I saw Alexis Madrigal talking about using RSS on twitter today. He mentioned that he felt twitter was better at surfacing things that he wanted to write about then a RSS reader. I know nothing about how he uses a reader, or what he has in it, but I wondered how he was using his reader.
In my opinion, if you setup your reader correctly, it will always be better then twitter. Now, I don’t want to presume what correct is, but I have a system that works for me, and I have found more then one person that does it similarly. Since I have been talking about, talking about RSS, I figured this was a great opportunity to talk about RSS. (my Drupal con presentation) I like to use a triage system. I start by making sure I have my feeds in Google Reader. This is important because so many RSS readers now days use google reader as a sync system. I wish there was another, just so that there was competition, but it’s what we have. If you put everything in google reader you can make sure that all your devices are in sync. If you only use one device for feed reading this may not be as big of a deal for you. Now that everything is in a feed reader, I like to separate my feeds into a priority system. I like to use numbers, because they get sorted correctly as first in most places. I use a 1 - 10 system. 1 has the most important feeds. These feeds are something I can clean out in less then 20 minutes. 20 minutes is key. I have found that if in 20 minutes you can find something that makes you feel like 20 minutes was worthwhile your brain will fire some of those good chemicals, and you will start to create the checking blog habit. The habit is the key to a successful blog reading system. If you miss out on this habit part, blogs are going to feel like a big waste of time. This will invariably lead a no blog reading system. Here is my pro tip about choosing feeds to begin with. This will keep you from screwing up on your first step. Don’t subscribe to the New York Times, or CNN. Stop. Don’t. I mean it. You might think you care about general news, but you don’t. Very few people do. You should start with what you care about, and remember there won’t be anyone looking over your shoulder, so if you like TMZ, read TMZ. What’s great about the triage system is that once you have cleared out your first step you are reading. You won’t wan’t to stop reading. So you will start clearing out your second step. Once you have built the habit, you will find that you will start building out more blogs then you can read in 20 minutes. That is fine, but the second problem you are going to run in too is the it’s to much for me problem. Many people I have talked with feel bad about not reading everything. When they open up their reader, all they can see is a ton of stuff they haven’t read. Don’t do that, don’t feel like that. RSS feeds are a river, getting the good stuff is like fishing. Just create a good net, and let the rest flow by. If it’s important enough you will almost always pick it up in secondary systems like email, and twitter. The last step in the reading system is a read it later service. I use instapaper, but you can using anything you want. The goal is that as you come across something interesting throw it into instapaper, but keep reading your feeds. That is the only way you will read at any higher volume. I realize that if I was a person who was paid to report, I would have to time to follow a thread all the way to the bottom, but I think this is a system that would help most people. PS: here is my current set of feeds in opml format.