Info In: How I learned to stop worrying and love Zite

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m trying to use this summer to make some thoughtful improvements on my practice. First up: managing how I get information on a daily basis.

I’m a bit of a news junkie. I hit several news sites every morning to get a sense of the day’s headlines and the ways that different news outlets interpret those stories. I wake up to news radio and listen to it on my way to work if I’m on the bus. (I do NOT listen to the radio while on my bike. Because that’s moronic.)

The problem is: I get stuck in a rut. I tend to keep hitting the same sites over and over during the course of the day. This does two things. First, I keep hitting exactly the same stories over and over. (“Yep, the Euro zone is still in crisis. Yep, it’s still raining in Florida.”) Secondly, I limit my exposure to new and surprising content by just letting myself do the driving. If my goal with reading the news it to be challenged and stretched, just reading lots of folks who agree with me isn’t really going to expand my knowledge.

I’ve been looking around a lot for how to make this whole system a lot better, and I think I’ve hit upon two great aggregators of information: Google Reader and Zite. With Google Reader, I subscribe to a bunch of sites for news (like NYT, WSJ, HuffPo, WaPo, LAT, SFGate, and the Houston Chronicle) and for other information I enjoy (including fun silly ones like XKCD and literary sites like McSweeney’s and The Rumpus). The stories come up in my reader in a plain old browser window using Google Chrome, and it’s really easy to customize and navigate. I like Reader because it forces me to get new information: it’s easy to identify which stories I’ve read so I can efficiently move on to exploring new information.

With Zite on my iPhone and iPad, I get several topic-related screens to choose from that offer me personally curated news stories on topics that interest me. I love a lot of things about Zite: most appealingly, it pulls from a lot of sources that I didn’t know about before–and it pulls from a lot of sources in general. Stuff I find on Zite constantly entices me and surprises me. Also, its interface is beautiful: all of their stories get formatted into a font called PT Sans from Paratype, which I adore for its sleek readability.

Additionally, if these two news aggregators aren’t enough, I’m becoming a big fan of the education-related tags on Twitter. Putting in the hashtags for #edchat and #edtech offer a daily barrage of posts from educators worldwide. While some of the posts are a little irritating for their bombast (“The Top Ten Things All Educators Must Know Immediately About Teaching!!!!”), a lot are good reads, and they’re nice provocations for reflection and further blog posts from me.

So that’s the new plan for getting information in on a daily basis. So far, so good.

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