Thoughts on Planet Mozilla
One of the biggest struggles I face every day is information overload, just like most of the people reading this post. As a result I am constantly reassessing the value of various feeds in my RSS reader and viciously pruning the ones I don’t really need. I don’t subscribe to any feed that produces more than 5-10 items a day anymore since the high-volume feeds like Slashdot and Boing Boing, while often fascinating, just make me depressed and stressed as the number of unread items piles up.
The odd man out is Planet Mozilla. As an active member of the Mozilla community, I can’t not subscribe to this feed. Some of the items (probably several a day) are absolutely vital reading for me if I am to do my job correctly. But the volume of postings makes me depressed and stressed in exactly the way I just mentioned. Particularly irksome is the fact that the vast majority (perhaps 90%) of the posts aren’t of interest to me at all.
Before I go further, let me stress how great Planet Mozilla is and what a personal debt I owe to it. When I began blogging in 2004, I had zero readers, and I had to go about building an audience the hard way (i.e. by humiliating link whoring). When I got onto Planet, my audience increased immensely in one fell swoop, and the new readers were mostly highly informed and articulate (exactly the opposite of what you get by being linked to by, say, Robert Scoble). When I started this blog, I was on Planet from the get go, and it was amazing to have such an immediate and high-quality readership.
All this to say that I understand how hard it is to do anything with p.m.o except add more and more feeds to it. Any disruption to the status quo will lead to howls of protest from people like me who benefit from this great resource. But eventually something has to give. Having a big audience is of diminishing value if the volume of the feed is so high that people don’t have time to read (or even scan) most of it.
When I first started begging for Peer Pressure to be added to p.m.o, I was told that there was discussion about splitting it into multiple feeds. I just checked and there are indeed a few smaller feeds (e.g. Planet Firefox) that are more or less a subset of p.m.o. But this isn’t enough to have the flexibility to make a real choice about which items are of interest (at least not for me). Just looking at the 60-odd unread items in my feed right now, I would suggest that the following categories as sensible:
Something I don’t see right now but that I have seen in the past are posts from people who used to be big contributors to the Mozilla community, but now have nothing to do with it and never write about anything to do with Mozilla. In at least one instance I saw a person fitting this description complain when they were removed (they were then reinstated, much to my chagrin). So perhaps a “Mozilla alumni” feed would make sense as well.
This categorization is by no means definitive. My point is that it is possible to categorize the posts. I’d be ecstatic if the feed were split into 10 or so separate feeds along the lines of what I proposed above. The best part is that, due to the caliber of our blog authors, we can count on people tagging their posts intelligently so they can be included in multiple feeds, if appropriate, without muddying the waters. I certainly have no issue whatsoever with leaving Planet Mozilla exactly as it is now (and continuing to add new feeds frequently), as long as separate feeds are available as an alternative.
But that’s just me. Perhaps I’m the only one who sees this as an issue.
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