26 Comments

Summary:

One of the challenges of any web worker is keeping up with the flow of information needed to do your job. Email, IM, SMS, RSS Feeds, Social Networks, and other things give you information, but it can also be a huge distraction. While it isn’t unusual […]

One of the challenges of any web worker is keeping up with the flow of information needed to do your job. Email, IM, SMS, RSS Feeds, Social Networks, and other things give you information, but it can also be a huge distraction.

While it isn’t unusual for a web worker to cut out, say, IM or Twitter–something that seems to demand more immediate attention–I took a different approach: I stopped reading my RSS Feeds on Google Reader, the popular online feed reader.

Why did I choose to cut out this activity? The amount of time it was taking me to go through Google Reader kept increasing with a decreasing amount of content I didn’t get from somewhere else–namely my social networks and email. The number of quality links was substantially higher than I was getting through RSS.

I want to be clear: RSS feeds and RSS readers are wonderful tools. I still use an RSS reader for inside-the-firewall information. I will likely return to using Google Reader at some point in the near future, but I will start with a clean slate.

What about you? Have you killed your RSS reader? Have you completely started over? How do you manage the ever-growing number of items in your RSS reader? Let me know in the comments.

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  1. I can’t kill my RSS reader… not yet at least. I get almost all of my information about the tech world, real world (because there is a difference), and all sorts of otherinformation (including this site) from my RSS reader and turning it off would cut out about 90% of the news and other things I take in daily. Sure, there’s twitter and IM to get news from people but having the RSS reader just cuts out the middle man.

  2. I’m surprised you stopped using your Reader. How do you stay informed now? How may feeds were you subscribed to when you stopped? I don’t think I’ll stop any time soon. I’ve subscribed to 149 feeds and I’ve never been on top of news like this before. Yes it costs time, but I usually check my feeds once a day, go through my favorite feeds first, star the ones I want to read, and read the rest later. Every now and then I go through my feeds. If those feeds haven’t produces any new feeds or anything interesting I unsubscribe.

  3. I wouldn’t have seen this post were it not for Google Reader. :-)

    That said, it is so easy to get overwhelmed with RSS. What I do is whenever I feel like that I just mark everything as read. Yeah I’ll miss some things but then I am doing it on my schedule.

  4. I submitted your recent articles on a similar subject having just accidentally wiped all of my RSS subscriptons. Now instead of 95 subscriptions, I have 5 and three of them are comics that just a second (one is WWD)! I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything, the important feeds are on my Netvibes page.

    I feel I have more time, but that’s an empty feeling as I have time to fill up with something… and yes I have things to do, so no more procrastinating because a major procrasination tool (RSS subscriptions!) has gone! :)

  5. I couldn’t cut out completely, that is the way I stay on top of the trends (and some junk, too). I am shocked to hear people have more than 30 feeds. If anything, cut down on the number of feeds and just like e-mail only check them a couple of times per day.

    Of course, I don’t always follow this advice….

    Dennis

  6. I have different folders in my Google Reader, one of which is called “Primary”. This houses all those blogs which are my favourite and I always read it first. I have a separate “News” folder because news related feeds produce tons of posts every day which can be distracting. I also have an “Unread” folder into which I move all the articles I really want to read, but don’t have the time to read right now.

    An important thing to note, is that you don’t have to read EVERYTHING! I frequently use the “Mark All Read” feature to mark everything as read when I come back from holiday, for example. BUT before doing so, I always search for some specific keywords just in case I don’t lose anything of importance.

    Google Reader has some excellent shortcuts which let me wade through feeds quickly and easily. Its worth remembering them.

    Finally, its really important to set a time frame for reading feeds. You shouldn’t let feed-reading compromise other work you have.

  7. Shawn McCollum Thursday, July 24, 2008

    There are defiantly ways to make rss consumption easier. For me I gave up on the available readers last fall, but since I’m a programmer I built my own. First thing I hated with your average reader is that with every iphone announcement I had to read the same thing on half the blogs I subscribed to. Such a time waster especially since I don’t really care about the iphone. So I built my reader to recognize blog categories as tags and generate a tag cloud. Works pretty well and I can triage important information and junk pretty easily. I’ve added a few other features also: bundling and fading are very useful. The link here goes to the blog I built to share my ideas.

  8. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach Thursday, July 24, 2008

    I find my RSS reader to be a plethora of unique interesting ideas I wouldn’t have considered elsewhere…so no, I’m not going to get rid of it yet.

    Data points, Barbara

  9. I thinned my reader after attending BlogHer. It made me realize that I was still subscribed to things I wasn’t reading and it was creating noise where I don’t need additional noise. Like others, I subscribe to a combination of tech & personal. The only way I could keep up with the amount of information in my field would be in a feed reader, so it’s there for my reading when I need it. I also star posts for later reference. For me it’s a more sophisticated delicious.

    Do you feel a little lost without your feed reader? It’s like my imaginary, very much better informed, best friend.

