Friday, July 10

Towards a manageable feed reader

3 years ago I made a comment on a 37signals post: Taming the RSS beast.

I was just editing and expanding it in an email and thought I'd post it here instead.

Most people group their feeds by topic. Here’s a suggestion that helps me manage my feeds more effectively: Group your feeds by a small number of categories that match your behaviour, rather than subject matter. These are my categories:
  • Quick – anything that’ll take me two seconds to read (photos, one liner blogs)
  • Links – link blogs (these often lead to heavy tab spawning)
  • Light – blogs that generally consist of shortish pithy posts.
  • In-depth – blogs that usually have long in-depth posts
  • Me – ego stuff: my flickr comment feeds, twitter mentions etc (in case they slip through my twitter client)
  • Friends - people I have a stronger emotional connection to and care more about
  • Announce – svn commits, web host status feeds, app release feeds
Grouped like this, it’s easier to pick off the low hanging fruits and slowly chip away at the backlog rather than sticking rigidly to subject taxonomies that are usually inadequate and give you no sense of how far through the job you are or about what you actually care about.

Try to put every new feed you subscribe to in one of those categories, and don't create too many new ones or it starts to become unmanageable. Then collapse as many as you can so it doesn't look like you have too much to go through.

NEVER go through all your feeds as one big bucket of unread items.

Other than that, a hard trick is to actually notice when something is no longer interesting. This is hard because we don't like to admit we made a mistake, and will often stick with things for much longer than usual after making an initial value judgment and have invested in something. This is the "sunk cost" mind hack and is very powerful if you can pull it off.

My feed reader already marks feeds that haven't updated in a while as "Dinosaurs". If it also marked those that I hadn't clicked through from in a while as fluff that'd be ace.


Anonymous Erik Frey said...

Grouped according to behavior makes a lot of sense. I often find something really long and interesting that I never get around to reading because I'm busy right then.

A friend of mine gets around this by sending everything long he finds to instapaper for later perusal, say on the bus.

I also kinda like the idea between aide rss although I haven't tried it - I just like their cto.

10/7/09 5:39 PM  
Blogger Phil Wilson said...

mine are

* me (all my crap)
* comments (comment feeds for posts I've added to)
* friends (photos, blogs, links, tweets)
* whateva (everything else from people on the internet)

I never find myself in a "mood" to read just links etc. and always found the distinction reasonably pointless. The only time I've thought about splitting out "long" posters is with people like Steve Yegge, but if they weren't part of my normal flow I wouldn't ever read them.

My aggregator also does the dinosaur thing, but maybe it would be useful if every post over, say, 1000 words had a big floating button on it marked as "tl;dr", and long posts by that person slowly fade from view the more snores they ratchet up. I definitely have problems filtering out the blogs I don't really read any more from the rest. It's too easy to hit "mark as read" rather than find the feed and unsubscribe.

I guess grouping by topic *could* be useful if you have a couple of very very different interest groups and a long list of subscriptions for each, but it never worked for me and I have used a *lot* of aggregators.

16/7/09 8:39 PM  
Anonymous lewis Litanzios said...

'pithy posts' - mate, you have a way with words like very few other.

Would love to chat taxonomies with you over a gimp mask sometime (beer is too conventional).

Back on topic I've actually become very fond of my 'CURRENT' bookmark folder. It allows me to carry on with what I'm doing if and when I see a distracting website I might spiral into for a while.


12/8/09 4:37 AM  

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