Reading Comprehension and other controversies

Rob Lagesse doesn’t believe I actually read (or contribute to) many things that come through my RSS feeds. Or on my link blog.

First off, I’ve read everything on my link blog. Often twice. Why twice? Because I read that stuff in my feed reader (right now it’s Google Reader) and then I usually visit the item’s originating page. Why? To check on comments. Comments, I’ve learned, are often some of the most interesting things.

But, it’s interesting to have a discussion about just what is “reading” anyway.

There’s two separate styles of reading that I notice I’m in. One is a “grazing” style of reading where I’m just looking at the item and doing some quick pattern recognition on it.

Tell me, do you need to read all 600 words of a Viagra ad before you know it’s spam and before you’ll delete it? No. I don’t even need to read past the headline. My mind is very attuned to whether something is good or not right away.

Our minds are awesome pattern recognizers. After all, if I flash a picture of a tree in front of you for 1/30th of a second and then ask you what it is, you’ll answer “tree” every single time. How does your mind do that? Even our best image recognizers (er, like Riya) have trouble doing that in a lot longer than 1/30th of a second.

So, when I look at my feeds, that’s what I’m doing. Just looking and deciding whether something is interesting or not. I look at it like a quality control person on an almond line does. Where’s the good one? If I miss a couple of good ones that head toward the trash, who cares? I’d rather not let any bad ones get through this original processing.

Usually that gets it down to about 15 posts out of 100. OK, now we can read the items in more depth.

That’s when I switch from grazing mode to high comprehension mode. I read every sentence and see if it’s something I’m really interested in and if it is of high enough quality that I want to keep it around.

As to whether I’m part of the community or not, well, I only subscribe to a feed if I’m really interested in it. I have 577 feeds, all of which are high quality and usually about the tech industry.

My Google Reader right now reports:

 

From your 577 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 31,775 items, starred 2 items, and shared 1,696 items.

When it says I’ve read 31,775 items, that means I actually did look at those items. I usually ONLY use the “J” key and very rarely hit “Mark all as read.” Every single one of those 1,696 items was read by me, approved by me, and found interesting by me. Almost all of them are on the tech industry in some way. Very few duplicates (I hate duplicates, so if 400 bloggers are talking about the iPhone I only will post less than a handful and I actively look for the best posts).

I estimate about 30% of my items end up on TechMeme. Fewer on Digg. Although TechMeme seems to use my link blog as one of the things it learns from (it never gives credit, but invariably lately some of the things I put on my link blog pop up on TechMeme within an hour).

So, I guarantee I’ve looked at all these items.

Do you want me to take a day’s worth of items and explain why I found them interesting? I might do that as a video.

You can see some of my feed reading behavior (only the “pattern recognition” part) in my presentation from last Thursday. Just watch the first few minutes of my presentation, I show you what I was looking at in Google Reader and how I separate out the wheat from the chaff.

Comments

  1. Wow, if people say your videos put them to sleep then just wait for the video of you reading feeds. :-)

    I find that I have a hard time switching between scanning and reading, I tend to star items I want to fully delve into and then go back and read fully. Thank goodness for the ‘j’ shortcut key though!

  2. Wow, if people say your videos put them to sleep then just wait for the video of you reading feeds. :-)

    I find that I have a hard time switching between scanning and reading, I tend to star items I want to fully delve into and then go back and read fully. Thank goodness for the ‘j’ shortcut key though!

  3. Wow, if people say your videos put them to sleep then just wait for the video of you reading feeds. :-)

    I find that I have a hard time switching between scanning and reading, I tend to star items I want to fully delve into and then go back and read fully. Thank goodness for the ‘j’ shortcut key though!

  4. NewzCrawler says I’ve read 26,984 items in the last 30 days. I’m too lazy to count feeds (and it doesn’t give me an automatic count, tsk tsk), but your numbers sound perfectly reasonable to me.

    Probably means I should have my head examined :)

  5. NewzCrawler says I’ve read 26,984 items in the last 30 days. I’m too lazy to count feeds (and it doesn’t give me an automatic count, tsk tsk), but your numbers sound perfectly reasonable to me.

    Probably means I should have my head examined :)

  6. NewzCrawler says I’ve read 26,984 items in the last 30 days. I’m too lazy to count feeds (and it doesn’t give me an automatic count, tsk tsk), but your numbers sound perfectly reasonable to me.

    Probably means I should have my head examined :)

  7. Google Reader says: “From your 103 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 11,247 items, starred 0 items, and shared 356 items.”

