how long is a piece of string?

August 3, 2008 ·

i'm reminded about a quote a college instructor of mine used with some regularity. she would say "how long is a piece of string?" when discussing research and information gathering. it's stuck with me through the years. lately it's come to mind with regularity as i've been reading a lot of blogs and other site feeds (around 50 or so regularly) these days.

what i've found with blog reading is just how long that piece of string can be. the goal of this post is encourage you to follow that piece of string. wherever it leads, and however far off the original topic you were reading.

blogs are inherently social (duh) and in having that quality creates a richer experience for readers. social not only in the sense of who reads, shares, and contributes (formally or commenting) but also in how it incorporates other locales and information sources on the internet, and points to them.

traditional media sources, web 1.0 sites included, don't have this quality. with them, it's generally read article and you're done. it goes against their models to include links, that would only take people away from their site. besides, they are the only news source for you, right? you don't need to go anywhere else. it's not in their interest to send you away and it robs you of a deeper understanding of the information you seek.

so what's following the piece of string? well, here's a typical saturday morning where i set out to do some reading online. i open up my google reader and pick one of the blogs, and an article i want to read. then i click on all the links in that article that i want to go deeper in and open them as new tabs in the browser. then on each of those pages, i open up links found there. wash, rinse, repeat for as long as i want to follow that piece of string.

in the end, you end up with not just a deeper understanding of your original interest, but likely quite a bit more on many related topics. not to sound corny, but it can be an interesting and rewarding journey. your eyes could be opened to something new.


GoteeMan said...
August 7, 2008 at 11:50 PM  

well, at least as far as from here to Canada, since I ended up following strings to your blog...
and that's a pretty darn long string...


night terror said...
August 8, 2008 at 7:58 PM  

i'd be interested to know that piece of string



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