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What If My RSS Reader is Evil?

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I love RSS.

At least, I thought I did.

My RSS Reader (Google Feed Reader) currently has 90 RE.net blog subscriptions in it. That makes up over half of the total 162 RSS subscriptions I read on a daily basis.

I know there are people out there who read a lot more subscriptions than that. Pardon me for saying so, but that is CRAZY!

Honestly, most of the time, I simply scan through the feeds (a la Robert Scoble) by continually hitting “j, j, j. . .” until something catches my eye enough for me to read it. This cuts down on the amount of time it takes me to read the feeds of my favorite blogs.

But consumption of time is not the reason that I think my RSS reader may be evil. No, the reason that I think it may be evil is that I think it could be doing more harm than good to my overall creativity.

This idea came about as a result of an interview I heard with none other than Eminem on Sirius the other day. Eminem was asked about his creative process and how he receives inspiration and manages to keep his sound different from every other hip-hop artist. His response was that the first thing he does when he needs to write an album is: STOP LISTENING TO EVERYTHING ELSE. He said that he listens to no other hip-hop while he is writing, and hardly any other music at all. He listens only to the beats he is going to use, and he writes for those beats, or for beats yet uncreated.

What a good idea.

It was brought to my attention recently that I haven’t written much here on AG. That is not for lack of desire. Fact is, basketball and business and real life have me pretty busy right now. I haven’t posted as much as I would like anywhere, much less here on AG.

There is another reason, however, for my lack of posting. I have been struggling with quality content creation. Every person who cares at all about what they create cares also about making sure that their creations add value to the audience experience.

This is where I think my RSS reader might be evil. . .

You see, as a blogger, I not only write for blogs, but I read blogs. I do this through the aforementioned Google Reader. I do this because– well, heck, why DO I do this?

I guess I do it because every other blogger and Web 2.0 aficionado does it? No. That can’t be the reason.

I guess I do it because I want to know what everyone else is talking about. What everyone else thinks is important and relevant. I want to know what the other conversations are out there in the RE.net blogosphere. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

But wait, what if that’s a BAD thing?

What if, by reading what everyone else is saying, it makes it more difficult to find my own voice? What if listening to the cacophony of voices makes my own voice harder and harder to hear? What if constantly reading all those RSS feeds isn’t making me more creative, but instead hemming up my creativity through information overload and paralysis through analysis?

What if my RSS reader is evil?

That is a chance that I just can’t take. So in an effort to increase my creativity and create some quality content inspired by real life and not just another voice in the echo chamber. . .I’m going on RSS blackout.

That’s right. RSS BLACKOUT.

No RSS for the next 30 days. PERIOD.

It’s gonna be tough, but it must be done. All the inspiration for my posts over the next 30 days will just have to come from someplace else (gee, how about real life?). I’m telling all those other voices to shut up for a little while so I can clear my head. I’ll still be reading comments left on my posts, and by extension, probably coming across a blog post or two. And I’ll still be on Twitter, so those conversations will continue to enlighten and inspire, but as for the cacophony that is RSS. . .it shall be silenced.

So there it is, I’m going down the rabbit hole. But in a strange way, the journey should lead to greater clarity instead of confusion. On the other side should be sanity and creativity, not craziness and redundancy– I hope.

Wish me luck. . .

I'm a REALTOR, basketball referee, happy husband, and Community Manager (in no particular order). I have a passion for the real estate industry and officiating, a passion that I try to turn into inspiration on my blog, The Real Estate Zebra. I am also the Community Manager at Inman News. When I'm not blogging here on AG or the Zebra, you can usually find me on Twitter.

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Athol Kay

    February 13, 2008 at 11:55 am

    I broke my RSS feeds up into important ones and not so important ones. I use the delete key like an uncaring emperor more often now.

  2. Andy Kaufman

    February 13, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Good luck on that one Daniel 😉

    I abandoned my bloglines account because it got too big & unwieldy and now I’m back up to 383 in Google Reader. The best move that i ever made was to start A & B folders for the ones that I feel that I need to read regularly.

