Tools for Taming the Media

The daily onslaught of information made manifest by the Web is both a blessing and a dilemma experienced by anyone with an Internet connection and a few subscriptions. There are any number of individual strategies for dealing with it, so, out of curiosity, we asked a couple of power users — Clay Shirky and John Battelle — to share their go-to media apps.


John Battelle Founder, Federated Media

Given that I curate a media product and am addicted to industry news, I consume a ton of media-related services. First and foremost is my RSS reader (Shrook for Mac), which I know is passé, but it's the only way I can quickly scan headlines from nearly 150 different sites -- industry, local and national news, and other aggregators like Hacker News, Techmeme, The Browser, Mediagazer and more. Second is email. Again, old school, but it's where I get curated headlines from services like Percolate and News.me, as well as human powered goodness like Jason Hirschhorn's Media ReDEFined, Dave Pell's NextDraft, I Want Media and FM's DailyBuzz newsletters. I'm not a huge fan of apps, as anyone who reads my site knows, but I do peruse Flipboard to tame my Twitter and Facebook feeds. And I use Evernote like a maniac to cull the web for projects I'm working on (like my next book, or a new project I'm considering that must remain stealth at this point). I think that about covers it!
Clay Shirky headshot

Clay Shirky Associate Arts Professor and Distinguished Writer in Residence, NYU

At this point, my media diet is like Istanbul, layers of ancient and modern all mixed together. My main dashboard is Netvibes, the RSS reader (so 2004!), which I use to track several generalist sites -- Crooked Timber and 3Quarks daily, Slashdot and BoingBoing, Guardian and Al Jazeera. I'm addicted to reddit, as all right-thinking people are, and check r/politics and r/worldnews daily. After that, a lot of it comes via email (so 1974!). The three media mails I most look forward to start with thelistserve.com (it's usually the oddest of the three). Next is News.me, a) because they use click-stream data from bit.ly, so they have a better raw filter, and b) no matter how many thousands of things people shared yesterday in my stream, they just mail me 5 links a day. I also subscribe to Conor Friedersdorf's "The Best of Journalism," three great stories curated by an actual human being. The long tail of email is a bunch of Google alerts on various subjects I'm tracking -- Kony, newspaper economics, stuff like that. But for all that, the most important tool I have isn't an application, it's discipline. There are lots of applications that start with the premise "Did you know that there are interesting things on the Internet that _you haven't seen yet???_ (Which: yes, we know.) The trick is to adopt both tools and practices that maximize relevance instead of volume, and minimize time spent searching in favor of time spent reading. Tools can help with that (as with News.me), but the most important thing isn't the tool, but the mindset of the user.

Must-Reads from other Websites

Panos Mourdoukoutas

Why Apple Should Buy China’s Xiaomi

Paul Graham

What I Didn’t Say

Benjamin Bratton

We Need to Talk About TED

Mat Honan

I, Glasshole: My Year With Google Glass

Chris Ware

All Together Now

Corey S. Powell and Laurie Gwen Shapiro

The Sculpture on the Moon

About Voices

Along with original content and posts from across the Dow Jones network, this section of AllThingsD includes Must-Reads From Other Websites — pieces we’ve read, discussions we’ve followed, stuff we like. Six posts from external sites are included here each weekday, but we only run the headlines. We link to the original sites for the rest. These posts are explicitly labeled, so it’s clear that the content comes from other websites, and for clarity’s sake, all outside posts run against a pink background.

We also solicit original full-length posts and accept some unsolicited submissions.

Read more »