I just discovered Paper.li (currently in alpha), a service that transformed your Twitter feed into a “newspaper”: articles, photos, and videos linked to by you and the people you follow.
I created a newspaper for my feed fully intending to despise this service. I guess the bar was set low, but I think I like this thing. I found it exhilarating. There are nice little touches – photos arranged into a slideshow, YouTube videos arranged side-by-side, articles grouped by category – that make the experience enjoyable. But that’s not what excited me.
There are two kinds of content out there, and always have been, only two kinds of content: content you wanted, and content you didn’t know you wanted. If you were interested in Golden Retrievers 50 years ago, you might go to the library and look up the breed in the library. But the next thing is exciting: You might find yourself going to a meetup of Golden Retriever owners and their dogs at a park, and then you’d start talking, and who knows where the conversation might lead to. You can’t talk about Golden Retrievers for hours. You might talk about Kennedy, Mailer, Carson, the space race (it’s 1960). So you started with content you wanted and ended up with content you didn’t know you wanted.
Many of us at Second Story are generalists –that’s one of the strengths of the studio. When you have minds thinking across various disciplines and various subject matters, there are more metaphors on hand, and that leads to more creative thinking.
And that’s what’s lost when we focus on one subject matter to the exclusion of others. Subscribing to RSS feeds is deceptive. Even if you’re subscribing to a blog that sends you to far-flung links, you’re still getting curated links and content from a limited number of people whose job or hobby it is to link and post about Dutch furniture, Python, the future of the book, whatever.
I don’t have a problem with publications and blogs focusing on one subject matter, but with the Internet, it’s possible for people to consume only content they want and never encounter content they didn’t know they wanted. On Paper.li, you can also create newspapers by hashtags. I could see checking this everyday for the latest.
Still, that would get insulating. How many subjects do we need to be up to date on? Things on the web get interesting when those people you find smart, interesting, and funny (and who are thus probably generalists) can point you in a new direction, offer a new metaphor.