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RSS Overload: Slaying the Demon

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I have a confession to make: I used to dread firing up my Google Reader in the morning.

Don’t get me wrong: I love reading. I love knowing what’s going on. I love being able to tell other people what’s going on. That’s why I have so many Twitter accounts; I tailor each to a certain interest group and send out the links I find interesting on the basis of where they fit best. I find those links through Google Reader, where I am currently subscribed to more feeds than I can handle.

It’s not uncommon for me to neglect my Google Reader if I have to travel to a job, as I can’t guarantee internet access on my train journeys. Given a two-hour trip to and from London, and not being able to mess around while I’m actually earning money, I can wake up the next day and find a dispiriting “1000+” in my All Items count. Should I go through them all, or just the ones I think are most important? And what if I mark everything as read but miss out on something important.

Currently I have over 300 feeds that I subscribe to, some of which update up to 50 times a day. Obviously I need to do some spring-cleaning. My first port of call was to Trends section in the “Your stuff” section of Google Reader. This shows you how many items you regularly click on, and can also give you a breakdown of which of your RSS subscriptions are inactive. The first thing I did was to get rid of all of those feeds that haven’t updated recently. No need to stick with websites that might be inactive. Next, I also got rid of the most obscure. After all, if nobody else has heard of them, will anybody really care if I cite or tweet about them?

Next, I trundled myself over to Feedly, which syncs with your Google Reader account, but displays your subscriptions in a web magazine format. It also has a handy tool for linking up with your Twitter account. It also provides another handy guide for which feeds you actually pay the most attention to, and provides a one-click unsubscribe service for them. Those feeds that seem to filll up with nothing but rubbish? Gone. The feeds that don’t do much more than regurgitate news from feeds you are already subscribed to? Obliterated.

Having done some fairly draconian trimming, I am now down to just half the feeds I used to read. If I log in to Feeldy, I can glance over the headlines from all my various feeds, finding the most important ones easily. I no longer have feeds that were redundant, or that I only read out of a fake sense of obligation. I have managed to streamline my news sources, and it feels good. No news sources that I don’t have the time to quote, no blogs that I just can’t be bothered to deal with at the moment. I have no idea why it was never so simple.

Of course, this solution isn’t for everyone. If you are tied into following a particularly obscure blog that you mean to champion, you probably won’t delete it. And if you insist on reading every bulletin from an especially prolific website, again, you will not want to dispense with that feed either. Nevertheless, if you have the same problem that I did — far too many feeds and not enough time to pay attention to them all — you might find the two-step “rationalisation” process useful. Don’t be like me, drowning in information; choose the freedom to use your favourite and most informative sources instead.

[Image by ChesiFotosCC]

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