  10. Margy Rydzynski Thursday, July 24, 2008

    I’d be lost without my RSS reader. I think the trick is to make sure you’re only getting the feeds you’re actually reading! I use NewsFox rather than Google Reader. I find it an easier interface to browse and I only get what I want on it. There are no other “suggestions!” a la Google Reader.

    Like your other commenters, I rely on the feed reader to keep me up to date in my field, also in my online personal life.

  11. Blogual » Blog Archive » Three steps to managing RSS oveload Thursday, July 24, 2008

    [...] been a lot of talk today about RSS overload; at FreelanceSwitch, Web Worker Daily and [...]

  12. I practice the ‘Rule of 3‘ approach to RSS:

    1. Check RSS three times a day max;
    2. Three’s a crowd: Limit feeds to a maximum of two from each category;
    3. Add, test, filter.

    Like any system of productivity it takes discipline but it works for me.

  13. Derek J. Punaro Thursday, July 24, 2008

    I want all my syndicated content in Google Reader. I take the opposite approach – if a site offers both an email newsletter and a feed, I kill the email. In fact, if an interesting site doesn’t have a feed I won’t follow it.

    Twitter is a poor way to follow news and websites. The benefit of an RSS reader is to keep track of what you have and haven’t looked at. I don’t want to manually scan a huge list of tweets and have to discern headlines from friends’ comments. I won’t follow Twitter users who sole purpose is to post links to their blog entries. There’s no added value there.

  14. So, is RSS the new topic dejour, as opposed to “email management”? Compare RSS/IM/Email/Twitter/FriendFeed and whatever to TV. There’s hundreds of channels on TV, broadcasting thousands of hours of programming. Do people get overwhelmed by TV? Oh my god, there’s just too much TV, I just can’t watch it all!!
    Switch channels, read what’s important, or turn it off.

  15. If you use Google Reader and aren’t using the “N”, “M”, “P”, and “SPACEBAR” keys, then you’ve got to give them a try. It’ll speed up your browsing time.

    Also, look at your Google Reader Trends and unsubscribe from feeds are aren’t reading.

    “I wouldn’t have seen this post were it not for Google Reader. :-)”

    Ditto!

  16. My rule is to delete 1 feed a day. I add maybe 3 a week average, so this way I am keeping my number of feeds rather consistent and also keep an eye out for dead feeds or feeds that I always skim over. Works well for me.

  17. Thats where labeling system helps. I have label in two categories – subject wise and how important they are. So you can read all depending the time you want to spend on google reader. at the end of the day i mark all as read so next day new start and dont get old news.

    And I use trends very much. Checking % read and number of feeds per day you can cut down. every week i monitor that and try to cut down atleast 2-3 everytime.

    You can also decide number of feed you want to read in whole day so you dont spend lots of time so others you can just unsubscribe.

    But as you said I can never stop reading my RSS feeds. I get all news from different topics from different sites so fast which actually saves time not wasting time.

  18. When I find my RSS reader is taking up too much of my time I instead try to figure out what RSS feeds aren’t giving me any value (or are giving me little value) and unsubscribing from them, this way I can still do what I need to (keep up with the news) without wasting so much time. In other words try to make RSS reading more efficient instead of cutting out of your life altogether.

  19. Benjamin Hall Friday, July 25, 2008

    I have all my feeds broken down into folders so I can go through each folder in the morning and star the ones that look interesting. Then I spend the rest of the day browsing through my starred folder and deleting them. If by the end of the day I still have unread feeds, they are deleted or moved to my Google notebook.

  20. Lawrence Salberg Saturday, July 26, 2008

    It’s a sure bet that when you write such drivel – which isn’t news or opinion – that you’ll get comments and feedback. This is a purely nonsensical idea that wasn’t even defended or coherently argued in its presentation.

    The only message here is maybe to cut the RSS feed of WWD. This very post is part of the problem of cluttered up feeds. Thanks for nothing.

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  22. I think that having a bunch of feeds in your RSS reader is useful, as long as the content is relevant to you. Cleaning it up every once in a while is good.

    What I do is just scan the headlines and be sort of picky about what I actually read. Of course this depends if i’m busy or bored that day. I do also sometimes star good articles to come back and read later.

  23. I switched from Google Reader to another reader called Illumio (www.illumio.com). It ranks each blog post/story based on how well it matches my interests. That way I can scan the most important and interesting news first.

  24. I don’t think I can throw away rss readers !!!
    I am trying to standardize my subscriptions. I am not sure what are the best feeds to read so that I won’t miss some important feeds and also don’t read duplicate once.

  25. WebWorkerDaily » Archive Fine-tune Your RSS Subscriptions « Tuesday, December 2, 2008

    [...] While RSS feeds give us the latest news, blog posts, and site updates through a single interface, it’s not farfetched to think that they can also be a major time suck.  If you notice that this is happening, that you’re spending more time on your feed reader than you want to, then perhaps it’s time to quit your feed reader altogether. [...]

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