RSS feeds have become quite popular among techies, as the easiest way to read content from sites. The old way of users checking sites have given way to the new way of ‘content-push’ from the site to the user. This means that reading content is easier than ever. With millions of sites and even more blogs, the number of RSS feeds on offer is staggering.
Some blogs and most of the commercial sites offer partial feeds to boost page views. However, the majority of blogs offer full feeds. The commercial blogs and sites churn out dozens of posts every day (think Engadget and Mashable). All of this adds to the ‘overload’ misery. A quick look at my feed reader tells me that I have 104 feeds. Most of these are blogs, and a small number of news sites round up the list.
Whenever I have time crunches, I skip posts from the commercial blogs with multiple posts per day. This is because I consider only a handful of blogs to be really essential for my regular reading. I am sure that many others are facing the same problem of information overload.
This happens because I cannot easily seperate wheat from the chaff. Most of these sites have posts that I value, but they are clouded by the hundreds of other meaningless posts that are produced every day. The extra posts are obviously to keep the search bots happy, but the sites have such large audiences that they do not really care if a few readers unsubscribe from their blogs. This has got to me finally, and I decided to do some clean-up.
Spring cleaning, and more
After skipping over some feeds every day, I began to notice a pattern. The blogs that I skipped over were big-budget blogs or high-profile news sites. It was really hard, but I finally managed to convince myself that the extra time spent over reading/skipping them (the latter was more prominent) was not worth it. Now, with those burden blogs out of my feed reader, I have trimmed down to 41 feeds. A much more manageable number.
Also, instead of subscribing to entire sites for the interest of some sites, I took a conscious decision to subscribe to more ‘focussed’ feeds, whenever possible. I am an avid Apple fan, and hence read Apple related news whenever possible.
Digg is known to be the mother ship of all Apple fanatics, so subscribing to Digg was a no-brainer. However, the feed included all Apple stories. This had the ‘Upcoming’ section, which included all sorts of spam and sub-par stories trying to grab attention. However, having realized that, I switched to the ‘Popular’ feed, which includes only the best stories. Granted, Digg may have all sorts of crappy stories on its pages, but that is a story for another post.
Moral of the story
Do your spring-cleaning, and thereby improve your productivity. Wasting time on unread feeds is really counter-productive, and I understood it the hard way. We may not realize it, but that is how things end up.
The idea that you may miss important stuff is just pure myth. Most news make it to multiple blogs and news sites if important enough. If it does not, it probably is not imporant enough. With fewer feeds, I am able to read each feed with more concentration. Also, I am able to spend more time on writing posts and commenting on other posts, rather than reading feeds.
Now, my question to you is: do you experience feed overload? If so, how much, and do you think it affects your productivity? Have you taken any steps to counter it? Please share them in the comments below.