Google Reader Ruined The Way I Internet

Background

I shared my knowledge workflow in my last post and the general disarray its been in for a while. I've since refined my workflow and I think I'm pretty close to a workable solution.

I only just realized this week why my workflow was so disjointed. It all began when Google Reader "upgraded" their sharing service to only share to Google+ back in 2011. My only tools used to be Google Reader and Instapaper to consume, filter, and share content across the web. I would quick share to my social networks right from Google Reader and I would save longer posts for later with instapaper. I could even post to my design inspired Tumblr right from reader. Life was simple.

I don't think I realized how disruptive the change was until now because I had been slowly modifying my content consumption long before the switch. The big hitter blogs like Tech Crunch, Lifehacker, Ars Technica, et. al. all posted far too frequently to keep up with in an RSS reader, so I began shifting to Flipboard + Twitter Lists to curate and consume higher volume content sources. Fast forward a few years and the monitzation battles of all the big content creators and brokers (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.) began to add friction to my content consumption workflow by preventing API access, preventing sharing outside their network etc.

How I'm Overcoming This

I really liked the point made over at theangrydrunk.com about Google Reader shutting down.

The real takeaway from the shut-down of Google Reader is not that free services suck — or that paid services are magically better — it’s that users should always have a backup plan for products and services that they find essential.

This is spot on. I was a really early backer of app.net (seriously, user #481) because Dalton Caldwell made a really compelling case in identifying the fundamental problem every major VC backed web giant has with monitization right now. I still believe in the app.net cause, but I'm not putting all my eggs in any one basket like I used to with google—even if I'm paying for that basket. The key is to build in redundancies.

Building a Robust Workflow

I outlined a five step, tool agnostic flow for consumption, reflection, and publishing in my last post.

  1. Capture
  2. Consume
  3. Synthesize
  4. Archive
  5. Publish

Aside from figuring out how I'm going to replace Google Reader in my workflow (noting that I already heavily utilize Twitter and app.net as content sources), I've built multiple layers of redundancies into how I capture and consume content:

  • When I come across a piece of content I either want to save or read later, I use Pinboard to save and tag
  • I have set up several IFTTT recipes to send pinboard links to both instapaper for consumption and to an archive notebook in Evernote
  • I send the full article to Evernote from Instapaper when it resonates with me
  • I bought an Evernote Moleskine for quick note taking to expand on my thoughts
  • I'm using my domain as the starting point for publishing content and then distributing my content to various social networks using IFTTT
  • I create all my blog posts as journal entries in Day One

This way all the content I create lives on my site, all the content I save is stored in multiple locations (Pinboard, Instapaper, Evernote) and all my notes have a physical artifact as a backup.

Bridging Analog and Digital

Like I said above, I bought an Evernote Moleskine and am doubling down on evernote as the central archive of all my notes. The key is that every source that goes into evernote lives somewhere else as a backup.

I've never been one to romanticize notebooks and have been one of those big "anti-paper" types for a long time, but I've always kept a pocket notebook on me and have always been a note taker even though I rarely reference my notes (writing notes down just helps me remember the topic later). I've also been an Evernote user since it was first released in the app store, but I really only used it for snapping quick shots of wine bottles, whiteboards, and other random notes. Since the notebook comes with a premium subscription I figured I'd give it a try and now it's become fairly central to my workflow.

I'm also challenging myself to be a better visual communicator and pen and paper provides a more freeform medium for quick sketches and doodles. I used it to help me think through this workflow.

consume | reflect | publish

consume | reflect | publish

I even use it to mock up some quick page layouts while in meetings instead of firing a heavyweight app like Omnigraffle to make full on wireframes.

layout sketch

layout sketch

It has been really freeing. And I don't worry as much about data integrity or moral integrity of any one of the nodes in my knowledge building network. And I don't worry about losing 5 years worth of journaling in one moment of carelessness either.

Posted on March 17, 2013 .