Getting Things Read

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As a blog reader you probably know the “problem” of the daily information flood from the blogosphere. If you have subscribed dozens of feeds you usually get dozens of new posts a day. In this post I will show you how I deal with that “problem”.

My strategy consists of two elements: scanning phases and reading phases.

The goal of a scanning phase is to bring down the “new posts” counter to zero. During such a phase, which takes around 5 minutes, I open each feed that contains new posts (in Bloglines that action resets the “new posts” counter for that feed). There are three options of what I can do with every post:

  • ignore it
  • read it
  • save it

If there are keywords in the title I am not interested in I ignore the post. There are probably other factors involved in this decision, but I am not really aware of them as the decision is made very fast. If a post overcomes this check, I look for the length of the post. If a post is short (that means I can read it in about 20 seconds), I read the post, otherwise I “save” it with checking the “mark as new” checkbox in Bloglines. That increases the “marked as new” counter, but has no effect on the “new posts” counter. If I have done this process for each new post of the feed, I move on to the next feed.

My day usually starts with such a scanning phase to see what interesting posts await me later. During the day I do a scanning phase before each reading phase.

The goal of a reading phase is to decrease the “marked as new” counter. It is obvious what happens in such a phase: reading the posts marked during the scanning phases. The number of posts I read during such a phase depends on the length of the posts and the time available (a side note: as it is not possible to estimate the reading time for posts of short feeds I usually do not subscribe to such feeds).

I switch to reading phases when my productivity is very low, e.g. after lunch. So my day usually contains three such phases.

Ok, that’s it. I hope I could give you some inputs for your own Getting Things Read approach.

5 comments baked

  • Kyle

    I have a similar method of dealing with my huge feed list. I see, however, that you’re still using bloglines…hehe, poor you!

    You might want to try (if you haven’t already). The designers have put a lot of thought into the UI, and its layout/functions really facilitate the ignore/read/save approach. It’s the only RSS reader I’ve ever felt truly satisfied with.

  • klevo

    I do nearly the same. However I often scan my feed list and remove sources that does not produce content that interests me for some time. I also removed digg, because that feed converted my days to pure reading :)

  • cakebaker

    @Kyle: I tried Newshutch, and its UI is really nice. But there are some things I miss in Newshutch (and so I am still using bloglines *g*):
    – it is not possible to save posts
    – encoding of german blogs is not supported
    – there are no counters for folders (i.e. if a folder is closed I do not see how many posts I haven’t read in that folder)
    – my primary browser (Konqueror) is not fully supported

    @klevo: Yes, I also remove sources which write to much posts per day.

  • Felix Geisendörfer

    When I read non technical and not horribly difficult stuff, I started using Zap Reader quite a bit. It forces you to read at a given rate of 300wpm (+-) and helps me to finisih stuff quicker ^^. ->

  • KesheR

    Well, in fact it’s the only way to manage lots of feeds. I go through a RSS hell everytime I open FeedDemon, which is the useful program I use. I really need to process it on several steps, because if I try to “read” it at once, I often skip it all at the end.

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