Dealing with feed overload – the answer?


Late last year I blogged about how my RSS reading list had reached 100 feeds and was becoming impractical to keep up with. An update to the post is here.

Initially I tried solving this by reclassifying my RSS feeds and employing keyword filtering tools. The Blastfeed service was the best keyword filtering tool I used – it was easy to combine several feeds into a single composite RSS feed, filtered by keywords in the same way as you write a Google search query.

I didn’t have much success with Feedrinse – having imported my OPML list the service kept crashing. I contacted their helpdesk but never heard anything back – a reminder that while many web 2.0 services are self-explanatory, if you’re going to launch one you need to make sure customer service is on your radar too.

However combining most of my RSS feeds into filtered composite feeds wasn’t really the solution that I thought it could be. Filtering just by keywords was too crude – running filtered feeds alongside the normal unfiltered feeds, I noticed that many of the posts that interested me actually didn’t have the exact keywords or phrases in them, so I would have missed out if I had only been using the filtered feeds.

However I have found a solution to my ever-growing RSS list – changing the tools I use to read RSS feeds. Previously I only read RSS feeds on my Dell Axim X51v PDA using Newsbreak. I had tried using a desktop reader in parallel, but my main frustration was that it was impossible to use both desktop and PDA readers together as when I read a post on one, it still showed as unread on the other.

In December I thought I’d try out a combination of the FeedDemon desktop software and Newsgator Go for my PDA. I’d heard from several people how good these tools were, although when I initially tried in June 2006 the PDA software was just too slow to be usable.

The real benefit from using these two tools together is that the RSS subscriptions and read/unread information is synchronised via Newsgator Online. This means whether I read feeds on my PDA, desktop or anywhere else using the Newsgator Online website, my feeds are always up-to-date and show which ones I have read.

So having this working well means I have more opportunities to keep up with feeds – I can use my desktop PC at home or the office to read feeds, as well as using my PDA in the odd few minutes when I’m away from my desk or out and about.

The other benefit is that the interface and functionality of the FeedDemon software means it’s possible to scan a list of headlines or post summaries exceptionally quickly – I can very easily pick out the posts that interest me and discard the rest.

Since I started using Newsgator Go and FeedDemon I’ve actually increased the number of feeds I actively track, without spending any more time doing it. Plus I can now use the OPML file that Newsgator produces to run my Grazr – which is now automatically updated when I add a feed to my reading list.

So, it looks like the solution to feed overload is not read less, but read differently.