture below, all of you are the filter on the left: I see what you think is important for me to see.
The second approach is inside-out oriented and is based on heightened self-knowledge and self-reflection, either as an individual or as a group in terms of (collective) ambition and goals. Here information items are considered by themselves, though imbedded in their social context, based on direct personal or group relevance in guiding action.
In the picture above, I am the filter on the right: I look at all that comes at me, and pick-up on what is relevant for me now. Other stuff might get filed. One of the important actions to take is sharing.
Sharing parts of the outcome of these two types of filtering (you and me) with all of those that include me as a source of information is a key element of your overall information strategy. This is what creates feedback loops. Because what works as filtering for me, works the same way for you. See the picture below.
Now if at least part of your input channels, have your output as input as well, we create feedback loops. Feedback are an important factor of the emergence of patterns. This way sharing helps to sustain and strengthen my own ability for pattern recognition, it reinforces the power of my filtering. There is one caveat though: if all the inputs to both our filters are too much alike, we end up in an echo-chamber of our own making. So that is something you have to do a reality check on every now and then. Self knowledge, the filter that is me on the right hand side, is what helps you prevent your outside-in filter becoming the wall of your echo-chamber.
(The original filter picture I drew during a great conversation with my good friend Patrick last August in Switzerland. Apart from being a bright guy to talk to, he also makes a terrific Swiss cheese fondue)