When all I have left is my Fun folder, I win

If you don’t use Google Reader or Bloglines or some other feed reader, you can stop reading now.

OK, still here?

Months ago, after at least a couple years of just throwing all my feeds in Google Reader and sorting by newest, reading from the top down and marking all as read when I felt full of information or short on time, I went back to folders.

Back to the folders with the sort of labels I used when I first started with Bloglines in 2005, which predated my use of Newsgator, which predated the existence of the great and powerful, albeit Buzz-infected as of late, Google Reader.

Labels like “Media.” And “Technology.” Pretty vague stuff.

But they do the job — I check “Media” often to make sure I’m not missing anything, although the 2,000+ people I follow on Twitter rarely let news of that sort slip by them. And “Technology” is my dumping ground for TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and the like, which are more about Technology News than the technology itself. And I do enjoy those subscriptions, because it’s not the item that’s been retweeted 1,600 times that I’m interested in. (If it was, I’d subscribe to Mashable, eh?) But rather, it’s the activity on the edges of startups and green tech and Web applications that interest me most. So I keep the subscriptions, skip the obvious Google/Microsoft/Facebook/Twitter commodity news, and try to focus my attention on the smaller bits of detail emerging about newer companies, business models, and indeed, the hardware and software involved.

Work-related feeds are in another folder, and some stray ego searches and other research projects land in something I opaquely label “Searches,” the ingredients of which might change week-to-week as I move among projects, side projects, and side projects of side projects pretty freely.

But my favorite folder is labeled “Fun.”

Wait, don’t judge me yet.

It’s not for the Daily What or whatever your favorite Tumbly source of single-serving-site-of-the-day might be this season (I have Tumblr for that!), but it’s for the feeds full of ideas that I don’t need, but I want. Grown-ups with Ph.D.s like to use the word “serendipity” in this paragraph.

There’s the obvious, linkblogs that bring me more “Fun” fodder, like Fimoculous and Kottke, and slightly less obvious (or verbose) streams like Coudal’s Fresh Signals.

And there’s the Snarkmarkets of the world and the places they send me to, like HiloBrow, BldgBlog, and there’s This Recording, which I can’t remember how I found the first time.

There are the comics, guilty pleasure Dilbert and all, of course xkcd and indexed. These are probably the most “fun” things in the folder, rarely leading to anything but laughter and a vague desire for more geeky t-shirts.

There’s The Awl, which I’ve really been enjoying lately as a source of original amusement as well as links to Actual News About The World But Mostly New York City. Following NYC news 8.5 years after I moved out has a ring of Schadenfreude, to it, I know, but it feels like a window into some parallel universe I might have lived in had things happened differently in 2001.

So the game I play these days in Google Reader is twofold:

  1. What redundant feed about the news business can I unsubscribe to today?
  2. What feed about the weird possible presents and futures I haven’t fully explored can I subscribe to today?

When all I have left is my Fun folder, I win the game.

Here’s a Google Reader bundle with a selection of feeds from my Fun folder. I’m not going to give them all away in that bundle, but if you follow half the feeds in that bunch, they’ll lead you in the direction of more of whatever shiny niche catches your eye.


Modernize your newsroom today

Many employees at news organizations have a very easy time blaming out-of-date computers, front-end print publishing systems, and Web content management systems on such faceless, amorphous entities as “Corporate,” or perhaps “The Budget.”

Nevertheless, there are plenty of free or not-completely-expensive ways you can modernize your newsroom today.

Here are 5.

  1. Use Google Documents (or any one of many similar tools) to share notes and spreadsheets in your newsroom. This makes it far easier for you to move data between desks and access it from anywhere.
  2. Get every reporter and editor in your newsroom an IM account and ask them to stay on it throughout the day. If they’re in the office, this is how they should be sharing links to sources, documents, and references with each other. If they’re working from a laptop in the field, this is a dead simple way to stay in touch and keep each other updated on what they’re working on.
  3. Build an OPML file of local bloggers, news sources, and searches for your newspaper’s name. If your reporters and editors aren’t already using Google Reader, Bloglines, or another RSS reader, just import this file into a central Bloglines account and go around to all their computers bookmarking the “public” view of those feeds.
  4. Set up a Flickr account for your newsroom and make sure everyone knows how to upload to it. This is for more than just pictures that run in your paper or on your site, this is to post stuff from parties and conferences and events. Humanize your newsroom; make your readers feel like they can pick up the phone and call you.
  5. Get every reporter a cell phone or other mobile device with a built-in camera. OK, this one costs money, but if you’re serious about staying in business, you need to be able to publish the news as it happens, not hours or days later. A reporter with a cell phone camera can e-mail photos straight to the newsroom from the field, or when appropriate, straight to the Web. This can be an incremental investment. Buy two or three phones for reporters on cops, city, and general assignment beats at the start, then add more as necessary.

[This post is part of the January Carnival of Journalism, hosted graciously this month by Adrian Monck. Hit that link to see lots of great posts from the last two days.]