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I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing: The Agony & Ecstasy of the Real-time Web

I find myself at a cross­roads with new real-time tools and old school meth­ods like RSS. I’m find­ing myself more drawn into Twit­ter than ever before for track­ing the peo­ple and top­ics I care about most, but I’m always para­noid that I’m miss­ing some­thing bril­liant as the news flies by. So I keep Google Read­er locked and loaded as back­up, only to find myself over­whelmed by 1000+ unread items when I arrive, much of which I’ve seen through­out the day on oth­er ser­vices. The real-time web is a thrill ride of instant grat­i­fi­ca­tion for the news-obsessed, but the oth­er side of that coin means we’re prob­a­bly miss­ing more rel­e­vant sto­ries than we real­ize.

How do I rec­on­cile these things? Will real-time tools ever offer the reas­sur­ance RSS does for the news junkies among us?

To resolve this ten­sion, I’m exper­i­ment­ing a bit. The new Google+ iPhone app has changed that plat­form for me. I’ve dab­bled with it in the past and use it for work, but now I find it a part of my reg­u­lar rou­tine. What’s more is that I’m using Cir­cles more effec­tive­ly to fol­low my favorite sources than I’ve ever done with lists on Twit­ter. Makes the streams more man­age­able and I feel like I am engag­ing the con­tent more, by +1’ing, com­ment­ing and shar­ing.

Does every source I have in Google Read­er use it? No, but I hope that Google finds a way to incor­po­rate that func­tion­al­i­ty soon. Would be a tremen­dous improve­ment over the cur­rent, inter­face, rich with images and sharp, eas­i­ly read fonts. Has the look and feel of News.me with­out being a digest of the most pop­u­lar sto­ries you prob­a­bly saw repeat­ed­ly through­out the day.

The real-time web is like a par­ty inas­much as you might hear some­one across the room say your name, but you can’t make out what they’re say­ing. It’s dis­tract­ing. As great as these real-time tools are, none offer the reas­sur­ance RSS does, or even a tool as crude as Google Alerts. With RSS, I may be late to that par­ty, but I don’t end up miss­ing it alto­geth­er. Some peo­ple take solace in the crowd­source method and believe that big news will find them. That’s prob­a­bly right for the major play­ers in the social web, but what about small sto­ries that are still rel­e­vant to those of us who aren’t being spoon-fed links? Isn’t that the point of the whole cura­tion thing? Often times it’s the tiny sto­ries from obscure sources that become the back­ground mate­r­i­al for the whop­pers that hit the main­stream.

Is there a way to plug the holes in the sieve we call the real-time web? Talk to me, newsies!

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