Dealing with RSS news feed information overload?
March 5, 2009 1:00 AM   Subscribe

Dealing with RSS news feed information overload?

I'm using Google Reader to keep up with nine moderately high volume news feeds (mostly tech news) and two smaller ones (Daily WTF and a comic). This is the pruned-down version; I removed high volume feeds like HuffPo. I think each feed offers something that I don't want to give up, so I'm not sure pruning feeds is the answer.

It seems overwhelming sometimes, with easily 250 new items per day. It's almost paradoxical: I have so much news on my hands that I don't feel like tackling it, so I end up not getting any news!

Any longtime RSS news junkies have tips?
posted by wastelands to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Can you switch the high-volume ones to headlines only? That way you could skim through them quickly and star the ones you want to actually read, then go back through your new starred items, then select them all and unstar them when you're done (so that you're fresh for the next day).

I know you don't want to prune, but do you need as many as nine tech news feeds? In my experience, there's usually one or two sites that cover *everything*, even if they don't get to it as quickly as the niche sites. Sometimes they just report on what the niche sites have picked up on. If you keep those ones and ditch the others, you'll still be getting all the news, you just might have to wait a day or two until the large sites pick it up from the niche sites.

Another tactic is to see if the sites offer split feeds. For example, a tech site with seven main categories might offer a feed for each one as well as a whole-site feed. Perhaps you're only interested in one or two topics that they offer, and can cut out the other categories.

I've got 89 feeds in my reader, but only a dozen are high-volume. I tend to put those in their own folder (to stop them from teaching the other feeds bad habits!), and know that if I open that folder, I can skim read the headlines without missing anything really important. If I'm too busy, I'll leave that folder untouched. And if the 'unread items' number gets so large it makes me anxious, I just mark all as read and start fresh :)
posted by harriet vane at 1:27 AM on March 5, 2009

This comes up quite a lot around these here parts.

Short answer? Cut the nine tech news ones down to one. Seriously. If you pick a major one like Techmeme or even Slashdot, important stuff will filter round as it's re-blogged and linked.

I went from 400+ items a day to I think, around 25 a day. It's much more useful, doesn't take hours to read through, and I don't miss the high volumes one bit.

I also switched from Google Reader to a desktop one on my home laptop only, so I wasn't sitting there 'clearing my feeds' at work.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:30 AM on March 5, 2009

Response by poster: harriet vane, I am headline-only, but that's a good point about not so many tech feeds. Maybe I will ditch Gizmodo and keep Engadget, or something.

Happy Dave, oopsie. :-) I didn't catch those ones in my search. At least it has been over a year since the last one...
posted by wastelands at 1:38 AM on March 5, 2009

Folders in Google Reader are great. I have ones like: daily, technology, blogs, entertain, news. Feeds can be in more than one folder

I try to at least skim read the daily ones, but the others might be a specific mood (like entertain is chock full of say articles that I might want to read in full later). If I get too far behind on any feed that's not in the daily folder I dont hesitate as marking it as read.

Then the only remaining thing that gets me is always seeing 1000+ unread items in the menu. I try to ignore that.
posted by kaydo at 2:17 AM on March 5, 2009

That, and the J key. I usually have 350-400 articles a day to read through in Google Reader, but - skim the headline, if it doesn't look interesting, hit J and move on to the next one.
posted by The Shiny Thing at 3:19 AM on March 5, 2009

Are these feeds necessary for your job, or are you just curious?
It's like that Dilbert cartoon where Dogbert describes the internet and information as filling a teacup with a firehose.

I used to have over 100 feeds.
Now I have 6.
I'm working my way down to zero.

I just asked myself if I was reading each one out of boredom, idle curiosity, or because it genuinely improved my life.

As you can see, very few fell into that last category.
Those that did, I'm still thinking about, examining them, trying to figure out if I really need them or not.

9 times out of ten, if not job or career impacting, you could probably just delete them. It's just random information and minutiae that prove ultimately useless.
posted by willmize at 4:19 AM on March 5, 2009

I'd focus on willmize's point: "because it genuinely improve[s] my life." If you're not getting something interesting out of what you're reading, whether it relates to your career, your hobbies, your desire to know what's going on in a certain part of the world or community -- that's when to cut it.
posted by Alterscape at 6:24 AM on March 5, 2009

I'd focus on willmize's point: "because it genuinely improve[s] my life." If you're not getting something interesting out of what you're reading, whether it relates to your career, your hobbies, your desire to know what's going on in a certain part of the world or community -- that's when to cut it.

Yah, for real - this is still one of my favourite comments on Metafilter because it was the first thing that made me question the importance I was putting on reading widely across the internet. In practice, I'm still probably in some marketing bracket for 'heavy internet user', but the quality of my time has increased while the time has maybe gone down 75%. Not coincidentally, MeFi has been a big part of that, though even MeFi can get a bit much at times.

Seriously, take a step back from it all. Gizmodo and Engadget and their ilk are there to draw eyeballs to get advertising clicks. They have very low journalistic (pfft) standards, and they will post about any old shit. Do you really need to know this stuff? Really? You absolutely need to know about USB missile launchers or Every Single Shiny Gadget released?

The Internet passed the point where you could usefully read large swathes of it sometime around 2002. Even then there were billions of words of Usenet postings and hundreds of millions of images. These days, RSS, god bless it, has made the web seemingly navigable, but it just makes it easy to waste months of your life processing ephemera with absolutely no positive outcome.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:59 AM on March 5, 2009

it just makes it easy to waste months of your life processing ephemera with absolutely no positive outcome.

I used to read Engadget and Gizmodo and all the blogs about shiny happy gadgets, until I realized that I didn't really need to read them until I had saved up enough money to purchase said shiny happy gadget and needed to do some research.
And by that time, 99% of what was in Engadget and Gizmodo was outdated and useless anyway.
posted by willmize at 7:49 AM on March 5, 2009

If you're using GReader & Firefox I'd suggest looking in to the Feedly reader for Firefox. Basically it puts a nice magazine like interface over your GReader subscriptions and provides better display options for Video/Image only feeds and buttons all over the place to easily mark all items as read. It also has Twitter/Friendfeed integration. Allowing you to post items to Twitter & Friendfeed(buttons next to each item) and the more articles that are shared via those methods, the more they will bubble to the top.

It keeps the 150+ feeds I follow in check and has an awesome 'Explore' feature.
posted by mnology at 9:03 AM on March 5, 2009

Try feedscrub. I use it for high volume feeds and it works pretty fine. It probably won't work as well if the feeds are headline only.
posted by swapspace at 11:41 AM on March 5, 2009

Forgot to mention: If you are interested in trying it out, MeFiMail me your email address and I'll send you an invite.
posted by swapspace at 11:44 AM on March 5, 2009

I use PostRank to filter so I'm seeing just the Great or Best posts.
posted by timepiece at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2009

I don't read all the posts. What I do is keep the items in a list mode and browse through them and open up only the ones I find interesting. Going through every item in expanded mode takes quite a lot of time..

ask.metafilter averages about 80 posts a day :) so you aren't the only one with lots of feeds.. :) good luck
posted by bbyboi at 5:26 PM on March 5, 2009

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