80/20 Your information feeds

A few weeks ago I promised to start exploring here the 47 non-coding things you as a programmer have to do to build a successful micro-ISV. I will get to those, but before I do, we need to do some information feed swamp-draining.

Years (many) ago when I started programming, technical information came in the form of things called technical books. If you were lucky, one or maybe two of these items would be produced, published and make it to a bookshelf at Computer Literacy Bookstore in Silicon Valley about the programming language you worked with and flailed at day in and day out.

That was then, this is now.

Now, no matter how obscure the computational subject, API usage, OS bug there's a gazillion web sites, blogs, and especially RSS feeds pumping out info 24/7 on it. Like drinking from a fire hose? Nah. Try like being at the bottom of Niagara Falls, looking up.

What's a developer who wants to start a micro-ISV to do? Get control over your information feeds by applying the 80/20 Principle. The 80/20 Principle has all sorts of implications for micro-ISVs, notably the Long Tail. But right now, we are talking about getting control of your information feeds so you can start something new in your life, like a micro-ISV, and for say 80% of you, that's RSS Feeds.

The idea is simple: you get 80 percent of your value of all those programming RSS feeds from about 20 percent of them. Identify, keep up with, pay attention to that 20% and let the other 80% go.

For example, my new RSS reader, FeedDemon came with a whole slew of feeds organized by type. Over the last month, I've been adding feeds, adding new folders to the treelist, keeping everything in nice neat folders, getting more and more and more. I ended up with about 35 folders, and about 200 feeds and a new daily ToDo item called "Review my feeds" that was taking 30-45 minutes a day I Do. Not. Have. Bad Idea.

So, for this post, I reorganized all my feeds using the 80/20 principle into two folders – the ones that really have good stuff, that provide big bunches of value, and all the rest. (That's called leverage – we might get into that next week…)

Now here's my reorganized feed list as of five minutes ago:

Surprise, Surprise! 293/1395 = 21% and 1103/1395 = 78.99% approximately. Now, for 20% of the time and effort of keeping up with my RSS feeds, I can get 80% of the value. That's the power of the 80/20 principle. Take a good hard look at your RSS feeds – what if you actually tried this yourself? How would that feel?

If you want more info on 80/20, check out Richard Koch's site, http://www.the8020principle.com/ or his new book, Living the 80/20 Way. He's the guy that has been really working this for years. You'll also find two other applications of 80/20 I'm posting today at http://mymicroisv.com and http://ToDoOrElse.com (That's that leverage thing again :).


I did something very similar with my feeds. Almost all the important stuff I read comes from just a handful, the rest is just there for when I feel like reading a little more.

I've noticed lately that I spend more time hopping around trying to keep up than I do actually reading and learning, it's time for a change.