    As my fulltime day job isn’t blog and RSS-related, I believe this is probably the peak I can take, at around 500 a day or so. But I do read every single one. I do hit “Mark All As Read” when I start seeing repeats in categories from Google News keywords, but that’s it.

    I expect you read them all. And oddly, I expect people I talk to in the tech world to have read everything I have. It does them a disservice not to.

  8. Google Reader says: “From your 103 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 11,247 items, starred 0 items, and shared 356 items.”

    As my fulltime day job isn’t blog and RSS-related, I believe this is probably the peak I can take, at around 500 a day or so. But I do read every single one. I do hit “Mark All As Read” when I start seeing repeats in categories from Google News keywords, but that’s it.

    I expect you read them all. And oddly, I expect people I talk to in the tech world to have read everything I have. It does them a disservice not to.

  9. Google Reader says: “From your 103 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 11,247 items, starred 0 items, and shared 356 items.”

    As my fulltime day job isn’t blog and RSS-related, I believe this is probably the peak I can take, at around 500 a day or so. But I do read every single one. I do hit “Mark All As Read” when I start seeing repeats in categories from Google News keywords, but that’s it.

    I expect you read them all. And oddly, I expect people I talk to in the tech world to have read everything I have. It does them a disservice not to.

  10. How long Scoble before you declare yourself a better “filter” than Techmeme?

    Also, I can’t help but wonder about your “mostly tech industry” readings. It’s obvious that, and it’s true for many other things, that if you are hungry for new stuff, the really new stuff comes from other or overlapping industries.

    For instance, media industry. Media are embracing conversations and videos and all the usual suspects in their sites, at a fast pace. Means that individuals who thought what they referred to as “media siloes” were dead are the ones who have been fooled. By none other than A-listers…

  11. How long Scoble before you declare yourself a better “filter” than Techmeme?

    Also, I can’t help but wonder about your “mostly tech industry” readings. It’s obvious that, and it’s true for many other things, that if you are hungry for new stuff, the really new stuff comes from other or overlapping industries.

    For instance, media industry. Media are embracing conversations and videos and all the usual suspects in their sites, at a fast pace. Means that individuals who thought what they referred to as “media siloes” were dead are the ones who have been fooled. By none other than A-listers…

  12. How long Scoble before you declare yourself a better “filter” than Techmeme?

    Also, I can’t help but wonder about your “mostly tech industry” readings. It’s obvious that, and it’s true for many other things, that if you are hungry for new stuff, the really new stuff comes from other or overlapping industries.

    For instance, media industry. Media are embracing conversations and videos and all the usual suspects in their sites, at a fast pace. Means that individuals who thought what they referred to as “media siloes” were dead are the ones who have been fooled. By none other than A-listers…

  13. Hi Scoble,

    Have you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink? (http://www.gladwell.com/blink/)

    It’s an easy-to-read book with quirky stories about rapid cognition – about making the type of quick decisions that you’re talking about. It’s not quite intuition, but if someone can believe in the decisions you make in those 2 seconds, then as an expert they can do some amazing things.

  14. Hi Scoble,

    Have you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink? (http://www.gladwell.com/blink/)

    It’s an easy-to-read book with quirky stories about rapid cognition – about making the type of quick decisions that you’re talking about. It’s not quite intuition, but if someone can believe in the decisions you make in those 2 seconds, then as an expert they can do some amazing things.

  15. Hi Scoble,

    Have you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink? (http://www.gladwell.com/blink/)

    It’s an easy-to-read book with quirky stories about rapid cognition – about making the type of quick decisions that you’re talking about. It’s not quite intuition, but if someone can believe in the decisions you make in those 2 seconds, then as an expert they can do some amazing things.

  16. Nah – it wasn’t “Scobleized” – it was the main drive. Running off the mirror now. But yeah, Robert does drive more traffic than my cable-modem hosted blog really likes :)

    @Robert – I wasn’t suggesting that you were fudging your numbers – just that you can’t be involved in all of the blogs you are “reading” (no matter what your definition of “reading” is). It’s about “attention” – the more blogs you are subscribed to the less attention you can pay any of them.

    And I would rather see WHY you starred something, or shared it. I know Google Reader doesn’t let you do that (yet, anyway – I’ve seen a lot of talk about it on the Google Reader Group, so maybe they’ll add that capability).

    And I wouldn’t watch a video of you reading feeds – but I would watch one of you *discussing* the feeds you find interesting – especially if you were discussing the trends you see by reading so many feeds. I think the trends might be the most interesting thing.

