Staying Uncomfortable

I listened to a great conversation today between the president of UR (Ed Ayers– former Professor of the Year and major player in the creation of the Valley of the Shadow project) and a UR Business School professor and VA Professor of the Year (Joe Hoyle). So some high power professors and great teachers. It was really impressive to watch. I’ll be posting the video for it soon. Really great stuff.


Anyway, one of the things they talked about was the danger of becoming too comfortable, complacent. You get set in your ways and things just flow onward while you sit like a rock (my interpretation anyway). It spurred me to do something I’ve been contemplating for a while.

I wiped my Google Reader account. I had 299 feeds until a few moments ago. Now I have none*.

I think the intent here is important. This isn’t a number 11 on Pete’s list. I’m not overwhelmed or cutting down. I’m just starting over rather than pruning.

I’ve had a lot of those feeds for several years. I’ve grown comfortable with them. If I don’t read them I worry I’m missing things. It was a really strange feeling to hit unsubscribe on all of them. Some people are probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about (most never read this far) but RSS feeds are a major part of both my career and my education. To get rid of all that in one fell swoop is intimidating to me.

The point of this is to rebuild from scratch- to see what happens as I add things organically based on what I know now.

Will what I read change? I think it will. I’m looking for more diversity. It’s the internet, right? I think I can find some diversity. So less edtech echo and more challenge and change. After all, I feel the need for different types of growth. I’ve changed and my job has changed. I see it as being far more about community, staffdev, learning and change than about technology. That’s not how I thought once upon a time.

Naturally, there are some people and some feeds that I remember and will add back but it’ll be interesting to see just how many of those there are.

*I do have the exported OPML file so after a few months I’m going to compare new with old to see what matches.

Comments on this post

  1. Mathew said on February 19, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Sounds liberating. I find that I add blogs to my reader (Safari) for whatever reason but then sometimes it’s hard to know why I initially added them. Like you said it’s hard to unsubscribe because you don’t want to miss anything but perhaps cold turkey is the way to go.

  2. Jim Coe said on February 19, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    I’ve been feeling the same anxiety about not keeping up with the core blogs I have followed for a couple years now, Tom. Over the last couple weeks I’ve been pruning back my feeds–as you know. You have me thinking, though, about stepping outside the box of “EdTech”. As I approach the last corner of my first year ITRTing, I am setting my sight on a focus for year two. And I think it needs to be instruction. Great instruction. A paradigm shift from our traditional approach to inspiring students to explore the world around them. Considering the fear and paralysis that state and national education standards strike in many teachers, I really need to find new voices who are focused more on developing strengths in people and less on integration of technology. Thanks for the prod to start taking greater strides.

  3. Jim said on February 19, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    You are a brave man, Conan. I may have to take a page out of your book, which wouldn’t be anything new. @Jim’s point about refocusing and building on a core element of your professional and personal life, such as instruction, is a great point and an even greater goal.

    So, to echo what you said about Ayers and Hoyle discussion today, it made me think about the interesting role we can and will play at UR as it negotiates its past in relationship to the future, and to that end how important it is for us to stay limber, uncomfortable, and curious. Your brave act this afternoon just reinforces that commitment, making the work we do together just that much more demanding and exciting.

  4. Jenny said on February 19, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    My stomach dropped at the thought of wiping clean all of my feeds. I’ve been working to cut them back and that’s been difficult enough. I’m impressed with your ability to do this and I’ll be interested to read your thinking about it as time goes on.

  5. Tom said on February 19, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    It has been refreshing. I’m already back up to 10 feeds but they’re all zeroed out and it only took about 5 minutes.

    The oddest thing so far is that most of the one’s I’ve remembered are humor/culture related and all the rest are people I know. I wouldn’t have expected that.

    I don’t think a lot of edtech sites are going to make the revised list.

    I do agree with Jim C. that my focus has changed. I’m more into the why’s and how’s of change. I like the focus on education at a base level. I also really want to know more about how to market things, how to design, how to structure staffdev. That type of stuff. It’s quite a change from when I started.

    @Jenny – Believe me, I felt that same thing. It’s really odd if you think about it but it’s real never the less. I do feel a degree of freedom. It’s kind of refreshing. We’ll see how it goes.


  6. Susan said on February 20, 2008 at 6:49 am

    My first thought–you are a brave man. My second–what a great idea.

  7. dawn said on February 20, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    I did the same thing recently. I went from over 500 feeds to less than 100. It feels good, manageable, and more informative. I’m able to comment and pay attention much easier now. Some of my feeds are still the same, but I really got rid of a bunch that cluttered my feeds and am able to focus on things that matter to me now.

  8. Mike Hasley said on February 21, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    My goal has been to keep it to 10 blogs, that way I wouldn’t have fluff or garbage. I’m up to 45 and usually start with 130 unread items by the time I get to it. Changing the focus as Jim talked about could really help get back to 10 again. Of course, I got to keep my 38 Pitches blog.

  9. Ben said on February 21, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    As usual Tom, you’ve proven that you are truly an unconventional, yet brilliant, life-long learner. It makes perfect sense to refocus your network since your new job is focused on different areas of education than your old one. While it’s sad to think that you may be dropping a lot of useful, and meaningful connections, your move is a refreshing one that means you can continue to grow in new directions.

    Perhaps when I amass such a large number of feeds (only at 64 now), I’ll feel the need to do the same. I’m glad that you’ve leapt off the cliff though; it will make it easier to do for others 😉

  10. Tom said on February 23, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    @Dawn – the focus is key. My problem is I like to focus on too many things. I’m going to at least shift my divergence in a few different directions this time around.

    @Mike H. – ummm 10? I can’t stay that low. I think I’ll shoot for about 200. I’m jonesing pretty bad for feeds right now.

    @Ben – let’s stick with unconventional. 🙂 . . . and don’t follow me off any cliffs! I know your mother taught you better.

  11. Jenny said on March 25, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Wow! How brave!
    As I was reading your post, I couldn’t help but to think about how this can be applied to the teaching field.
    As teachers gain more experience, we tend to become “comfortable” with how we teach in our classroom. This does not do our students any justice. In order to be successful we have to try new things. All the time. As teachers we have to continually “erase our feeds” and start from scratch.

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