    Who cares, Twitter has turned feed reading reading into a once in a while activity anyway.

  3. Jim Duncan

    February 13, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    So, should we all just email you what we write?

  4. Athol Kay

    February 13, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    LOL Jim

  5. Daniel Rothamel

    February 13, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    I can see that Jim is going to make this difficult. . .

    Jim, you can just IM me anything relevant.

    Hey wait, I kinda like that idea. Jim can be like a “personal reader.” I think the President has one. . .

    🙂

  6. Jay Thompson

    February 13, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    I used to feel compelled to read everything. I’m at 389 feeds now, which is ridiculous, so I can’t read everything (though I still read most). Those with partial feeds (or worse, headlines only) rarely get read.

    But I don’t want to miss anything! I’ve learned so much reading other blogs I’m afraid I might.

    But I hear where you are coming from about the stifling of creativity Daniel. The other thing I find is that I often ponder a blog post before I write it. Then I’ll be perusing the reader and see someone else had a similar thought. Happened just this morning. I saw an article on people torching their houses to avoid foreclosure. Then I saw Ducan, damn him, had already posted on it. Now I’m thinking – “I can’t post now, I’ll just be copying Jim”

    But should that matter? Does every single post have to consist of pure original thought? *I* read Jim Duncan, but some of my readers don’t. So I should write that post, no?

    But God forbid the RE.net think I’m out there stealing ideas from another RE.netter.

    On the other hand, F ’em. I write for my readers, not the RE.net. At least most of the time…

    Huh. Not reading feeds. Very interesting thought. don’t know if I could stay away for a month. I get feed cravings when I’m off it for a day.

    But it’s sure worth pondering… keep us posted how it goes!

  7. Kelley Koehler

    February 13, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Luck to you, Zebra, as requested. I went through that thought process a couple weeks ago, and I pared down my feeds by about half, and then categorized them all. Now, I can read through just the things I want to, and somehow feel less guilty. If big mortgage news comes out, I know to go read the lender category. I’ve got a couple in my “entertaining” category that I read daily. The “Locally Focused RE” stuff I get to maybe once a week, just to see what some others are doing. My “Industry Blogs” gets read maybe every other day or so – the bloodhounds and similar. I’ve got the local Genius’ in their own category (don’t ya’ll feel special?), and I’ve got an “Inspiring” category that usually gets read right after the entertaining group.

    There are other groups that I’m still paring down. Too many SEO things, and my lender group is getting too big as well. The RE Service provider group is probably getting cut in half soon. My non-RE marketing group is interesting, but I need to tune out a couple of voices there to really concentrate on the couple that I like.

    I find myself reading more things that catch my attention because i’m doing it at a time when I’m ready to pay attention to that category. And I never visit the reader before writing my own posts. I don’t want to contaminate my head with other voices or ideas.

  8. Tom Royce

    February 13, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Daniel

    I do not look at my RSS feeds until I am done writing my morning posts just for that reason. If I read what other people say I tend to just regurgitate it, consciously or subconsioulsy.

    So I tend to read the RSS feeds in the late afternoon or evening.

    Tom

  9. Athol Kay

    February 13, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    And by definition, 50% of what the RE.net writes is a below average post. If an entire blog starts falling below that line… just cut it.

  10. Kelley Koehler

    February 13, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    You’re never one to mince words, Athol. 🙂

    I moved all my feeds to Google reader from IE in order to organize them. And once I got them all in there, I left it alone for a couple days. Some blogs, I could read 13 new posts and not like any of them – snip! Or if I read through the last week of stuff and still had no idea who the author was or what the blog was about – snip!

    The great thing about categorizing them according to what they’re about is that I could see how many I had of each type. I want to keep an eye on lending issues, but I don’t need to read 15 lender blogs, so I’m paring that down to just my favorite handful. Same for the locally focused RE guys, the SEO stuff, the marketing stuff – it was so much easier to pare down once I realized how many potentially duplicate feeds I was trying to digest.

