How to Subscribe to a Podcast by URL

Yesterday I launched my new podcast, The Informed Life. I’m excited by the reception the show has had thus far; comments and views have far exceeded my expectations.

I announced the show in the middle of a three-day weekend (in the U.S.) thinking this would make it a soft launch. Why would I do this? Well, mostly because it’s my first foray at producing a podcast and there are sure to be kinks that need ironing out. But another reason is that there are parts of the process that are beyond my control. One of these is having the show appear in the main podcast directories.

I’ve submitted the show to Apple, and am in the process of doing so to other directories as well. I’m unsure how long it’ll take for Apple to approve it so it’ll show up in the Podcasts app. But that doesn’t mean you can’t listen to it yet! In fact, it’s quite easy to do so — even if it takes a few more steps. All you need to do is subscribe using the podcast’s RSS feed. I’ll show you the steps below.

(These instructions are specific to the Apple Podcasts app on iOS, but most mainstream podcast players allow you to subscribe to shows using RSS feeds. You may be able to do it with your app, though specifics will vary.)

Step 1

Copy the show’s RSS feed:

Select this entire line and copy it.

Step 2

Open and go to the Library tab. Tap on the Edit button in the upper right corner.

Step 2

Step 3

Tap on Add a Podcast by URL.

Step 3

Step 4

A dialog box will pop open. Paste the URL you copied in step 1 into the field in this dialog box. Press Subscribe and then Done.

step 4

Step 5

The podcast should now show up in your library. Listen away!

Step 5

I’ll post here (and on Twitter) when the show is listed in the main podcast directories. In the meantime, I hope this process helps you follow along.

Introducing The Informed Life Podcast

I’m excited to announce that I’m launching a podcast, The Informed Life. The tagline hints at what the show is about: Better living through skillful information management.

In this age of smartphones, social media, and fake news, you have access to more information in more situations than ever before. Information is central to how you make decisions. It can enrich your life, but it can also squander your attention. What if you could use information to help you achieve your goals?

The Informed Life will explore how folks from different fields manage their personal information ecosystems to be more effective:

  • How are they using information to their advantage?
  • Do they use social media? If so, how do they get the best out of it without wasting time?
  • How do they deal with communications over email and chat?
  • How do they keep track of commitments?
  • How do they keep their project-related documents together?

I suspect everyone does these things a little bit differently, and want to learn what works and what doesn’t.

The first episode is a conversation with my friend, co-author, and publisher Lou Rosenfeld. We discuss how he manages information to effectively coordinate the various workstreams at Rosenfeld Media, including the upcoming Enterprise Experience conference.

You won’t find The Informed Life in your favorite podcast directory yet. That will come over time. For now, you can listen by visiting TheInformed.Life, following on Twitter, or subscribing with your favorite podcast client. (Here’s the RSS feed.)

I’m new to hosting a podcast​ and am looking for feedback on how to make it better. Please get in touch if you have thoughts or comments on the show. Hope you enjoy it!

The Top Posts on in 2018

We’re now in a relatively quiet part of the year for folks in the Western Hemisphere; it’s a good time to reflect on what has gone well — and not. In that spirit, I thought it worthwhile to review the posts that have had the most views in this site in 2018. (This measure means the most recent posts get sidetracked, but this isn’t meant to be a rigorous assessment.)

The most popular thing I shared this year was an explanation of my semantic environment canvas. This isn’t surprising since it’s less of an opinion piece (as many of my other posts are) and more of a tool. The site’s second most popular post of the year was an example of these semantic maps.

The third most popular post of the year was about the end of engagement as a metric for measuring the success of information environments. This was prompted by Google and Apple releasing versions of their mobile operating systems that allow users to monitor and limit the time the spend on their phones.

The site’s fourth most popular post of the year dealt with organizational politics; a subject that everyone who works in large(r) teams encounters, and which designers are often ill-prepared to navigate skillfully.

The fifth most popular post was a description of what semantic environments are. Back to the canvas! Since three of the posts in the top five this year were about semantic environments, I’ll share one more.

The sixth most popular post was my notes on Factfulness, the amazing book by the late Hans Rosling (et al) that was released earlier this year. If you haven’t yet read Factfulness, make space for it in your queue; it’ll give you a more realistic — and hopeful — perspective of the world you live in.

Some reflection… I write in this site as a means of flexing my writing muscles. I try to share stuff you’ll find useful, but getting lots of views isn’t my primary goal. That said, the success of the semantic environment canvas posts has me thinking about the direction of this site, and how I can make it more useful by posting more tools. What about you? What would you like to hear more about? Please let me know.

Blogging and Social Media

“Sooner or later, everything old is new again.”
— Stephen King

A little over a year ago, I completed the bulk of Living in Information. I’d found my voice, and wasn’t ready to put the microphone down. So I started blogging again. While it may seem old fashioned—and perhaps a bit quixotic—I’m loving it.

I’m in service to ideas. Most aren’t original to me; I just give them a voice. Blogging helps me make them a thing in the world. It compels me to dig deeper than I could if I was writing exclusively in environments designed for other ends.

Facebook is great for finding out what your acquaintances are up to. It’s given the Web enough structure for your high school friends to share photos of their pets. Twitter is great for pithy, context-free hot takes. A disaster for discourse.

