I read books, magazines and newspapers by the truckload, scan RSS feeds by the hundreds and process emails by what seems like the thousands if not more. I also listen to podcasts, Audible's Wall Street Journal daily feed, audio lectures and audiobooks. Finally, I rarely watch television and pick up a random snippet.
These are all, without question, silos of information. Many of these modalities are natively electronic, like feeds and email, and some originated that way to be printed later, like the vast majority of books I receive via Amazon. They are not, however, cross indexed for me so I can peruse, search, and annotate information I like. These are often items that are customized by me, and therefore far beyond Google's noble goals to index, as they are never exposed to my unique incarnation of that data. They are also focused around the portal itself, and not around the user (me) who is the consumer of said inputs.
I was looking at two items just today, the Sony Reader ebook device, as well as the Amazon Upgrade service, which allows you to store an electronic version of a purchased book on their site for online annotation and searching. These got me thinking about my access to the vast information flow coming at me, and the best way to manage the volume in an intelligent way, short of turning off spigots, which seems rather self-limiting, as each one offers content that I need.
Let me say up front that any overlap in content across these modalities is purely deliberate at this point, as I am walking a fine line between too much duplicate content vs. very few sources of similar content causing a monoculture or path-dependency reaction (as would be the case if I only read libertarian blogs). If the information were to be funneled through a particular pipe (other than my aging eyes), I could apply policy to the inbound flow and help prioritize, determine relevance, find adjacent recommendations, and the like.
All of the above inputs, but with electronic versions available to me either online on-demand, or downloadable (I needed this on the flight yesterday), indexed and searchable. When I buy a physical book through Amazon, the free, accompanying electronic version should be added to my library there immediately and exposed via a private RSS feed (as is the case with Audible.com and WSJ subscriptions) that can be indexed by Spotlight on my Mac. This way, all of my purchased knowledge is aggregated for me on-demand, regardless of origination point.
I recently listened to a podcast that came with an online transcript. This is a perfect addition to the index. The same thing should also be included with Audible's audiobooks.
If I am using a laptop to read (scary thought), it should track my status in a book or podcast just as iTunes does with audiobooks right now, and translate that to a particular reference point in an ebook-version (on my ebook reader) or a time-stamp on an audiobook version, so I don't have to pay a cost to switch modes. The reader, iPod, and laptop should all share the status of my progress through an audiobook, or the 'read/unread' status of podcasts and newsfeeds. This is implemented in a primitive way with the iPod/iTunes combo right now for podcasts and audiobooks, but needs to grow considerably.
So, all of this meme in one word? Multi-modality.
Have any readers discovered useful tools or techniques to manage this inbound flow of information, short of cauterizing yourself to using your computer and the web as your only information portal? (which means I abandon the hours each day when I am not at my computer as non-input time)