  11. Robert D. Ashby

    February 13, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I have over 150 feeds and it is all about the headline. Usually I take a few minutes every hour or two to delete the crap that is not appealling and tag those I would like to read later (time permitting). I try to clear out the tagged entries, by “most appealling” down the list each day or evening. It is all about the headline or your posts will not be read, period.

    While I don’t want to miss anything I really want to read, I follow the cardinal rule, if you haven’t read it in a week, it probably wasn’t important to you anyway, so a flushing comes over the weekends, sorry.

  12. Benn Rosales

    February 13, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I use no RSS feeds what-so-ever. I follow a thread of blogs (and twitter) that link to here and there like a conversation. If you write a post that relates to another in the re blog world, but fail to track back to where your thought originated, I stop reading. I know exactly who is guilty of leeching off of others thoughts, ideas and even emotions on certain topics and have no real depth of their own.

    I really admire you Daniel for not falling victim to writing off the backs of others and seeking out your own thoughts, feelings and ideas. I really am sick of the idea that those who have no voice live their blog life to tear down those ideas and thoughts of another because they have nothing positive of their own to offer.

    We’re not talking about opinion of current events, I’m talking about what is written when there is no news cycle to opine about.

    C’est la vie.

  13. Athol Kay

    February 13, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Oh I hold back a lot Kelley. It may not seem like I do, but I do. 🙂

    About a quarter of my posts start as blog comments and just morph into posts as I blah on and on, so I do like tracking what is happening. I think part of blogging is a conversation, so commenting and continuing post ideas and themes is important. The one thing that worries me about a feed reader blackout is not commenting for a month.

    Partial feeds irk me. I hate having to click through to read something. A blog has to be fantastic to survive in my feed reader as a partial feed.

  14. Dan Green

    February 13, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    @ Daniel, if you’re turning off the feed reader, are you even reading these comments?

  15. Daniel Rothamel

    February 14, 2008 at 11:24 am

    @Dan Green,

    I’m still reading comments, since they are sent to me from the posts I write. I also track comments through co.mments.com.

    I’ve still read a few blog posts, but only those mentioned to me by people or found in the course of other searches. The RSS reader remains off. I’ve gone a few days before, but I figure things won’t really get interesting until a week or so has gone by.

  16. Ines

    February 14, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    you’re nuts! but I get your point. I’m with Jay about the learning thing. I am a better Realtor because of blogs and I’m addicted to the knowledge and I am very often inspired by others. I couldn’t do it…..let’s see how you do and how creative you get.

  17. Maureen Francis

    February 15, 2008 at 9:26 am

    I think it is a great idea. Sometimes the ‘noise’ distracts our own thoughts. 30 days won’t kill you. You will not kill you.

  18. Jim Cronin

    February 23, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I had actually been on a full RSS blackout for almost all of 2007. I just couldn’t keep up with the reading of everything I had subscribed to using Bloglines. When I did log in, I couldn’t take that I had 1000’s of unread posts. So, I just stop going to my Bloglines completely.

    I knew I was missing the greater conversation on the RE.net, and part of me felt bad about that, but I knew what a slippery slope it would become to get back into it. I relied on others telling me that there was an interesting post over at Sellsius or BHB or ActiveRain or wherever, and that’s about the only connection I had to the community’s writing. Curiously I would also poke around to see what others were up to, if I found myself with a free moment, but I continued to resist the need to subscribe and keep up.

    Now things have changed again. I actually have way more time for RE.net participation because of the efficiency with which our company is running. Starting from scratch, I have begun to reconnect to the greater conversation. iGoogle is the bomb. It allows me to set up tabs for different groups like SEO, or RE.net or Tomato bloggers or AR friends etc and have pages of their feeds super organized. I’m not at the 100’s of feeds that I used to be, but I no can comfortably manage the 40-50 that I feel bring the best noise.

    Yes, you guys are on it too.

