How to tame a growing collection of RSS feeds?
February 9, 2007 9:58 AM   Subscribe

How can I spend less time scrolling through endless feeds of news, where only some of them actually interest me?

I use RSS quite a lot to keep up to date on both blogs from friends, as well as interesting topics. I use bloglines for this. However, I've noticed that I spend way too much time every day reading my blogs. Most of the times, I actually read only a few articles, however, scrolling through all of my subscriptions to find interesting stuff is way too much time consuming. The main issue is that while with some blogs are entirely catered to my interests and are updated with a frequency that allows me to easily catch up on them, other ones just pour massive amounts of posts, some of which are interesting, that build up. I had solved this problem by using live bookmarks in Firefox, and reserving a spot to those massive feeds there, where in a quick glance I could see if there are any interesting news, without having to scroll through hundreds of posts. However, the amount of live bookmarks I have is getting ridiculous, and it's also a tough issue to synchronize this between different computers, as I have to remember to manually enter each feed as a live bookmark at each one.

I would love a web based solution that would allow me to read the feeds that do fully interest me, and quickly skim through the headlines of massively updated feeds that may have a few interesting posts. I've tried filters, but that means I have to know all terms that appear in posts that interest me beforehand, which isn't always the case (and some posts don't use the same exact words to describe a similar topic). I'd be in heaven if it would even learn from my tastes and better filter topics that appeal to me. I would love to hear any suggestions, and people sharing how they handle the massive feed overload.
posted by irian to Computers & Internet (27 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Is there some reason you simply cannot stop reading feeds that don't interest you? Perhaps I am not understanding your predicament. Try unsubscribing.
posted by xmutex at 10:09 AM on February 9, 2007

Start using the folder features of Bloglines. Have folders for really interesting stuff that you'll want to read every time, and folders for skimmable stuff. It works.
posted by grouse at 10:19 AM on February 9, 2007

It's not that the entire feed doesn't interest me, it's that the feed usually has 5 out of 200 items that do interest me, and I have no other souce for such items.
posted by irian at 10:20 AM on February 9, 2007

irian: In my experience, you can find the source for such things. Either the site has a category feature (with feeds for each category), or you'll find another site that covers the same topics but without 195 other noise posts.

I might suggest posting examples of sites whose signal to noise ratio is not to your liking, and the hive mind can possibly suggest feeds more to your liking.
posted by Merdryn at 10:37 AM on February 9, 2007

Is there a possibility for creating a filter?

A lot of websites, Metafilter included, let you make limited RSS feeds where you can get only the stories that match a given set of tags or some keyword.

There must be some defining factor that sets the interesting stories apart from everything else, maybe look at several stories you've read and see if there's some common aspect, then filter the RSS as appropriate?
posted by owenkun at 10:38 AM on February 9, 2007

I use SharpReader as a desktop reader, you've pretty much described my workflow. I've got feeds that I read in their entirety separated from those that I skim the headlines of -- of course that's a vast oversimplification, I've got lots of categories and subcategories.

My only problem with it is that it's tied to a PC (and a windows PC at that)
posted by Nodecam at 10:45 AM on February 9, 2007

NetVibes addresses the problem of multiple computers and saving bookmarks amongst them - it's all web based.

As for showing you only things you're interested in -- unless you have some kind of list of keywords to filter in or out of what you want, this is impossible. At the end of the day, you're going to have to skim headlines to see if you're interested or not. That's the whole idea of RSS readers in the first place.

NetVibes at least aggregates things, lets you sort them into categories and tabs, and is web-based so that you don't have to worry about where you're viewing it from.
posted by twiggy at 11:10 AM on February 9, 2007

I suffer from the same malady. Once in a while, I just take mental stock: "Is this feed something I want to continue reading?" If not, I just unsubscribe on the spot.

Another thing to consider - put new feeds in a quarantine folder (I think that idea was form 43Folders) and move it into a "regular" folder when you realize it's decent.

Another thing I will do is ensure that Updated posts are marked as "Ignore" in many cases. It slows me down a huge deal.

Now if we could only get some sites to stop reposting articles as new entries in its blog *cough*dailykos*cough*, life would be sweet.

