Like many infosphere natives, I deal every day with a massive contradiction: On the one hand, I want to know what’s going on out there, and on the other, I want to get actual work done. Recently, the getting-work-done side has been suffering. So I massively reorganized my feed-reading setup, and it’s helped.
River of News · For years, Dave Winer has been preaching the virtues of the “River of News” approach to feed-reading: let it all go by in a big blended stream, look at it when you have time, and what goes by when you weren’t looking, well, you didn’t need to see it anyhow.
I’ve never been able to buy into that because there are certain people who are important to me: for personal or professional reasons, it is unacceptable that they post something and I not notice. On the other hand, triage is clearly required. And I’d rather not get into mass unsubscriptions; there’s a reason for everything I’ve subscribed to.
Buckets · The key insight is that I just had to make up my mind and sort the feeds into two buckets, one for the can’t-afford-to-miss stuff, the other for everything else.
NetNewsWire has made this easy, but I suppose most other feed-readers would let you do something similar. At the top level, I have two folders, named “A” and “B”; damn, that’s original. I keep “A” in expanded form so I can see who’s posted, and I navigate through it feed by feed mostly with the next-unread key, with regular recourse to mark-whole-feed-read.
The “B” folder is now a pure River of News, which is to say, in NetNewsWire terms, the folder is collapsed and all the articles in the feeds show up together. I scan through these—there are hundreds—really fast with the mouse-wheel, clicking on the handful whose subject line catches my eye, then with one click the whole feed-splodge is history.
I’ve cut my feed-reading time by a huge factor, and I don’t think I’ll be missing much that I’ll regret.