Information Management 2 - Blogs & RSS

This is 2nd entry in a 3-part series on my how I consume news and information for my interests and career. My weekly digest is curated through these sources primarily. The part 1 introduction including Twitter and Twitter lists is available here.

The second major source for the various articles I read are blogs. I didn't mention this in my first post, but I don't follow general news. I don't really read the paper and my sources are typically domain specific for the transportation and urban issues realm.

Honestly, general news depresses me. Most of the time the reporting isn't very deep and is more about shock value and repetition. I find it far more interesting and time efficient/effective to get deep knowledge about my interest area(s) from a range of sources. To this end, blogs have been a major part of my content consumption strategy. 

From my previous post, my Twitter list is centred around transportation and urban issues (including policy and economics) mainly for the Ontario area. I used to try having multiple lists for local vs. non-local issues, but it was far too difficult to manage and too much content. Putting everything into one spread my efforts too thin and it was impossible to keep up. I don't maintain the same regional exclusivity for blogs.

Blogs & RSS Feeds

So the first thing about blogs is how to manage them, especially if you're going to follow more than just a few, and may not necessarily be able to read all the content, every day. The key to this is an RSS feed reader. Most blogs offer an email subscription and notification service (at time of writing this I'm still in the process of setting one up), which drops you a line when a new post has released. I also would email myself articles that I came across and tried various browser and smart device reading list functionality. It didn't work for me. Quickly my inbox filled up with articles and it was impossible to stay on top of it.

I'm not going to type up a 101 session on what RSS is, you can go here for that, but basically it's an aggregation service to bring multiple content sources into one page. RSS feeds are available for blogs, but also some newspapers and more official sources publish updates in this format. My "RSS feed reader" of choice is Feedly, this is for no other reason than because I initially used Google Reader and when that was taken offline, Feedly was the easiest migration path.

A sample of Feedly is below. When something I'm subscribed to has new content, it has an unread counter in the left navigation bar, and I can filter by category, all unread, or by source.

In terms of categories, I have mine sorted into the following:

  • Urbanism
  • Politics & Economics
  • Fantasy Football (English Premier League)
  • A Song of Ice and Fire (George RR Martin's masterpiece)
  • Funny stuff
  • Other & Friends

It probably doesn't make sense at this point for me to list all of the blogs I subscribe to, but I will say that my favourites by category are as follows:

  • Urbanism
    • Brandon Donnelly - He's a real estate guy that blogs most days about development
    • City Observatory - great urban related articles and deeper analysis of general issues
    • CityLab - formerly Atlantic Cities. Covers everything urban. US-centric.
    • Planetizen - an urban news aggregator. They typically resummarize content and also post the original link
    • ReNew Canada - Canadian infrastructure magazine. Usually a good indicator and summary of new projects and developments across the country
    • Spacing - the blog version of the magazine. Canada's gold standard in detailed urban analysis and content from a planning perspective
    • Steve Munro - Toronto's resident, dare I say, professional transit commentator
    • Urban Toronto - a forum that has evolved to summarizing and covering all the new developments in the Toronto region
  • Politics & Economics
    • Behind the Numbers - economic and policy analysis blog, typically looking at Canadian federal government
    • Freakonomics - this is mainly a text version of their podcasts which I subscribe to
    • ThreeHundredEight.com - Canadian politics polling analysis
  • Funnies
    • The Oatmeal - nuff said
    • Xkcd - silly stick figure nerdy cartoons
    • Textastrophe - text message pranking
    • What If - explanations of random "why" and "what if" questions by the XKCD people. hilarious

Anyway, hope you found this valuable. Look for the RSS logo on many content sources and centralize for efficiency. The best thing is that where there are new articles, the RSS feed gives you the title and a short summary of the content so you can choose to read or skip articles.