  17. Nah – it wasn’t “Scobleized” – it was the main drive. Running off the mirror now. But yeah, Robert does drive more traffic than my cable-modem hosted blog really likes :)

    @Robert – I wasn’t suggesting that you were fudging your numbers – just that you can’t be involved in all of the blogs you are “reading” (no matter what your definition of “reading” is). It’s about “attention” – the more blogs you are subscribed to the less attention you can pay any of them.

    And I would rather see WHY you starred something, or shared it. I know Google Reader doesn’t let you do that (yet, anyway – I’ve seen a lot of talk about it on the Google Reader Group, so maybe they’ll add that capability).

    And I wouldn’t watch a video of you reading feeds – but I would watch one of you *discussing* the feeds you find interesting – especially if you were discussing the trends you see by reading so many feeds. I think the trends might be the most interesting thing.

  18. Nah – it wasn’t “Scobleized” – it was the main drive. Running off the mirror now. But yeah, Robert does drive more traffic than my cable-modem hosted blog really likes :)

    @Robert – I wasn’t suggesting that you were fudging your numbers – just that you can’t be involved in all of the blogs you are “reading” (no matter what your definition of “reading” is). It’s about “attention” – the more blogs you are subscribed to the less attention you can pay any of them.

    And I would rather see WHY you starred something, or shared it. I know Google Reader doesn’t let you do that (yet, anyway – I’ve seen a lot of talk about it on the Google Reader Group, so maybe they’ll add that capability).

    And I wouldn’t watch a video of you reading feeds – but I would watch one of you *discussing* the feeds you find interesting – especially if you were discussing the trends you see by reading so many feeds. I think the trends might be the most interesting thing.

  19. I find it incredibly interesting to see what does pass the Scoble filter. Sure, techmeme and those others tell me what other people think are interesting but you have built a lot of community here, we know what sort of transparency we can count on here and quite honestly, I am interested in your thoughts via the links.

    And, I am jealous of the ability to find the time to read/process that much information. Thanks for sharing.

  20. I find it incredibly interesting to see what does pass the Scoble filter. Sure, techmeme and those others tell me what other people think are interesting but you have built a lot of community here, we know what sort of transparency we can count on here and quite honestly, I am interested in your thoughts via the links.

    And, I am jealous of the ability to find the time to read/process that much information. Thanks for sharing.

  21. I find it incredibly interesting to see what does pass the Scoble filter. Sure, techmeme and those others tell me what other people think are interesting but you have built a lot of community here, we know what sort of transparency we can count on here and quite honestly, I am interested in your thoughts via the links.

    And, I am jealous of the ability to find the time to read/process that much information. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Hi Robert,

    great presentation! Hope to see you again at reboot this year!

    One request: would you mind making your OPML publicly available? Would love a peek into what you read and I don’t (diff ftw!)!

    All the best,
    Max Niederhofer

  23. Hi Robert,

    great presentation! Hope to see you again at reboot this year!

    One request: would you mind making your OPML publicly available? Would love a peek into what you read and I don’t (diff ftw!)!

    All the best,
    Max Niederhofer

  24. Hi Robert,

    great presentation! Hope to see you again at reboot this year!

    One request: would you mind making your OPML publicly available? Would love a peek into what you read and I don’t (diff ftw!)!

    All the best,
    Max Niederhofer

  25. 7: Why would you host your own blog over cable modem connection (or DSL) when there are so many free services to do it for you?

    Just curious. I did that too for a few months to get a look at what the Apache logs would reveal, but I also noticed an uptick in the number of hits on vulnerable (to Windows) ports, so I just moved all the content to Blogger rather than endure all the wasted packets.

  26. 7: Why would you host your own blog over cable modem connection (or DSL) when there are so many free services to do it for you?

    Just curious. I did that too for a few months to get a look at what the Apache logs would reveal, but I also noticed an uptick in the number of hits on vulnerable (to Windows) ports, so I just moved all the content to Blogger rather than endure all the wasted packets.

  27. 7: Why would you host your own blog over cable modem connection (or DSL) when there are so many free services to do it for you?

    Just curious. I did that too for a few months to get a look at what the Apache logs would reveal, but I also noticed an uptick in the number of hits on vulnerable (to Windows) ports, so I just moved all the content to Blogger rather than endure all the wasted packets.

  28. Hi Robert,

    After your presentation and conversation last Thursday, I got serious about Google Reader this weekend and know exactly what you mean about the recognition patterns. It reminded me of some reading tests I took back in the sixth grade where the words scrolled faster and faster then there were comprehension tests.

