RSS, Atom and feed technologies are great for keeping up with blogs, news sites, comics, or any other web site that is frequently updated. By aggregating feeds using a feed reader, you can get an overview of a wide range of different sites all in one place, and keep track of new content from many places with ease.
(Okay, I just re-read that and feel I have a missed opportunity in marketing. Either that or I really need to start making this site more personal again)
The problem with feeds is that there are millions of them and it’s easy to subscribe too many – to the point at which it’s impossible to keep up with them. Your feed reader becomes a swarm of unread items. You want to read everything but you don’t have the time.
This has happened to me before. Back when I was a student and wasn’t in a 9-5 job and playing online games for most of the evening, I had plenty of time to read feeds. But more recently that time has dwindled, and reached the point where I couldn’t keep up with my feeds. I’ve had over 1000 unread items in Google Reader and found it difficult to get that figure down. So, here’s what I did:
- Stopped reading feeds that didn’t really interest me. There are some sites that have really interesting weekly features, but the rest of the content really wasn’t that great. Or blogs which have changed their focus to something that no longer interests me. Or my interests have changed and I’m no longer interested in, say, the best new Windows freeware utilities, since I’m now primarily a Mac user. Whatever the reason, these feeds were removed.
- Stopped reading feeds which were interesting but that I couldn’t keep up with. The likes of Boing Boing and Engadget are good examples – they are interesting but there are usually several posts per day which I don’t always have time to read. And then once you haven’t read it for a few days you end up with 50-60 unread items so you leave it out because you can’t face reading that many items from the same blog. This happened a few times so in the end I just decided to cut my losses and unsubscribe, and hope that any truly interesting articles on them would get linked from elsewhere.
On the whole, I can keep my feed reader’s unread items down to something sensible with only a small amount of reading each day by following these 2 principles. Even if I don’t read feeds for a few days, it doesn’t take me too long to catch up.