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November 1, 2008 7:46 PM   Subscribe

How do you arrange your RSS feeds?

This has been addressed various times across the Internet, but nowhere I value nearly as much as with the input on AskMeFi. Here are my questions:

1. How should I be reading feeds?
2. How should I be arranging feeds?

I currently use Google Reader, and am not open to a different web-based solution. I love Google Reader, but I worry its browser-ness is putting a cramp in my productivity. It's too easy to start typing "re" in Firefox's Awesome Bar and get to it.

Here's what I would like in a reader/reading system:

1. Keyboard-ninja friendliness
2. Savability for items I want to keep until I can act on them
3. Ability to email things to others quickly
4. (Forgive my shallowness) A beautiful interface

And I currently have my feeds arranged in a category style. (Apple, Politics, Faith, Tech, etc.)

As I fight for my attention and productivity, I'd like to keep it generic and ask the wonderful world of AskMeFi what system you've found most productive and effective. I don't want to check my feeds as often as I do, and I want to just sharpen my system altogether. I realize a good dose of discipline will be helpful, but can you help me help myself?
posted by jpcody to Technology (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I use Shrook, which has two great features: 1. it sorts all items from all feeds together in age order, and 2. it uses WebKit to show the real page the item links to rather than just the excerpt from the feed. And it meets your 4 criteria.
posted by nicwolff at 8:00 PM on November 1, 2008

Response by poster: @nicwolff In what feels like a previous life, I used Shrook because it could check as often as every five minutes with Growl notification. Perhaps I'll try it again for the right reasons.
posted by jpcody at 8:06 PM on November 1, 2008

Ah, I know that reflex well. (as do others on the web)

Look, it sounds like Google Reader meets all of your criteria. If your problem is just that you're going to the site too often, install Leechblock. It'll let you block the site outright, block during certain periods of the day, or limit your time on the site to a set amount of time per day.

Sure, it's possible to turn it off, but, at least for me, that quick 'blocked page' reminder is all I usually need to get back to work.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:08 PM on November 1, 2008

I use Google Reader and recently re-organized my feeds so that I could better control my habit. I pretty much put everything into three categories:

1) Essential - absolutely must read every update (or nearly every update) in a timely manner

2) Eh - feeds that I like to keep up to date on if possible, but that I can put off to read until later if need be

3) Meh - everything else, including most of my very active feeds. This is content that entertains me or that interests me in passing and is a good time killer. If I'm busy and unread items start piling up, I very often will just nuke this entire category with "Mark as all read".

As I've been using this system, I've developed a couple extra categories that fall somewhere between "Essential" and "Eh". It works very well to manage my time, and has helped me start nuking the most time-consuming content that I won't miss anyway.
posted by thebabelfish at 8:19 PM on November 1, 2008 [5 favorites]

Google Reader, particularly boosted with this script to colorize feeds, is my lifesaver. I sort in basic categories. When I want to save something to read later, I star it and go back through my stars when I have more time. When I've read something and want to save it for reference, I share it. Like thebabelfish, I generally skim my list or one category at a time, open stuff I want to read right now in new windows, star stuff to save for later, and use "mark all as read" to nuke the rest of the list. Knowing how to triage is the best reader skill.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:45 PM on November 1, 2008

I like NetNewsWire as an alternative to Google Reader, and it meets your four criteria. It has all the keyboard shortcuts you could want, single-key flagging for items you want to keep (and they stay in the Flagged Items list forever until you unflag them), shortcuts for emailing either the full contents of an article or just the link, and it's darn pretty.

My tip for how to read feeds is to scan them as quickly as possible, pausing on each one just long enough to determine if you want to read it or not. If not, move on; if so, flag/star it and move on. With a little practice, you can get through a few hundred unread articles in a few minutes. Then go to your flagged/starred items list and read. This is more productive for me than just trying to scan/read every feed straight through, because I end up in "reading mode" on articles that I don't really need to be spending time on.

I arrange feeds in categories like you do, but I also make use of smart lists, which work like smart playlists in iTunes. This is useful because a lot of feeds contain both "essential" and "meh" articles, and you can use smart lists to pick out the essential ones.

For example, you might find that the only articles you read on a productivity blog are the ones about GTD. If you set up a smart list to pick out the articles containing "gtd" and/or "getting things done", then once you've gone through the articles in the list, you can mark the rest of the feed's articles as read without even having to go through them. Of course, you can do this across multiple feeds, not just one at a time.

