A problem I have been dealing with for quite sometime now, as are many of you, is information overload. With great articles to read from online sources such as developerWorks, Gizmodo, TUAW, PlanetLotus, etc., a proliferation of blog posts that is almost unmanageable, and then introduce into that the constant flood of Twitter and you have crossed over into information gluttony. Having a web-enabled phone can really help.
In those moments when I am away from the computer but not actually doing anything, such as standing in line somewhere or waiting for someone, I have found that even in just those few minutes I can cutback on the backlog of reading that I will have when I get back to the computer. After all, I should be spending most of my time at the keyboard coding, right? So any little bits of time I can reclaim are quite valuable.
I utilize a few different means of handling these spare moments. The first, and most obvious, is to use my phone’s web browser to access Twitter. I consider myself a pretty light Twitter user, but when following 75 people and having 74 followers myself that generates a fair bit of tweets. 70 per day on average. Okay, I’m no @leolaporte but that is still 70 items per day on average to read and several of those contain links to longer posts or articles. While I generally follow the “go with the flow” methodology and just ignore whatever happened prior to coming online, there have been times when I come back to find myself in the middle of a “conversation” that is interesting enough to go back and read from the beginning. I try to avoid this by checking Twitter from the phone every now and then when away from the computer for long periods.
To handle blogs and other sites that utilize RSS feeds I employ Google Reader. For quite sometime I used an RSS application that allowed me to synch read/unread posts between my different computers and it worked quite well until I began using the web on my phone. It then became annoying to not be able to check in on my feeds while away from my desk. By switching to Google Reader I can now easily get to my feeds from any computer or from my phone (they have a kick-ass mobile interface). It is extremely useful to be able to pick off a blog entry or two via the phone and then when I get back to my desk to have that entry marked as read so that I am not scanning it again by mistake. The Google Reader and the their mobile interface is undoubtedly the most useful tool in my arsenal for handling information gluttony.
The second most valuable tool has very quickly become LaterLoop.com. With the Firefox extension it allows me to simply click the LaterLoop icon when I come across an article, blog post or any site that I want to read later. Its not uncommon for someone to write a detailed post or send a link to a long article which I don’t have the time to read at the moment I come across it, but want to save it for later. Previously I used del.icio.us for this but I found that doing so was akin to putting it into a black hole never to be seen again. Don’t get me wrong, I really like del.icio.us and I do use it to save links to sites that I find interesting. However, I don’t think of it as my tool for later reading, more as my tool for archiving links that have useful information that I may need at some point in the future. LaterLoop provides me a one-click solution to save the link for later reading and move on. Because I almost exclusively read these later from my iPhone it really helps that LaterLoop has an iPhone interface. The icing on the cake is that when I go back to LaterLoop to read these items they provide me two links: one to the website and one to a text representation. A text representation may sound odd, but when you are frequently surfing over AT&T’s less-then zippy Edge network a text representation can many times be the difference between waiting and actually reading.
If you have this problem how do you solve it? What tools do you use?