From Hunter To Gatherer
In my former life as a reporter, I found it somewhat lame when I would get pitched a story. Believe it or not, that included “exclusives”. Gee, thanks for dropping dinner in my lap, I guess. It made me feel like a lion in a zoo.
I was a hunter. I wanted not just the feast, I wanted the kill. More importantly, I wanted the thrill of the hunt.
What I mean is that I wanted to be out there sniffing around, finding something I shouldn’t find and breaking news that way. To me, there was nothing more exhilarating. It made hand-fed stories seem obscenely weak.
This lifestyle required me to stay on top of technology news in a perhaps unhealthy way. I can’t tell you how many stories I tracked down simply by reading between the lines of another story. If you want to be a good reporter, read everything. Go from there.
In those days, RSS was my best friend. I subscribed to and read hundreds of individual feeds on a daily basis. Some things I would skim, but most things I would fully read. And read. And read. And read. It was exhausting. But again, important to what I did.
These days, my life is much different. If I have 30 minutes between meetings, I’ll hit Techmeme or Twitter for news. But old habits die hard. Every night, I still make sure to go through and clear out my trusty old RSS reader.
But for the past ten days, I’ve been away from home and I’ve been busy: meetings, conferences, a little writing, drinking, whatever. I simply stopped checking those RSS feeds.
For a ten full days, I didn’t open a reader. At first, this made me extremely anxious — it’s possible that I hate unread counts more than anyone on the planet — but then it was great. And guess what I missed? Nothing.
I’m looking over my ten days worth of unread RSS items now. It’s clear that I simply saved myself the trouble of reading a bunch of junk that ultimately doesn’t matter. That’s the thing: it’s not like I didn’t read the news while I’ve been gone — I just only read the stuff that found its way to me.
In a sense, I moved from a hunter to a gatherer.
And while I think reporters should always be hunters (someone has to hunt), it has clearly never been a better time to be a gatherer. Given my former life, I was highly skeptical that services like Twitter, Facebook, Techmeme, and the like would be enough to give me the full overview of news in any given day. But they are.
And I now try to contribute back to that system by linking to things I read and feel are worthy of sharing as well. Previously, I would have tried to hoard such bits of information like Gollum with the One Ring. Now I take pleasure in gathering and sharing them.
All of this makes me much more bullish on social sharing and curation sites and much more bearish on centralized content hubs that seem to think more is more. I can’t think of one site where I read each and every piece of content they produce — no, not even TechCrunch. Nor do I ever stop at any one site anymore to see what’s going on.
That’s not necessarily a knock on those sites, it’s just a statement on the way things have evolved. The one-stop news site is dying very quickly. Perhaps I’m late to this revelation because I’ve been too deep in the forest. Now I see.
The cream rises, but no longer by one centralized editor at one property. It now rises because we all lift it.
And the thrill of the hunt has been replaced by the thrill of the find.