Marjolein’s Top 9 RSS Feed reader housekeeping secrets

by Lee Hopkins on November 30, 2006 · 4 comments

in Uncategorized

RSS feed secrets

If you use a feed reader to keep up to date on your information gathering/research and I strongly suggest that:

  1. you do; and
  2. you use GreatNews,

then after a while your feeds will become unmanageable and unwieldy, leading to lowered productivity, frustration and stress.

I am a repeat offender/victim of this, so I devised a 4-part categorization of my feeds:

  1. Cappucchino – those feeds I read daily
  2. Darjeeling Breakfast – I try to get to them once a week
  3. English Breakfast – I try to get to them once a month
  4. Green tea – I try to get to them

However, this self-imposed categorization has its limitations — including that every new feed I come across I automatically pop into my ‘cappucchino’ collection, whether it deserves it or not (the ‘new’ always equals ‘better’, doesn’t it? {grin} — see point 3 below)

Imagine my joy, then, when I came across the CleverClogs blog, run by Marjolein Hoekstra. In the inspiring and very clever words of Marjolein:

So, here’s my list of RSS reader housekeeping secrets for you to drop or adopt:

  1. Categorize feeds by topic or project. If you lose interest in that topic, that branch is easily pruned. If necessary, assign multiple categories to feeds. Find experts for each group of feeds so that you know whose writings are mostly considered authoritative.
  2. Use techniques like feed filtering, feed digesting and smart feeds to obtain chronologically ordered lists (river of news) of highly relevant items. These techniques reduce the number of feeds that you have and they improve the quality of the ones that you do decide to subscribe to.
  3. Create a separate category ‘Evaluate’ where you keep candidate feeds. After a few weeks you’ll notice how quickly your interests have shifted. You’ll find that it’s a delightful relief to swiftly erase feeds you thought were indispensable a couple of weeks before.
  4. Tag, rate and annotate your feeds so that you know why you added them in the first place. Edit your feed titles to make them meaningful, for example add the name of the blogger to the feed title.
  5. Sort your feeds by rating within each category. This will allow you to focus on the feeds you rate highest when you’re on a time budget and it makes the actual chore of pruning feeds a snap.
  6. Use different update notification mechanisms depending on the feed’s rank: IM, ticker tape or system tray pop-up notification for urgent messages, email for intermediately urgent messages, and your feed reader for the remaining items. This way you’ll know for sure you won’t miss the most important items.
  7. In your mindset redefine the meaning of ‘unread’ vs ‘read’ items: the read ones can usually be skipped on the next round of feed reading, so turn these off. Be real: the ‘unread’ items don’t hurt you. Feed reading is fun and informative. Don’t spoil it by forcing yourself to race against the clock.
  8. Be brave enough to close your feed reader every so often and do stuff that might help you to relax.
  9. Keep a copy of your feeds by exporting them to OPML. You can save the file to your hard drive, then delete them from your reader. There’s also a possibility other people consider you an authority on that particular topic. Offer your subscriptions through an OPML browser on your blog. This encourages you to finetune your list of feeds because you know others are keeping an eye on the quality of your work.

Many thanks for an inspiring set of secrets, Marjolein, and your blog is now in my cappucchino feeds!

If you are interested in seeing who’s in my feeds at the moment, you could do worse than visit my ‘others to read’ page. It’s not completely up to date, but I’m not yet organised enough to risk putting my current OPML file out there for you to import… :-)


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