    Using the j/k trick is slick, even faster than the space bar. Keyboard shortcuts are the only way to maintain speed.

    Look out, I’m going to shoot for your spot as the reader of the most articles. ;^) Today I imported a couple of years worth of feed links from MyYahoo! so I’ve got lots of weeding out to do. The import/export functionality is new? Sure is fast, painless and intuitive.

    With all these incoming feeds, it’s a good thing I discovered s and shift+s!

    Since most of my use so far was in the last three days, does this data indicate Google Reader abuse?

    From your 345 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 5,956 items, starred 213 items, and shared 415 items.

    Next step is to organize the tags into meaningful content…

    Best regards,

    Susan

  29. Hi Robert,

    After your presentation and conversation last Thursday, I got serious about Google Reader this weekend and know exactly what you mean about the recognition patterns. It reminded me of some reading tests I took back in the sixth grade where the words scrolled faster and faster then there were comprehension tests.

    Using the j/k trick is slick, even faster than the space bar. Keyboard shortcuts are the only way to maintain speed.

    Look out, I’m going to shoot for your spot as the reader of the most articles. ;^) Today I imported a couple of years worth of feed links from MyYahoo! so I’ve got lots of weeding out to do. The import/export functionality is new? Sure is fast, painless and intuitive.

    With all these incoming feeds, it’s a good thing I discovered s and shift+s!

    Since most of my use so far was in the last three days, does this data indicate Google Reader abuse?

    From your 345 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 5,956 items, starred 213 items, and shared 415 items.

    Next step is to organize the tags into meaningful content…

    Best regards,

    Susan

  30. Hi Robert,

    After your presentation and conversation last Thursday, I got serious about Google Reader this weekend and know exactly what you mean about the recognition patterns. It reminded me of some reading tests I took back in the sixth grade where the words scrolled faster and faster then there were comprehension tests.

    Using the j/k trick is slick, even faster than the space bar. Keyboard shortcuts are the only way to maintain speed.

    Look out, I’m going to shoot for your spot as the reader of the most articles. ;^) Today I imported a couple of years worth of feed links from MyYahoo! so I’ve got lots of weeding out to do. The import/export functionality is new? Sure is fast, painless and intuitive.

    With all these incoming feeds, it’s a good thing I discovered s and shift+s!

    Since most of my use so far was in the last three days, does this data indicate Google Reader abuse?

    From your 345 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 5,956 items, starred 213 items, and shared 415 items.

    Next step is to organize the tags into meaningful content…

    Best regards,

    Susan

  31. Scoble, how does Google Reader know you actually READ something? It doesn’t. All it does is mark it as read, but your readers have no idea if you actually read it,even if it did pass your pattern recognition filter. And even the ones you say you do say you read because you shared them, you have in the past shown evidence of misreading things, not comprehending things, and missing the point of many blog posts. The volume of your “reading” simply lends itself to that type of sloppiness.

  32. Scoble, how does Google Reader know you actually READ something? It doesn’t. All it does is mark it as read, but your readers have no idea if you actually read it,even if it did pass your pattern recognition filter. And even the ones you say you do say you read because you shared them, you have in the past shown evidence of misreading things, not comprehending things, and missing the point of many blog posts. The volume of your “reading” simply lends itself to that type of sloppiness.

  33. Scoble, how does Google Reader know you actually READ something? It doesn’t. All it does is mark it as read, but your readers have no idea if you actually read it,even if it did pass your pattern recognition filter. And even the ones you say you do say you read because you shared them, you have in the past shown evidence of misreading things, not comprehending things, and missing the point of many blog posts. The volume of your “reading” simply lends itself to that type of sloppiness.

  34. “Do you want me to take a day’s worth of items and explain why I found them interesting? I might do that as a video.”

    Actually, I think that would be awesome. I’d love to get some insight into what catches your attention, what you consider quality content and, more importantly, the things that you filter out.

    You also mentioned in your post that when you find duplicate content (multiple iPhones for example) that you “actively look for the best posts.” That would make another interesting post here on your blog. When you find duplicates, what determinse which posts ‘are the best’ and which are just noise?

  35. “Do you want me to take a day’s worth of items and explain why I found them interesting? I might do that as a video.”

    Actually, I think that would be awesome. I’d love to get some insight into what catches your attention, what you consider quality content and, more importantly, the things that you filter out.