I will say though, reading through the feeds in Bloglines is far easier than opening up a ton of tags in Firefox.
posted by EastCoastBias at 11:19 AM on February 9, 2007

There must be a common trend in the stuff I like. I already have my feeds categorized, with must read stuff separated from haystacks.

Most of the noise comes from tech related sites (Techcrunch, Downloadsquad, etc) and deals (Red Flag Deals). Digg used to be there at some point too but the SNR was unbearably low.

I'll try looking further into the stuff I actually read to see if I can find any common trend to either find a filter or a more focused blog that covers the same interesting news. I usually save posts for later reading by asking Bloglines to keep them new, but I hate bolded articles begging me to read them again. I guess I could just clip them, but I don't like the screen asking me to blog the item and straying away from the reading. Is NetVibes any better with handling bookmarking of individual posts?
posted by irian at 11:25 AM on February 9, 2007

I use FeedDemon. It syncs with Newsgator (so my RSS reader stays synced on multiple PCs), allows me to flag posts to read later, or I can add them to a bin. I also have "watches" set up to automatically highlight stories that have certain keywords, no matter what blog/news site sources the story.

Great product, and worth every penny.
posted by Merdryn at 11:35 AM on February 9, 2007

Seconded with the Netvibes
posted by Webbster at 11:35 AM on February 9, 2007

I use the hardly known but diamond in the rough reblog.

Ever since I saw this article on Lifehacker I've been hooked.

It uses the river of news style, in that you can say give me all "new" items since I last checked, but you can also skim through each feed individually if you so choose. It's got a very easy to use interface, as well as keyboard shortcuts for browsing all of the items.

So, what I do is 3 times during the workday, spend about 5 minutes going through the "new" items. I can tell reblog with the stroke of a key that these are the posts/items that I want to read later, and it throws all of those into a separate RSS feed which I've placed as a live bookmark in FF.

That way, throughout the day or when I get home, I can just pick and choose articles from that feed to read. Doing this, I keep up with about 230 RSS feeds, everyday, and it hasn't been disruptive yet.

Highly recommended, but YMMV.
posted by mrhaydel at 11:47 AM on February 9, 2007

Shrook (Mac OS X only) solves both the synchronization and the feed-choice problems. You just read all your feeds in one thread, by pubDate. And it synchronizes all your copies against Best RSS reader I've seen.
posted by nicwolff at 11:48 AM on February 9, 2007

Oh, and if you simply wanna take a look at what my "published feed" looks like, take a look at it here.
posted by mrhaydel at 11:48 AM on February 9, 2007

I find that the majority of feeds I subscribe to only have one or two new posts a day (or a week). I asked the Bloglines peeps (yesterday) if there was any way to filter the feeds, so feeds only got posted as having new content if they had more than, say, 5 new posts. Their reply: nope. I'm trying to self-filter it myself, and only open them when they have more than 5 new posts. Right now, I have 31 updated feeds, comprising 57 new posts. Only two feeds have five or more unread posts. So I read those two, and then get on with my work.

It's working well, but I just started it this morning. I'm notoriously bad at follow-through, so we'll see if it continues to work.
posted by Alt F4 at 12:27 PM on February 9, 2007

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Yahoo Pipes yet. It just launched, and it's designed to let you parse, filter, combine, and otherwise wrangle web data easily. You could run your RSS feeds through a filter that picks out keywords you're interested in.

That said, I suffer from the same problem, and you really just have to learn to be ruthless. Honestly, is missing those 5 out of 200 posts a huge deal? Are those 5 posts worth the hour per day you spend cleaning out crap? There was a great article the other day about how one guy felt he had become a slave to his RSS feeds, and how unbolding items had become a chore, rather than the fun and educational activity it should be.

Realize this: No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to stay on top of everything. The output of the world, even in your little corner of interest, is far greater than you will ever be able to come to terms with. This is why PhDs aren't really experts in, say, Biology. They are experts in some tiny sub-discipline of their field.

The sooner you come to terms with this, the sooner you can restructure your life so that it's about your fulfillment, rather than fulfilling the whims of your RSS addiction.
posted by chrisamiller at 12:40 PM on February 9, 2007

Bloglines + Firefox + Greasmonkey + script "Mental Health Through Ignorance" = feed nirvana.

