So, we’ve established (haven’t we?) that reading what people write is now only half of the fun on the Read/Write Web. Even more importantly, it’s only half of the learning. The other half is reading what people read.
Blogs were a start in the RWOR front due to the deep linking that blogging (v.) usually builds upon. To read blogs well is to many times find yourself clicking through sites following a thread of an idea, watching it de-evolve back to the original post. This entails a different kind of reading literacy, one that requires quick assessment of source reputation, skimming for main ideas, and the ability to synthesize snippets of information from many sources into coherent ideas (one of the skills developed from blogging (v.)) Along the way, many times you find other good sources or posts to either file away for future use and perhaps blog about later.
But now, I can subscribe not only to what people write; I can subscribe to what people read. So, not only do I get what, say Alan Levine is writing about. I also get what he’s been reading and found interesting enough to save into his Furl account. Same with del.icio.us. If I track those feeds, I learn quite a bit. First, the links that Alan saves give me information that I can use to further guage Alan’s reputation as a source. And his reputation is everything. As Tom says, it’s the people in the network that are the keys (which is why he’s not happy when people do too much Furling…he wants that commentary that blogging requires.) That’s not to say that Alan would save bad sources. But he may save things that I find generally irrelevant, which would diminish his use to me as a source (though not necessarily his reputation.)
Second, of course, if his links are relevant, I find more new sources and more good reading. Which in turn leads to more good sources and links. Which at some point requires me to sift through my sources and cut some of them loose, all the while raising the quality of my blogroll and the focus of the information. So, reading what he reads ultimately raises the level of my own learning.
Third, his “irrelevant” links can introduce me to new ideas and applications of the technology. This is, in fact, one of the reasons I especially like Alan’s blog/Furl.del.icious content. This post on Bit Torrents is a good example of incrementally stretching my scope. His Furls on the topic are where I go to start to learn more.
Alan is certainly not the only source I use in this way; I’ve subscribed to the readings of eight others as well. At this point, however, while I always check the writing in the blogroll, I’m not as consistent with these reading rolls. But I find myself more and more making time for these feeds in lieu of others. Must mean they’re getting more and more valuable.