On Feeds: Tactics

Ask enough people what feeds they read and you will quickly hear “too many” and “I suffer from information overload.” I’ve been there too; at one time I subscribed to more than five hundred feeds. A lot of people say you can’t really follow more than fifty feeds _and_ do productive things. I’m not the most productive guy, but I’m comfortably following 239 feeds right now. My secrets:

* Man made the “mark all as read” command for a reason. Use it without shame.
* Skim aggressively. If the title grabs you, check out the first few sentences. If it doesn’t, just skim over the content and let the words and images that may jump out grab you. If they don’t, skip to the next item.
* Don’t add feeds out of guilt or peer-pressure. Know what topics you want to read about. Add feeds that align with those topics. If a feed looks _really_ awesome but doesn’t match a topic, subscribe to it and put it in a “Trial” folder. Evaluate your trials every few weeks.
* Unsubscribe if you find yourself consistently skipping all the items in a feed. NNW and Google Reader both have attention readouts that can help you decide what should go. Do this sort of pruning every few months.

After reading feeds for several years, I’m finally starting to feel like I’m doing it right. How do I know I’m doing it right? Because I recently thought, “hey, I haven’t seen enough awesome today.” And then I open NNW and I’ve got awesome all over me.

2 thoughts on “On Feeds: Tactics

  1. My general approach is to treat RSS as a river of news. I don’t try to read every post from every feed. I dial up Google Reader on the iPhone every few days and read a couple screens of headlines. If it’s important it will probably show up.

    I got to this post via that technique, so I must be doing something right!

  2. This is basically the approach I use, except for the unsubscribing part. I also rarely add feeds to my reader. I focus hard on “skim aggressively”. Sometimes even if some title grabs my attention, I’ll wait until I see someone twitter about the post or mention it in some other blog i’m skimming before reading it.

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