These environments prioritize novelty and engagement, not coherence and continuity. They’re designed to hold your attention, not to help you reason. I can’t point you to any viable ideas I’ve posted on​ Facebook or Twitter. They’re there but are now indistinguishable from the detritus.

Don’t get me wrong. I love these social networks and have no plans to leave them in the near term. But that’s because I know their role in my life. (Hopefully, they helped bring you here.)

It’s a cliché, but a true one: I’m often unsure of what I think until I’ve written about it. I’m thrilled to have a venue where I can “think out loud;” where I can give ideas life. And I’m thrilled that you’re here. This place isn’t bustling like the social networks, but that’s a good thing. Hopefully, you’ll find stuff of value without feeling nudged.

Goodbye Google+

In a blog post published yesterday, Google announced plans to shut down the consumer version of its social network, Google+, over the next ten months. I’ve been quietly posting to Google+ over the past few years — mostly out of habit, since there is so little activity there. Given Google’s decision, I’ve decided to stop posting there at this point.

I’m saddened to see Google+ go; the network explored many interesting structural ideas during its existence. I also found some Google+ communities to be more thoughtful and useful than those in other social networks. Still, I always got a sense that Google+ wasn’t as diverse a place as Facebook or Twitter; that it never transcended its initial audience of early adopters. I’m not surprised by Google’s decision to discontinue it. (Again, as a consumer offering; Google+ will live on as an enterprise service.)

If you followed me in Google+, the best ways for you to keep up with my posts from now on are:

A Return to Email Newsletters

Do you like getting email newsletters? A few years ago, my answer to this question would’ve been a silent stare that belied seething rage. I was receiving so much email that the thought of getting more non-work related messages filled me with dread.

Recently, this has changed; I find myself signing up for — and getting value from — email newsletters again. What’s different? Two things. For one, more of my work communication is happening to pseudo-synchronous environments like Slack and, so my email inbox isn’t as crowded as before. For another, fewer people I want to hear from publish blogs of their own anymore. Where I formerly used to get updates from them through my RSS reader, these days the ones that still write longer posts do it through either social media or environments such as Medium, where their voices become buried among others selected “just for me” by algorithms that still leave a lot to be desired.

Fortunately, a few of these folks have set up email newsletters to aggregate their writing. Here are a few I’m currently enjoying:

Given how much value I’m getting from email newsletters, and the fact that I have a book coming out, I’ve set up a newsletter of my own. I’ve called it Informa(c)tion, and you can sign up here. Informa(c)tion is a low-volume, high signal-to-noise way for you to get a dose of information architecture goodness, and stay up to date on what’s happening with Living in Information. I hope you check it out, and look forward to hearing what you think about it.

Mind the Knees

Whenever I’m crafting a linear argument — writing a blog post, a presentation, a book — I must remind myself to work on the project’s knees. By this I mean the joints that connect the main ideas so you can follow along.

I learned about knees from Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s opera Einstein on the Beach. This work is structured in four acts which play out over five hours, without an intermission. The acts are connected by five “knee plays,” musical interludes with a common motif that frames the work as a coherent whole. Besides adding context and continuity, Einstein’s knee plays also serve an important pragmatic function: they give the stage crew enough time to change sets between acts.

When I’m writing or creating a presentation, I have a series of ideas I want to convey. These ideas make sense to me as a whole, but the connections between them may not be obvious to you. Part of my job entails crafting graceful joints that allow you to follow me as I shift directions, without feeling “led.” If I do a good job, the connections between ideas will seem natural to you.

This is not easy to do. For one thing, I’m focused on identifying the right structure at the beginning of these projects: outlining the main concepts. Once I know the main points I want to make, I look for compelling ways to present them: stories, metaphors, points of clarification. At this point, I’m so immersed in the work that the connections seem obvious to me. I must work to pull back and consider how the ideas connect from the perspective of someone approaching this construct for the first time.

Glass talks about “the ‘knee’ referring to the joining function that humans’ anatomical knees perform.” I like the anatomical analogy; it makes me think of these parts of the work as the junctures where the work “bends” in a different direction. This shift must happen in ways that serve both the argument and the audience; different directions, serving a whole; flexible, but staying within a limited range of motion.

I often know from the start where the knees should go within the structure of the work, but I don’t usually have a good sense of how substantial they should be. If they’re too elaborate, you may feel patronized or suspect foul play. If they’re too sparse, you’ll find the ideas disjointed and incoherent. Finding a balance between these two extremes is challenging.

I have a few hacks I use to help me mind the knees, and they all involve getting a fresh perspective on the work. The first hack is to step away from the project for a time (perhaps a week or two) and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Doing this often reveals gaps in the argument. Another hack is to read the work out loud; shifting media from the written word to spoken words helps highlight the points in the structure where more connecting tissue is needed. Finally, I also find it helpful to show drafts of the work to other people. Although I usually don’t mention it explicitly, one of the things I’m looking for in their reaction is how well the ideas connect.

Minding the knees cannot be an afterthought; identifying the right set of ideas and developing them in compelling ways is not enough. If the ideas don’t connect gracefully, the piece falls apart. I write this as a note to self: don’t leave the minding of the knees to the last moment.