    You also mentioned in your post that when you find duplicate content (multiple iPhones for example) that you “actively look for the best posts.” That would make another interesting post here on your blog. When you find duplicates, what determinse which posts ‘are the best’ and which are just noise?

  36. “Do you want me to take a day’s worth of items and explain why I found them interesting? I might do that as a video.”

    Actually, I think that would be awesome. I’d love to get some insight into what catches your attention, what you consider quality content and, more importantly, the things that you filter out.

    You also mentioned in your post that when you find duplicate content (multiple iPhones for example) that you “actively look for the best posts.” That would make another interesting post here on your blog. When you find duplicates, what determinse which posts ‘are the best’ and which are just noise?

  37. Great post, thanks for the insights.

    I use NetNewsWire on the Mac myself, but my techniques are similar. I’m glad it doesn’t offer the statistics you get from Google Reader – if I saw how much stuff I read on a monthly basis it would probably depress me…

  38. Great post, thanks for the insights.

    I use NetNewsWire on the Mac myself, but my techniques are similar. I’m glad it doesn’t offer the statistics you get from Google Reader – if I saw how much stuff I read on a monthly basis it would probably depress me…

  39. Great post, thanks for the insights.

    I use NetNewsWire on the Mac myself, but my techniques are similar. I’m glad it doesn’t offer the statistics you get from Google Reader – if I saw how much stuff I read on a monthly basis it would probably depress me…

  40. @macbeach: I host it on my cable modem because I have complete control over it, and I can freely run my own code on the server. And because I don’t blog to a volume crowd anyway, so normally the bandwidth is no issue. I have been considering renting a dedicated server where I still get root access – but I still haven’t found one that lets me install anything I want on it (not for less than about $300/month anyway)

    Rob

  41. @macbeach: I host it on my cable modem because I have complete control over it, and I can freely run my own code on the server. And because I don’t blog to a volume crowd anyway, so normally the bandwidth is no issue. I have been considering renting a dedicated server where I still get root access – but I still haven’t found one that lets me install anything I want on it (not for less than about $300/month anyway)

    Rob

  42. @macbeach: I host it on my cable modem because I have complete control over it, and I can freely run my own code on the server. And because I don’t blog to a volume crowd anyway, so normally the bandwidth is no issue. I have been considering renting a dedicated server where I still get root access – but I still haven’t found one that lets me install anything I want on it (not for less than about $300/month anyway)

    Rob

  43. Right on. I recently answered a LinkedIn Answers question about “what’s your favorite podcast” with “none,” explaining that until I can scan a podcast the way I scan through Google Reader posts, it’s no contest.

  44. Right on. I recently answered a LinkedIn Answers question about “what’s your favorite podcast” with “none,” explaining that until I can scan a podcast the way I scan through Google Reader posts, it’s no contest.

  45. Right on. I recently answered a LinkedIn Answers question about “what’s your favorite podcast” with “none,” explaining that until I can scan a podcast the way I scan through Google Reader posts, it’s no contest.

  46. As my fulltime day job isn’t blog and RSS-related, I believe this is probably the peak I can take, at around 500 a day or so. But I do read every single one. I do hit “Mark All As Read” when I start seeing repeats in categories from Google News keywords, but that’s it.

  47. As my fulltime day job isn’t blog and RSS-related, I believe this is probably the peak I can take, at around 500 a day or so. But I do read every single one. I do hit “Mark All As Read” when I start seeing repeats in categories from Google News keywords, but that’s it.

  48. As my fulltime day job isn’t blog and RSS-related, I believe this is probably the peak I can take, at around 500 a day or so. But I do read every single one. I do hit “Mark All As Read” when I start seeing repeats in categories from Google News keywords, but that’s it.

  49. Speaking of reading comprehension…

    In my research I have found that you can read any type of text faster without compromising on quality. How you approach the material is, of course, important. But with practice even a law student can increase their physical reading rate by at least three times. Some people just skim and that may be fine to find out whether or not something is junk. But for quality, speed reading is the way to go.

  50. Speaking of reading comprehension…

    In my research I have found that you can read any type of text faster without compromising on quality. How you approach the material is, of course, important. But with practice even a law student can increase their physical reading rate by at least three times. Some people just skim and that may be fine to find out whether or not something is junk. But for quality, speed reading is the way to go.

  51. Speaking of reading comprehension…

    In my research I have found that you can read any type of text faster without compromising on quality. How you approach the material is, of course, important. But with practice even a law student can increase their physical reading rate by at least three times. Some people just skim and that may be fine to find out whether or not something is junk. But for quality, speed reading is the way to go.