In case you haven't checked it out in awhile, NetNewsWire is free now. I switched to it from Google Reader, and I'm happy. If you try it, give yourself some time to get used to the new keyboard shortcuts; the biggest gotcha for me was that the "j" key in NetNewsWire marks as read and collapses all articles in the current feed. The space bar moves to the next article. See "Keyboard Shortcuts" under the Help menu.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 9:30 PM on November 1, 2008

I do categories as well. Mine are friends, technology, education, music, art, humor, news, politics, my sites and personal. Sometimes one feed goes into two categories, like news and politics.

I use Google Reader, like you do, and view my feeds in two ways. The first is through the system itself, which I keep open at all times with the Permatab add-on. The second way is through the "next" button (you can find that under settings > goodies). I find the latter way quite nice, because, when I have time to read stuff from my feeds, I can just click on the "next" bookmarklet on my toolbar and get sent to the direct permalink of the new item. To me, this is a lot nicer than browsing in the system, at least for most of my feeds.

You can further narrow down the next button via tag (e.g., next in friends, next in technology, etc.). It's just sort of nice actually visiting the sites, old-school, and yet not having to keep track of them actually. I notice this also eliminates my penchant for spending hours reading feeds, when I should be working. The bookmarklets encourage me to make feed reading a "sometimes thing."
posted by metalheart at 1:53 AM on November 2, 2008

I use NetNewsWire as well and group things into folders which I read with varying degrees of frequency

Biglib - library news, frequently updated, mostly to get headlines. If I'm running late I'll just skim or delete these
Lib - library blogs
List - listservs
Oth - misc professional blogs not strictly library, tech and social justice
Fnd - friends' blogs
Fam - family blogs
Me - ego feed and to make sure my posts are updating
Vt - local news
Temp - feeds I'm trying out to see if I want to follow them regularly

Seems like a lot of work for managing only 200 feeds but there it is. I like the application because I can download all my feeds and then get on a plane w/o internet and go catch up on them. This works for everything except Flickr feeds because it doesn't pre-load the images. My apologies if you don't have a Mac, this is Mac software.
posted by jessamyn at 5:10 AM on November 2, 2008

I just started using IndividURLs.com the other day. It allows you to enter your favorite feeds and organize them how you'd like and see the last 10 posts or so for each.

It is like your own little PopURLs.com.
posted by YFiB at 8:04 AM on November 2, 2008

Response by poster: Going to consider NetNewsWire at the beginning of the week. It sounds like a nice barrier to entry to have to load up the program, and I'm all for Mac software with a good interface. It does not preload the images, but it does load them if you have an active Network connection, right? And embedded video is supported?

Sounds like I'll go to NNW or stick with Google Reader for my feeds, now just to keep working on organization.

Thanks for your help so far!
posted by jpcody at 9:49 AM on November 2, 2008

I've been a Google Reader user for a couple years now, and always found it an exercise in frustration, even with the helpful Firefox plugins noted above to increase readability. I just haven't been able to get over the feeling that I was drowning in poorly-organized feeds, no matter how much I tried to keep them organized in folders/etc. Managing Google Reader once I had more than 20 subscriptions felt like more work than it was worth, unfortunately.

I was reluctant to switch since Reader integrates with all of the other Google services so well, but I switched to NetNewsWire last week and it's given me a new lease on life w/ RSS reading, when i was about to give it up. The "newspaper" layout on the desktop app is far more intuitive and manageable than the Reader interface, IMO. It's a lot prettier to look at than many of the other non-Reader alternatives, like Bloglines or Thunderbird's built-in reader. The "panic button" which gives you the option to delete any posts 24/48/etc hours old is a godsend. And if you have an iPhone or an iPod Touch (as I do), the free app, which supports offline reading, makes for great reading on the bus.
posted by mister barnacles at 11:37 AM on November 2, 2008

i just started getting into google reader after a year of netnewswire. i've had trouble with the syncing features of nnw, and the ability to check feeds online.

i'm really missing nnw, however, now that i'm trying greader. it it snappy (fast), snappy (-looking), and has a great interface.

if syncing or online access isn't a priority, opt for nnw
posted by prophetsearcher at 12:29 PM on November 2, 2008

I used to use FeedDemon (even had the paid version) and I liked having a desktop app. But then it started crashing all the time and I changed to Google Reader and never looked back.

I have my feeds in folders, like Computers, Fashion, Design, etc. I do not hesitate to axe feeds that I only sort-of like that post too much (most recently, Apartment Therapy). I love using AideRSS (now called PostRank) to pick out the best posts on a few feeds that also post a lot, like TechCrunch. I have also started unsubscribing to sites that are too similar - I used to be subscribed to both Kotaku and Joystiq, and I got rid of the former.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:59 PM on November 2, 2008

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