I don’t even know what to say about Merlin’s post. I’m honored. Beyond honored. Speechless. (But you know that I don’t stay speechless for long.)
Normally, when someone publicly says something so nice, most people wouldn’t call attention to it. It’s considered arrogant or immodest. But I think it would be more rude for me to pretend that he didn’t write it or that I didn’t see it or that I wasn’t completely honored by it. And I’d like to expand on the other point he’s making.
If you don’t like hearing two people each talking about how great the other is, you should probably skip this post. Go ahead, scroll past — I won’t take offense. Come back next week to read my latest incorrect Apple predictions. There! Some modesty. But really, my predictions are hilariously bad. Check out this gem on my old site, written three months before the iPhone’s unveiling.
Merlin’s too modest to tell you a few additional details about the story. The Kindle feature, for instance, was his idea. He emailed me last spring, asking very nicely if I’d consider implementing it. When Merlin Mann gives you an idea, you take it, because it’s probably a very good idea. And it was. (Unfortunately, getting the auto-delivery through Amazon’s transfer service is so unreliable that I’m about to release a replacement that’s slightly more manual but 100% reliable. But that’s an implementation detail.)
Back to the point: We’re all in this together. It’s an entire ecosystem. And that’s why Merlin’s article isn’t just about me. (I’m already embarrassed enough to be featured so prominently in the title — when I read it, while painfully waiting for the article’s body to load over my slow cellular connection on the train, I thought I was getting in trouble for something.)
The bigger message isn’t that everyone should write bookmarklets or attempt to send automated emails to Amazon’s Kindle conversion service, but that they should choose to consume (and, if you can, produce) high-quality work in their preferred medium. Mine, and Merlin’s, is text.
I can’t understate the importance of this demand. Instapaper is useless without the two key ingredients that it was created to bring together: high-quality text content and people who choose to read it. And neither ingredient can exist without the other.
I often hear people defending their “guilty pleasure” habit of subscribing to awful blogs or reading tabloids or watching bad TV with phrases like “It’s good sometimes” or “It’s not that bad” or “I have to follow what’s happening.”
There’s only so much time in the day, and only so many days in our lives. There’s enough great work out there that you don’t need to waste any time with anything that isn’t great.
Do you really need to subscribe to that collection of RSS feeds that cumulatively publish hundreds of items per day? If you currently do (I’ve been there), do you really need to read every headline? Exercise: Don’t open your feed reader for a week. Did you miss anything?
Do you watch TV because it’s there, or because you really want to be watching that show? Exercise: Cancel your cable service and just get the really great shows from Netflix or iTunes. When you’re out of shows for a few days and you have some free time, do anything else. You’ll save a bundle of money that you can spend on anything else. Sign up for cable again when you really think it’s worth the time and money. (For most people who try this, that day never comes.)
I can’t give you advice on how to be a better producer. Merlin’s the guy for that. But I’ll do my best to convince you to be a better consumer.
Instapaper is one small part of that. Give Me Something To Read is another.
I’ll even now offer you my hosts-file target IP that I’ve been using. It’s on an old server that I need to operate for a while. Just map any domain you never want to accidentally visit (like if an RSS item or bit.ly link sends you there without warning) to 126.96.36.199 in your hosts file. Here’s an example from mine:
Where technology can’t be your guard rail, start enforcing a higher standard with self-control. Do you really need to watch that show or eat at that fast-food restaurant or spend twenty seconds of every day skimming that blog’s headlines? Is it really a net gain?
Life’s too short to drink bad coffee or read bad blogs.
Make the effort to care.