Friday, 14 March 2008

Google Reader tips for optimising RSS feeds

With my heavy use of Gmail in the last 2 years, the trial of Google Reader when it was released was relatively easy. I have since become hooked on it as my RSS Aggregator of choice, and have adopted a few habits that help me manage my barrage of RSS feeds in a more optimal way.

1. Use the shortcut keys
These improve your "read-through" time tremendously.

2. Organise your feeds into folders.
My folder structure follows the 80-20 rule. I know 80% of my most valuable readings come from 20% of the material I read, so I created a folder called 80% for those feeds I found most valuable.

To make this work I realised my most valuable feeds had to meet 2 criteria namely:
a. The volume of updated content could not be so much that I could not read through a day's worth within a 2 minute period. This eliminated fun but overall less valuable feeds from Slashdot and Digg immediately.
b. I had to learn immediate lessons from those feeds OR they must have historically provided insights on which further pondering and discussions with colleagues could be based, and those in turn led to high-value lessons for myself.

3. Always find a category folder for your feed.
If one doesn't exist yet, don't be afraid to create a new one. At the same time, impose rules on yourself for categorisation that stop you from running away with categories.
For me that means I have locked it down to about 5-6 folders. I keep a folder called "high volume" just for feeds that generate alot of content daily and which I often use the "mark all as read" button on if I fall a day or two behind in "feed reading".
I have my "80% folder" which I never delete all but rather make time to read each article, and also keep a folder called "geek" which holds my useful, but not quite applicable to my day-to-day life feeds. Another called "career" holds feeds that offer career tips and advice. Podcasts go into a "podcasts" folder and my MBA research readings go into an "mba" folder.
The general idea behind this structure is if you don't have time to read all of your updated feeds' content, or you're just in a mood for one particular type of content, it's easy to lock down quickly what you want to read.
It's also easy to purge content you're 99% sure won't be missed if you didn't read, but you would have if you had time for the pure enjoyment of it.

What is your RSS aggregator of choice? Why do you use it? What are your optimisations for getting through a day's worth of feeds?