    Great post Zebra.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob or an un-alphabetized bookshelf.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer slowing you down? Does it make a simple job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment to improve your productivity.

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What is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes.

In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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Opinion Editorials

How to build a company culture while working remotely

(OPINION EDITORIAL) It seems that even a post COVID-19 world will involve remote work, so how can you build and maintain a strong work culture that ensures growth and satisfaction?

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New startups and existing companies are starting to transition to a fully remote (or nearly fully remote) model, but what does this mean for work culture? If you’re not careful, your work culture could easily become diminished as you transition to a remote environment, and if you’re building a company from the ground up, you may not have a strong culture to begin with.

Culture isn’t something you can afford to give up, so how can you build and maintain your company culture while working remotely?

The importance of a strong work culture

Maintaining a strong, consistent company culture is vital, even if your company is operating remotely. With a strong work culture, you’ll enjoy benefits like:

  • Better recruiting potential. A company with strong work culture will seem more attractive to talented candidates. The best people in the industry will want to work at a place with a great team and a great set of values.
  • Like-minded teammates. Establishing a consistent work culture allows you to selectively hire, then maintain employees who are like-minded. Employees with similar goals and mentalities, even if they come from different backgrounds, will be able to collaborate more efficiently.
  • Smoother communication. A strong foundational work culture that establishes goals, values, and beliefs within an organization can enable smoother, more efficient communication. Staff members will be on the same page with regard to high-level priorities, and will be able to exchange information in similar patterns.
  • Lower stress and less turnover. Better work cultures generally mean lower stress for employees, and accordingly, less employee turnover. Of course, this assumes you’re hiring good fits for the organization in the first place.
  • A better public reputation. Your work culture can also boost your public reputation—especially if you emphasize core values that are important to your target audience.

How to build company culture remotely

Traditionally, you can use in-person team-building sessions, regular meetings, and workplace rules to establish and maintain your company culture, but while working remotely, you’ll need to employ a different set of tactics, like:

  • Hiring the right candidates. Building a great culture starts with hiring. You have to find candidates who fit with your organization, and already share your core values. If someone doesn’t agree with your high-level approach, or if they don’t like your rules or workflows, they aren’t going to do their best work. These same considerations should be applied to your third party hires as well; agencies and freelancers should also fit into your values.
  • Hosting virtual team-building events. You can’t host in-person team-building events, but that doesn’t mean that team-building is inaccessible to you. Consider hosting a video conference to introduce your team members to each other, or bond over a shared event. You could also host virtual game nights, or provide team lunches to celebrate wins. Any excuse to engage with each other in a non-work context can help employees feel more connected and part of the team, and there are plenty of options to make it work virtually.
  • Streamlining communication. Good communication is both a constituent factor and a byproduct of effective company culture. If you want your culture to thrive, you have to set good standards for communication, and encourage your employees to communicate with each other consistently and openly. People need to feel heard when they speak, and feel comfortable voicing their opinions—even if they don’t agree with their superiors. There should also be easily accessible channels for communication at all levels. Over time, this foundation will help your employee communication improve.
  • Improving transparency. Workplace transparency is important for any employer, but it’s especially important for remote businesses trying to build or maintain a strong culture—and it’s challenging if you’re operating remotely. If you’re open and honest about your goals and how you operate, employees will feel more trusted and more engaged with their work. Strive to answer questions honestly and disclose your motivations.
  • Publishing and reiterating company core values. One of the biggest factors responsible for making a company culture unique is its set of core values. Spend some time developing and refining your list of core values. Once finished, publish them for all employees to read, and make time to reiterate them regularly so employees remember them.
  • Making employees feel valued. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make your employees feel valued. Take the time to show your appreciation however you can, whether it’s through a simple thank-you message or an occasional cash bonus, and be sure to listen to employee feedback when you get it.

Building a work culture in a remote environment is more challenging, and requires consideration of more variables, but it’s certainly possible with the right mentality. Spend time setting your priorities, and make sure you’re consistent in your execution.

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