I block anything mentioning Paris Hilton or the various other non-celebrities, plus various other topics I have zero interest in. Combine that with headline-only display (which you can set on a per-feed basis) of the feeds with high volume, and you'll be able to scroll through pretty quick.
posted by timepiece at 1:24 PM on February 9, 2007

I use Google Reader. It's web accessible, easy to use, easy to sort and categorize.
posted by schnee at 1:34 PM on February 9, 2007

I'm with schnee and I'm surprised that Google Reader didn't come up earlier. I switched from Bloglines a few months ago, but it was switching from expanded view to list view in Google Reader that really sped up my reading time.

Now a couple times a day I scroll through 100+ headlines, view the the 10-15 that catch my interest and open the small handful of those that I really want to read in a background tab. I'm done in under 5 minutes.
posted by platinum at 2:48 PM on February 9, 2007


how do you make sure that updated posts are marked as "ignore"?

I can't find that option in Bloglines anywhere.


Google Reader's ability to switch from expanded view to list view sounds interesting, I might give it a try. Is there an easy way on Google Reader to bookmark individual posts? I want to keep track of stuff I actually read and interests me to later on prune the mischievous feeds.
posted by irian at 3:08 PM on February 9, 2007

Yep, you can star them for reading later and, if you want to be very organized, tag them for easy sorting too.

It also solves your multiple computer synchronizing problem too, since it's accessible from anywhere.
posted by platinum at 3:30 PM on February 9, 2007

Perhaps take a look at sux0r. It does bayesian filtering of RSS feeds. You can train it to categorize each item on a feed, as interesting, uninteresting, or any category you choose. You have to train it a whole bunch, but once it gets the hang of it, it does a very good job.
posted by Freen at 4:18 PM on February 9, 2007

Also worth mentioning for Google Reader is the recently added "auto sort", which does a weird combination sort so that the feeds that rarely update will get sorted above those feeds that generated hundreds of posts a day. I find this highly useful for folders where I have feeds with mixed regularity.
posted by Remy at 10:00 PM on February 9, 2007

Your predicament seems almost directly addressed by one of the newer features of Google Reader, and that's "Reader Trends." Basically, you can see statistical data of your feeds and your reading habits.

You can see which of your feeds generate the most posts per day, which is nice. But more importantly, you can see which feeds' items you read most. That is, Blog A may give you 30 posts a day, but "Reader Trends" says you only open up 10 percent of them. Meanwhile, Blog B may give you 3 posts a day, and "Reader Trends" knows you read almost every single one.

If you see a feed that you skim past all the time, with a low percentage of read items, you can feel confident you won't miss it when you dump it.

I've trimmed my reading list a few times already this way, which is good, 'cause of course I'm always adding stuff, too.
posted by pzarquon at 10:02 PM on February 9, 2007

I just switched from Bloglines to Google Reader, and once you get used to it, it's very powerful, particularly hitting 1 or 2 to switch between list and expanded view (the list view looks a lot like Gmail and lets you scan through high volume feeds very quickly). This excellent post at Lifehacker takes you through all the really nice features, including keyboard shortcuts that bring up an awesome Quicksilver-esque view of your feeds and let you jump around super-quick.

Using all these abilities, I've cut my feed reading time from an hour or so a day to half that. Plus it's not ugly as sin like Bloglines.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:14 AM on February 10, 2007


While reading the feed in the right frame, you can click on "edit subscription" in the header. A popup window comes up, The option to change updated posts is third down ("Updated Items" - the default is "Display as new")
posted by EastCoastBias at 5:39 PM on February 11, 2007

Thanks for all your helpful replies.

Google Reader is indeed quite cool. After sorting my feeds into more logical categories and switching from Bloglines to Google Reader, I spent only 15min going through all of them instead of an hour. I was actually surprised and thought for a second, "that was it?" The list view absolutely rocks and it's incredibly easy to star posts.
posted by irian at 6:50 PM on February 12, 2007

« Older Make science simple   |   Help! I broke my glasses!! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.