Dealing with feed overload


Over the weekend my RSS feed count hit an all time high – I now have more than 100 feeds set up in my RSS reader.

The problem is that these feeds generate a very large number of items for me to read, and I simply can’t keep up.

Given the time diferences between the UK and US, I typically have 150 to 175 new items each morning, and between 20 and 30 new items per hour during the daytime. Scanning these, let alone reading a proportion of them properly, takes more time than I have.

So, it’s clear something has to change. I sense Lee might have been experiencing a similar feeling with his post last week.

I thought about just pruning the list down and being ruthless, but I have added every single feed because I thought the author had written something I wanted to read. By deleting the feeds I read least I worry that I may still miss a post that interests me. But  inspired by this post I thought I could probably do something better.

Thinking about why I read RSS feeds led me to conclude that I have three main types of feed set up:

1. People feeds:
These are feeds I’ve added because I specfically want to keep up-to-date with the author personally.

2. News feeds:
These are feeds, from either individuals or organisations, that I’ve added because I want to keep up with news and information on a relatively small range of topics or areas (such as marketing, social media, Medway or Kent).

3. Functional feeds:
These feeds are ones I use for notifications, such as outage messages for web hosting or updates to my project management workspaces. There aren’t many of these feeds, nor is the frequency of posts within each particularly high. However each item is usually of interest to me.

So far I’ve always treated all feeds the same, but my plan to cope with the torrent of news is now to treat these three groups differently.

I’m going to keep my “people feeds” set up in my reader as now, as I like to read all the items that those authors publish. I’ll also keep the “functional feeds”, as I regularly read almost all of the posts within these.

However I’m going to start to filter the “news feeds” I get. My plan is to set up an OPML list for these feeds, blend them into a single RSS feed (using something like Feedrinse or Blastfeed), and filter this feed against certain keywords.

The benefit of doing this is that I’ll be able to keep track of relevant news from an even wider range of sources through a single filtered RSS feed.

The downside is that I risk missing out on information that doesn’t contain my keywords – but I figure in the age of niche communications I should be trying to focus on reading my news topics in depth, rather than reading across a broad range of topics.

I’m going to implement this over the next few days, and will post again once I know whether it helps me deal with RSS feed overload. I’ll also have to sort out something to reflect this in my blogroll on my site once I know whether it works for me.

I can only see this becoming a more common problem as RSS use increases over the next twelve months, so anyone who can develop a tool that helps handle, manipulate and filter RSS feeds will have a winner on their hands.