The Skill of the Century

Editing may be the skill of the century.

That’s not an actual quote, but it’s how my wife paraphrased it. It’s from a talk called “Less stuff, more happiness.” The idea is that if you simplify your life, you can reduce your debt, your C02 footprint, and your stress. Pretty decent idea, and you can see more at the Life Edited project.

Why am I posting this on Technical Writing World? Because it reminded me of what Twitter has started doing with curated streams for live events. They’re using live events + an algorithm + #tags + direct editorial oversight to create a more structured media product. Think they can monetize that? I do. It’s not that different from what I did years ago as an intern at USATODAY.com. The news wires (mostly AP) sent us dozens or hundreds of stories every day, some of them as brief as 140 characters until future iterations expanded them. We let most of them fly by, and we posted the newsworthy stuff in positions of varying prominence. Advertisers love that. This is just the crowd-sourced version.

Think about it this way: we’ve all reached a tipping point with social media. You start muting people or discretely unsubscribing from certain updates, or maybe you stop logging in as frequently. On Facebook that tipping point might be 300 or 500 or even 1000 “friends.” On Twitter I’d argue it’s following 75-100 people, depending how prolific they are. You have to find ways to curate, whether that’s lists or columns or something else. Even so, unless you stop following new people, you’ll eventually start drowning in information. It’s either that or let it fly by unattended.

The information age is a bit of a cliche now, but do we really get this concept? It’s not just about finding or accessing the right information (the search paradigm). It’s about getting the right information pushed to you. How many emails are in your inbox(es)? How jammed is your Google Reader? Whatever it is for you (it’s Twitter for me), you’re probably in one of three places: 1) You’re sinking. You can’t see the ocean for the waves. 2) You’re spluttering, just keeping your head above water. 3) You’re flat out drowning, at the expense of productivity or finding what you really need to know.

That’s why I think this idea is so powerful. You should be editing yourself. Not just your life, though minimalism is cool enough. Not just your professional footprint, wise as that is. You need to edit the information you consume, and you need to do it well. Focus on the things that matter. The fun part is, you can curate yourself (lists, columns, circles, strategic follows), or you can find others who have the skill and share your information values.

Put differently, you either need to work really hard at curating for yourself, or find someone who will A) sweat for you (on the obvious stuff) or B) share their expertise (on the less obvious stuff).

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