One of these days, we’re going to do a “This is how I work” series for the VCU ALT Lab team. It’ll be much like the lifehacker series that I love. For whatever reason, I’m totally fascinated by how different people work. I’m particularly interested in how people in similar life and professional spaces as me work. Hence, the forthcoming VCU ALT Lab series, as a starting point.
For now, I wanted to write a bit about how I read. On any given day I read a LOT. I read early and often. In order of increasing length, I read anything from tweets and texts to Facebook posts to blog posts to longform articles to books.
I read on multiple devices. In my office at work, I have a dual monitor setup that gives me lots of reading real estate. My laptop follows me around to lots of places and I read a lot on my laptop. Finally, more than ever, I read a lot on my
phone phablet1. My phablet was ridiculed by many, particular Apple juicers. But, now that Apple came out with the bigger iPhones, I’m suddenly the guy that was ahead of the curve. My point here, though, is that my phablet is a lovely device for reading. I read my first full-length eBook2 entirely on my phablet this summer and it was quite enjoyable.
What do I read? Or, better yet, how do I decide what to read?
I used to live in Google Reader3. I subscribed to dozens of feeds and that was my go-to place to find what I thought I wanted to read. Over time, though, as Twitter became more prominent in my life, Twitter began to be redundant to an RSS reader. I would often check in on Twitter and click on links provided by people or accounts and later see that same link in Google Reader. Redundancy is OK, but time is a limited resource and I found myself mostly just reading what was in the browser tabs I had opened from Twitter. Then, Google Reader died and I came to mostly rely on Twitter (and Facebook on a very limited basis) to find stuff to read.
I still get much of what I read from Twitter4. But, time seems tighter than it used to be and I’m also on the move more; my browser tabs on my office workstation and on my laptop are less accessible during the day than they used to be. So, here are some ways I’ve adjusted my reading habits:
1. I did return to an RSS Reader, but on a very limited basis. I decided to give Newsblur a shot, though on a very limited basis. I use the free version because I’m testing it out and only plan to have a few feeds in there for now. And, that is how it’s worked out. I have a handful of feeds I subscribe to through Newsblur. It’s a super secret list. Your blog might be on it, but probably not… One feed I subscribe to is the ALT Lab blog, 3rd Space. That way, I can be sure to keep up on what my ALT Lab teammates are writing. Also, the Newsblur mobile app is pretty fantastic. It has earned prime real estate on the home page of my phablet.
2. My absolute favorite source of articles to read these days is Caitlin Dewey’s TinyLetter. A while ago, I’d read an article about how tinyletter is making us fall in love with email again. I was intrigued by the resurgence of eNewsletters. Then, about 6 months after that article, Fast Company published Tips on crafting a popular newsletter, from top newsletter authors wherein I discovered Caitlin Dewey. What a revelation. Her daily newsletter is full of links to fun and interesting stories.
As I wrote on Twitter tonight:
— Jon Becker (@jonbecker) October 15, 2014
I want to teach a course where we only read what’s in @caitlindewey‘s TinyLetter and meet 2x a week to chat about the stories.
— Jon Becker (@jonbecker) October 15, 2014
3. One other great source of material for me is Longreads. You can read most of what is curated there for free, or you can pay $3/month to be a Longreads member5. I take the free route, for now. Mostly, I look for The Top 5 Longreads of the Week. You can sign up to get an email every Friday with links to those top 5 stories and/or you can get them as a Readlist for Kindle. Based on my experience with Longreads, and with the caveat of my limited expertise in journalism, I’d say high-quality longform journalism is not dead so much as it is buried. Longreads helps me uncover tremendous journalism and writing.
That covers most of how I read. There’s probably a bit more to it, but having written this, I notice that I collect less reading material on my own and I’ve come to rely more on a small set of trusted curators of content. That may be a function of changes in my professional lifestyle; I don’t know.
I’d be interested in knowing how you read. Care to share?
- A Samsung Note 3 [↩]
- The Circle, ironically [↩]
- RIP [↩]
- There’s another post to be written about how I deal with the dozens of tabs I open in a given day/week. Maybe that’ll wait for the larger “How I work” series. [↩]
- To be honest, I don’t really know what membership buys; I haven’t checked it out yet [↩]