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The Blessing and Curse of RSS

New PictureI’ve been a huge fan of RSS for many, many years. I love it. I think the technology behind it has done more to revolutionize the web than most applications or file formats. For communicator, it has done wonders to allow us to monitor conversations. For people who know how to use it, it has brought the web directly to them – on their terms and at their pace. It’s given rise to podcasts, for one.

But, like many, I think I may have overdone it. I currently subscribe to 225 feeds, many of which update several times a day. Maybe that’s not a lot for you, but with my current work/life/commute balance, it’s a strain on my resources.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I just zeroed out my RSS reader. I always feel terrible about doing that so I rarely do it. Consequently, I typically have thousands of unread messages lurking in there, eying me up, guilt ridding me. And I hate that.

MarkAllAsRead And I’m not alone:

Response

But I found that when I went in there at lunch today to read my feeds, I found it a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Sort of how I used to feel about it, when there were only a handful of bloggers worth following and the top most news sites worth keeping track of.

But before long my reader will probably say All Items (1000+) again and I’ll feel bad about myself again.

So what can one do about it?

No, that’s not rhetorical. Have you recently zeroed out your RSS reader? What have you done to get over the guilt?

How do you manage your feeds? How do you maintain a limit that doesn’t overwhelm you. Years later I’m still struggling with keeping track of everything I’ve collected. Is it time to get out the RSS scissors or do I just have to learn how to read faster and more often?

Thoughts?

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2 Responses

  1. Luke, I’d like to say I have a good answer for you, but I don’t. If I don’t keep up every day (I’m subscribed to some 200+ feeds myself), I also fall hopelessly behind. I also feel guilty about clicking the “mark all as read” button, but sometimes there’s no choice.

    What if we started thinking of RSS items like tweets? It’s a river of posts that we read when we get to them, but we otherwise let them wash away and don’t worry about it. After all, they’ll just keep coming.

    One other tip: the latest release of Google Reader allows you to hide your total number of unread items. Try doing that, and your anxiety may ease?

    Merry Christmas, Luke.

    Bryan Person | @BryanPerson

  2. Perhaps you need to reassess your personal expectations. Think about it this way: do you feel obligated to read all the books in your areas of interest at the local library? Will you feel unfulfilled until you try every item on the menu at a favorite local haunt? I’m guessing no. You should extend this perspective to your reader (and perhaps beyond). Your new mantra: My reader queue is not a to do list.

    Now, if you’ve got a handful of must-read blogs, create an Alpha folder and keep them in there. My alpha folder is currently at 29 thanks to the Boston Globe Wednesday Food section. Most likely, I will get to zero during lunch. With an Alpha folder, you provide for the occasional satisfaction of hitting zero, while still having a broad range of items to check out in your down time. But you probably don’t have down time.

    Where’s my reader queue? 667. It was up at 1,000+ for a very long time and then the old stuff just vanished. Did I feel a loss? I can’t say that I did. Maybe I’ll start a blog counseling people suffering under the weight of their perceived digital obligations…

    Marcy H.

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