That’s right—I have 11,072 unread items on my feed reader. All of it pretty much equates to me being way behind on my subscriptions. I am either subscribed to too many feeds, engaged in too many other things to bother, uninterested in the feeds which I am subscribed to, or a combination of all three. It would appear that it is time to fix this problem right now.
Obviously, I am subscribed to way too many feeds, but I have to be keep on top of things. How can we solve this problem? First, I could use a feed filtering service like AideRSS, illumio, or FilterMyRSS. Next, I could use the abilities within many feed reading applications to discover content that has only the content I want within the feed (alternatively, I could exclude this content as well)—NetNewsWire and FeedDemon offers functionality like this. Finally, I use services like TechMeMe, Reddit, and Digg to get only the best news out there.
Another issue that I have is the time that is required to read so many stories in a single day. Even if I was only subscribed to 50 feeds, and those sites posted an average of three items per day, if it took around around 20 seconds to evaluate the content of each story, it would require at least 45 minutes to read those feeds. Assuming you actually had a few stories that you wanted to read, now you should see how it all adds up to a very time consuming process. The only way I can rectify this problem is to reduce the feeds and set up a tight schedule. It is not easy.
Finally, there are just too many feeds that have either not produced valuable content or are not of use to me anymore. This is probably the leading issue that prevents me from being able to read all my feeds. I could simply segregate them in their own portions of my feed reader so that I can easily skip them if need be, but I could also simply remove them. Perhaps it would be an even better idea to setup an account on Pageflakes or Netvibes—set it as my homepage to get news to me fast that might not be as work related, and then I can dedicate time to get fully fed from my feed reader.
It really is information overload to the max. I have some work to do to get on top of this issue, but I am open to any suggestions. How do you keep on top of things without being overloaded with information? If someone can solve that question, create an application that can handle it, and, finally, monetize it, that person has it made!
[Video Source: Chris Pirillo]
I’ll check out BlogBridge. Thanks for the tip.
BlogBridge has a ‘What’s Hot…’ feature which groups feeds by subject and interlinking. For reading purposes it is a little difficult because it opens the list in an extra window.
I surf via RSS when possible with Google Reader. Sometimes I’m busy for a few days and have 10,000+ posts to sift through. My biggest complaint is all the duplicate post from different bloggers and web sites talking about the same event.
Anyone know of a RSS filter that groups like posts? I think this is a real problem for RSS users and if something doesn’t exist I think I have a business idea. I don’t need to read 10 post about a new Gmail feature from 10 different sources.
I simply avoid thinking about it. I have 84,440 unread items in my feed reader. And I don’t even use twitter.
I don’t try to keep up with every feed I subscribe. I only monitor a handful daily and the others…well, I know they’re there when I want to return to that topic. If I didn’t subscribe to the feed then I would forget about the site totally. In a way, a feed is like a bookmark for me….and it works for me.
No problem. Seems like a great tool to help manage information overload.
Mabye you should read those subscriptions? Mabye finding the most interesting interests is the way.
James – thanks for putting FilterMyRSS up there with AideRSS and illumio. What an honor! I created FilterMyRSS because my feed reader was overloaded, just as yours appears to be. I have found the exclusion feature I use [and have on my site] is as powerful as filtering for keywords within feeds – especially when you subscribe to 200+ feeds to gather your daily does of ‘whatever.’
Phillip, you said: “Perhaps what would be helpful would be algorithms that work for content the way Pandora works for music.”
Have you checked out http://blern.com?
I’m using illumio to monitor 162 feeds, and it’s doing a pretty good job of filtering the stories to find what matches my interests. The current breakdown for me today:
– 1,374 new articles
– 1 is a 3-star match to my interests
– 27 are a 2-star match
– 326 are a 1-star match
So at least it’s making my reading list more manageable.
Thanks for the comments everyone. Appreciate the feedback!
This happens to me every so often as well. I have two or three blogs I know I can get the important information through. For the rest, I’ll delete all the unread messages and start fresh.
Its not exactly about feed readers but its along the same lines as this post–information crunching. I just think its cool 😮
Yikes. That beats the 10,000 or so items that I had when I declared “RSS bankruptcy” and stopped using feed readers. Now I use Popurls clones or special niche monitors I’ve built.
I use a news ticker like KNewsTicker (a KDE applet for Linux users). It’s a handy way to read headlines of the bigger sites like Digg, Slashdot, and Reddit. For the smaller blogs, I use GReader.
As for the integrating Google Reader with a desktop client, Liferea (http://liferea.sourceforge.net/) is adding support for GReader soon (it’s a Google Summer of Code project). Linux only though.
I wish that there was a desktop client (or Google opens it up for everyone) to access and interact with Google Reader. I would love to be able to access Google Reader withing NetNewsWire and FeedDemon; as well as other applications.
Google Reader does have the simplicity, but it is lacking in those “extra features” I really desire that desktop clients can offer.
More great insight. Thanks Philip for the comment.
That is great to know! Looking forward to it.
James, as a NetNewsWire user, I think you’ll be happy to learn that the 4.0 version will integrate the AideRSS PostRank right into the UI of the reader. Soon you won’t have the extra complexity of setting up additional external filters, or anything of that sorts.
Google Reader has a neat TRENDS page that it offers you. It shows you stats on you and your feeds. It showed me what % of a subscription I don’t read. When it shows me that I’m not reading X amount of the subscription, I just get rid of it all together.
It also shows me inactive feeds; feeds that I’m subscribed to, but don’t get updated by the publisher. If many of those sit idle too long, I’ll cut them out.
I think the first step (like in AA) is to acknowledge the problem of overload. The way I see this problem is in terms of abundance of data versus scarcity of meaning. The more abundant the info the more difficult it gets to pull meaning from the rubble. You’re right: whoever figures that one out will be the next big thing.
Perhaps what would be helpful would be algorithms that work for content the way Pandora works for music. But that’s the technical achievement that’s gonna require a whole new breed of developers. Semantic web or AI is probably what we’re talking about.
My own remedy has been to set up a modified 80/20 system in my feed reader (got this from Bob Walsh). Have 2 folders like “20% that matters” and “80% that don’t”. I add a third that’s waiting to make either list and try to commit to clear that list after a week of reading. I use Google Reader anymore and use the Trends feature to help decide what to trash.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that I would spend time adding to my reader and not deleting. I’ve started setting time to really think about what I don’t need & cutting it and use a very small number of Alerts for 2-3 topics that are worth getting alerts for (daily/weekly). That keeps my list of feed fresh.
I don’t think there’s any solution right now that’s perfect. It’s just too big a task with the long tail stretching out to infinity.
So, until the next Larry & Sergey come along, a little Zen-feeding can go a long way.
The image I took was of today, but trust me, last night it really did have 11,072 unread items. (That is how I came up with the title.) I managed to chop it down in half today after writing this article.
I think my significant amount of Twitter use is the primary culprit for getting me behind in the first place 😛