Blake Snow

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Tagged RSS

Information overload? Get Smart Brief.

Screen shot smartbrief.com 2010

When I first discovered RSS, I went crazy. I subscribed to more than 400 feeds out one time. Ridiculous. And even though I’ve since reduced that number to a mere 40, I’m still inundated with repurposed, rehashed, and regurgitated information. Why can’t someone just point me to the good stuff?

Actually, someone can. At least as it pertains to business and technology headlines. They’re called Smart Brief. They claim to “read everything” so “you get what matters.” And after a week of subscribing to their various newsletters, I can honestly say they deliver on their promise.

As a result, I’ve unsubscribed to even more feeds. Now if only Smart Brief covered more consumer areas, I might be able to relegate my Google Reader to personal feeds only.

Can someone tell me if my perfect feed reader exists?

I currently use Bloglines as my feed reader of choice. It’s gotten the job done over the past three years, and overall I’m happy with it. But if there were a feed reader that could do the following, I’d make the switch to a new platform:

  • Timed feeds. I should be able to regulate my individual feed intake. I’ve already cut down my total feeds from 400 to 40, but there are still feeds that I’d like to have updated either once a week or once a month while others get updated daily.
  • Feed restrictions. This is more of an extension of the above item, but I’d love to restrict feed consumptions during certain hours (read: 9-5) to optimize productivity. Mindless thumbing through my feeds is more fun than performing menial work that still needs to be done.
  • Feed priority. Again, this is related to item one, but I’d consider bumping my feeds back up if I could prioritize and time them. Tagging would be nice as well as better integration with Del.ici.ous and/or saved feed items.

Does such a reader exists? How would you improve your feed reader?

How to unsubscribe from feeds

2007: it’s time to clean out your feed reader. I understand this article goes without saying but feel the majority of heavy RSS users don’t understand the importance or reasoning behind usubscribing from feeds. Why should you? Because RSS overload eats into productivity and phases out quality reading time, that’s why. Even if you click “mark all as read” you’re still wasting time.

Last year I let my total feed count creep into 400+ territory. I read maybe 20-30 daily with about another 30-40 periodically. Since then, I’ve reduced my total “active” feeds to 67 while constantly cycling in new ones and ditching old ones that no longer yield useful content for me. With that, here are some general guidelines I like to follow to keep my feeds clean and usable and my productivity at a healthy level:

  • Determine which feeds you no longer use. You know the routine. You read an article you like and subscribe to the publisher’s feed. That’s what you should do. But maybe that was and is the only article that appeals to you. What if you’re no longer reading the feed, or better yet, pulling inspiration from it? You may be thinking: “But I don’t want to lose it.” Well guess what. You can resubscribe at anytime.
  • Remove feed. Hit delete. Just do it. You’ll be better for it. If you must, save the feed in a backup OPML file in the unlikely event you decide to re-add it to your reader later on.
  • Create high-, medium-, and low-priority feeds. Another helpful method in organizing your feeds is to use priority folders. “High” being stuff you enjoy reading daily and that yields solid inspiration, “medium” being the above average feeds you sometimes read, and “low-priority” being feeds you don’t use often but like to keep tabs on and/or read when you have some extra time. I’ve also seen some feeder users organize feeds by “updated often” or “rarely updated.”
  • Add new feeds. If you aren’t cycling in new feeds at least once a month, you’re missing out. There is simply no way you have already subscribed to the web’s best content. Seek it, add it to your reader in a “pending” status to gauge its viability, then add it permanently if its producing consistent results.

Life, not to mention the work day, is too short to waste on stale feeds. And just think, while you’re mindlessly thumbing through “fast food” feeds, you could be treating yourself to a real literary entree; The Chosen or one of these business-related books quickly come to mind.