|Continuing down the life architecture path
(photo credit: .:Adry:.)
Mapping out the current state
|Current state diagram of the “Keep up with news” process|
The first step I did was to map out the current state, so that I can understand my current processes and tools. The figure above shows the outcome, created using the EA tool Archi. Here are some considerations as I carry out this step:
Ensure linkage to higher level goals
Understand process at the next level of detail
- Collect news from specific news sources
- Decide which of the collected news to read now, skip over or read later
- Read the news that I have decided in step #2 to “read now”
- Share news that I found interesting
- Once in a while, I also file interesting news away so that I can refer to them at a later date
- Once in a while, I add/remove news sources I monitor
Identify tools used to support sub-processes
Grouping tools based on type of news
- RSS news – news sites, blogs, twitter and any other places where RSS is supported
- Mailing list news – mailing lists I subscribe to
- Social media news – news shared by my network on Facebook and LinkedIn
- Can news from different sources (RSS, mailing list, social media) be managed the same way, using the same tools?
- Need a good way to prioritize news. Currently, I do that by scanning through each news item. I feel I can do better by giving some sort of score to each news source, such that news from higher scoring new sources will be read first.
- Need a way to file news for future reference. Currently, I email those news to Evernote, but I have not validate how searchable and useful those filed-away news are.
Designing the future state
Identify gap to focus on
After I have gotten clarity over my current processes, tools and gaps, designing the future state was fairly straightforward. I decided to focus on the first gap “Can news from different sources be managed the same way, using the same tools?”.
Come up with options for addressing gap
I did some searching of relevant tools and came up with a few possible options and their pros and cons:
1. Forward all news to Gmail under a special label, and then use FreeMyFeed to access that label – compromise security of my gmail account
2. Forward news to InstaPaper and subscribe to feed – does not work now for some reason
3. Create another email account that supports RSS feeds specially for news, and forward all news there
Eventually, I decided on option #2 and found Email2RSS to use in place of InstaPaper since the latter was not working for me. The diagram above shows the new setup.
Strengths of the new setup
In this new setup, all my news are collected in one place–Google Reader–and also read in the same place. This makes it easier for me to read news as I don’t have to go to both the RSS reader and my inbox. In addition, I can al
so prioritize all the news together. You might have noticed that I have not solved the problem for Facebook and LinkedIn. That is right, I am ignoring them for now, but I will need to address those parts at some point of time later.
Identified new sub-processes, tools and gaps
Furthermore, this new approach introduced a new sub-process “Convert mails to RSS feeds” and a new tool “Email2RSS”. I have also identified a new gap reminding myself that I need to create rules to automatically forward email news to Email2RSS.
Reflecting on the exercise
Is this too much work for solving a seemingly easy problem? I feel the answer is “No” for a few reasons, and I also have a few thoughts about this exercise:
- The exercise allowed me to have a comprehensive view of the situation. I started out trying to read all my news in one place, and then I realized that there are other places that I didn’t think of (e.g. Facebook and linkedIn), and gaps that I missed (e.g. prioritizing news).
- It is important to prioritize the gaps! There will always be gaps, and it is easy to get sucked into fixing every single discovered gap.
- This exercise created parts that I can reuse in the future. The journey to refine each process might take several iterations. So even if I don’t get it right this time, I can still come back to these diagrams in the future and use them to improve the processes.
- Just enough, just in time. Don’t get stuck creating the exactly correct model, or describing every single detail! Put in enough for what is needed. If there is needs for details in the future, wait till then.
- This exercise highlights the key steps for refining any process. It took me a while to describe the key steps, but I see it as a once-off. In the future, when I refine other processes, I can repeat the same steps.