Your RSS reader isn’t a newspaper, it’s a magazine rack..

2009 has been the year I fell out of love with Google Reader. It is probably due to the quantity of unread feeds subscribed to becoming unmanageable within.. say a a day. It was as if I was hunting for my football in a field that hadn’t been tended to for a year. There’s been immense growth yet still difficult to find anything. Reader for me wasn’t the place any more that I could dip in to for a few minutes throughout the day to see what was going on at a glance. I felt guilty for not coming back regularly and lavishing it with the time it required. In the end it bothered me so much I changed one of the options for it to not show the unread count of items. But that was just me hiding from the problem. The problem was an inefficient organisational hierarchy.

I’m starting my new years resolutions early this year. None of this traditional signing up to the gym, quitting chocolate, smoking or alcohol business. (I don’t even smoke!) One of mine is going to be to get my Google Reader organised. Hey, it’s a non stop party time at my place. An easy job you say? Well, i’ve accumulated close to 800 subscriptions and i’m starting at square one with them all.

I’ve become inspired of late by doing something about this due to a few people. Namely Fernando Rizo, Mat Morrison and Marshall Kirkpatrick who have given me a fresh perspective and a renewed vigour for changing my perceptions of how I should use Reader and what my reading hierarchy should look like. So when categorising feeds or organising favourites on your computer, if you partake in such an activity to start with, you would traditionally put them in folders due to their interest eg Sports, Music, Marketing, Gaming etc etc.. This hasn’t worked for me and i’m going to try out a new system alluded to by the guys above. Something more akin to ‘Must reads’ ‘News’ ‘Skip ’em’. I love Fernando’s analogies and rhetorical questions when it comes to how we have adopted (perhaps wrongly) the newspaper model for RSS..

“Website taxonomy was a waste of time, perhaps, but I loved it. When I would describe the contextual system to people, I would often ask, rhetorically, ‘who sits down and says, it’s time to read about economics or sports?’ This was the newspaper model in practice: the RSS reader is a newspaper you edit yourself, populated with a huge variety of topics. The RSS reader isn’t a newspaper for me: it’s a magazine rack, filled with specialty niche magazines that I read one at a time.”

So how have I got around not using Reader this year? Firstly, I started using Posterous more and more as a place for me to reblog cool stuff I’ve seen throughout the day. As I got more up to speed with using it myself, I found out about the reader feature on Posterous itself. It is truly fascinating and not well documented enough that it even exists. It is simply found at when you’re logged in. This was purely and simply page after page of content by the people I’m subscribed to. This works much better for me than reams of text in Google Reader. How I’d describe it is a much more visual RSS reader. But it’s not RSS. For me it’s bite sized nuggets of inspiration. It’s generally not hugely long textual posts to read and digest, mostly being the odd thought provoking / interesting image or slideshare embed with a line of commentary at the end of the post saying what they think about it.

Obviously, the ever present issue of garbage in, garbage out is something to be mindful of. If you subscribe on Posterous to accounts that don’t inspire, inform and satiate that constant appetite for information then you’re not going to get anything out of that either. I feel ‘closer’ to the people I subscribe to on Posterous than I do in Reader, because of the bookmarklet. A simple widget type thing that sits in your web browser address bar that allows you to reblog anything you see on the page before you. Try it out yourself with this page if you like. Sign yourself up with Posterous, get the bookmarklet and see just how easy it is! This is how I mainly use Posterous so the cool stuff comes to me through the Posterous Reader and I am simply a filter, disseminating the information that I feel has value in one way or another. In turn I enjoy more of a community element than I do with Google Reader. But then that’s entirely a subjective point of view. I know Rizo shares stuff on Reader, much as I do on Posterous and friends comment on it so it’s different horses for different courses.

It was this article that got the ball rolling for me. Hope it helps you too. I implore you to read and digest it. It links also to this article and this one too. Read them both. You can read about elegant triage systems and everything!

I better get started with it all then..

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