I use RSS1 as my primary source of consuming non-breaking news. I don’t find Twitter as useful for this as others do, mostly because it’s too easy to miss something good on Twitter. Also, the timeliness of Twitter isn’t much of a factor because most of the feeds I read, I read for commentary, not news.
I currently follow about 70 feeds. I have trimmed the number down recently, weeding out feeds that don’t post at all, frequently enough or with the quality I am looking for. I can’t possibly keep up on all the feeds everyday, and I rarely have time at work to read more than an article or two. So I needed to devise a system that would allow me to not miss anything really good, but still be able to keep up on a weekly basis.
I created a folder structure very similar to the one Patrick Rhone used to use. I have my “A-Favorites” folder that contains all the feeds that are can’t miss. I have my “B-Friends” folder, which is full of people I know in real-life. The posting frequency here is only a few posts per week.
The “C” folder is broken up into three parts, “Misc”, “Sports” and “Noise”. “Sports” are most of the sports blogs I read (obviously). “Noise” are the feeds that produce the most content and rarely have things that can’t be missed. This folder by far has the more items per day. If I had to guess it would be around 400 items per day. “Misc” are non-favorite blogs that don’t fit into the other two categories. These often provide good information but not at the frequency of the “Favorites”.
Then I have “D-Probation” where I add new feeds, usually for a month or two, until I decide if/where it fits into my system.
Part two of my system is the process. I use Reeder on all of my devices2, which syncs with Google Reader. Since I know that I don’t have time to read stories everyday, I have developed a process to not miss anything important or get too bogged down. The way I do this is to triage, at least every other day.
I usually only go through my “Favorites” and “Friends” during most triages. I skim titles and sometimes the first few lines and star any item that I want to read later. Obviously this only works because I don’t use “starring” for marking favorites, which is what it’s actually designed for. The advantage to starring is that starred items never disappear. Google Reader only keeps unread items “active” for 30 days, or 10,000 items, whichever is shorter. So with a lot of feeds, or if you really get behind, keeping items as unread doesn’t really work.
I try to keep the number of starred items manageable. I don’t want to spend 12 hours reading through stuff, so if I start to get behind I find some time to read as soon as I can. Usually I do feed reading on the weekends, but it’s also how I fill my time when I have a few minutes to kill in line, or wherever3. The fact that I have starred items ahead of time makes this very easy because I don’t have to hunt for something to read, it’s already there for me.
The triaging process in Reeder is really easy on the Mac, especially since I re-mapped Reeder’s keyboard shortcuts. I left ‘j’ and ‘k’ as next/previous item, but I re-mapped the star/unstar key to ‘l’4. This allows me to use one hand and fly through feeds as fast as the content loads on the right pane. The iPhone is really good for triaging as well, as the up/down arrows and star button are right next to each other on the toolbar. The iPad isn’t great for triaging because the buttons are spaced out more, so I rarely do my triage process there.
I read on all devices. The iPad is the best experience for reading, but I don’t mind doing it on the Mac or iPhone. It’s usually just a matter of whatever I have with me at the moment. I take big advantage of the built-in Readability support to load complete articles of feeds that don’t contain the complete article. This is fast and creates a nice clean reading experience. I save things to “Read It Later” that I plan to blog about, which is another nice built-in feature.
I used to keep my blogs organized by subject. It made sense to have all the Mac blogs in one place, sports in another, general tech in another and so on. But I realized that all feeds weren’t created equal, and Rhone’s system helped me understand that. There are still times where the real world get’s in the way and I get behind, but it’s lot easier to get caught up on important things and just mark everything else as read with this system. I find that this system requires me to find less time during the week to read feeds and makes it much easier to read at my leisure.
- Real Simple Syndication, but I haven’t heard someone call it that for years [↩]
- Mac, iPad, iPhone [↩]
- Other people like to play games during these times, but I just can’t get into iOS games [↩]
- thats lowercase ‘L’ [↩]