Spring cleaning can have a digital side as well. So while I’ve been working on wireframes and sorting my receipts for the tax man, I’ve also been making changes to what and how I’ve been doing my online reading.
Past advocacy and a change in thinking
I’m on record here somewhere in the archives proclaiming my love for NetNewsWire. I still think its a damn fine program (and free now, too), but I’ve switched to using Google Reader as my full time feed reader. I had been using it mostly with a slimmed down collection of favorite feeds that I would access from my cell phone while waiting for busses, in lines, etc. during my daily life. That speaks pretty highly of the versatility of the Google Reader, considering the web browser on my phone is total crap.
Still, it took an outside influence to make me change habits I’ve had since 2002.
The impetus (and my odd way of thinking)
Sometime shortly before I was slated to head out to Austin for SXSW, my Powerbook started to forget how to charge its battery. It’s a problem I still hope to fix without having to throw money at it, but because of the age of the thing and the abuse its seen, I’m doubtful. Anyway, that laptop — and only that laptop — is where I did all of my reading with NetNewsWire, so I could read and reference things when I was either at home or the office.
True, there are synchronization features built in that I could have used to get around this, and I used to trust them. They worked fine most of the time, but you only have to be burned by a bad sync and lose subscriptions to the ether one time to be wary of using them — and I’ve been burned at least thrice. With the laptop, I could easily keep up with my reading both at the office and at home without having to worry about losing track of feeds and which posts I’d already marked as read.
Once I was forced to plug in my laptop and cold boot it every time I wanted to use it, I started to do so at home less and less. But I still wanted to read feeds from my desktop. At that moment, a centrally hosted service like Google Reader started looking better to me than it had in a long time. I auditioned it for a week as my full time reader, and here we are.
Clearing the logjam (and the voice in my head)
Once I made the switch, it was time to start catching up on some overdue feeds. All the pre-SXSW work and laptop-centric habits and issues left me with about a month and a half worth of posts to catch up on, which after two weeks is now finished. Yes, I could have just marked all as read and started from where I was, but that didn’t seem so desirable to me. To my mind, this was a challenge; a mountain of information taunting me to digest it, with cries of “feed me” springing forth from my cerebral cortex, urging me on.
Now that I’ve managed to zero out my inbox, I’m in process of cutting the fat from my daily reading so I can keep it that way. This includes trimming down how many feeds I have — judiciously weighing their quality and post volume. If your a site that updates 50 times a day that’s great, but if I breeze by 90% of those posts, then I’m probably better off just skipping the feed altogether. Besides, there’s a great deal of overlap in stories on the blogs I read, so in the end its really just cutting down on the redundancy factor.
Bonus content: a gripe about the severe lack of full posts
In the process of streamlining, I’ve been frequently reminded of an online pet peeve of mine. To those of you publishing content out there, I beg of you — PLEASE put full content into your feeds! Not just links. Not just excerpts. Full content. You can even tack ads onto them. Hell, I even promise to click a few (which is more than I do now with web ads).
I want to be able to get my reading done and get back to all the other crap one has to do in any given day. Nothing irks me more than having to jump back and forth between browser windows to read my news when I’m trying to get things done. I don’t care if you want to make sure everyone comes to see your beautiful site layout (this coming from a designer) or you want more page views for your many ads. If your story is interesting enough, I’ll open the page in a new window on my own for a more in depth reading.
You’ll get your page views regardless, but you’ll probably have more loyal and appreciative readers if you let them choose how they consume your content.
If you made it to this point and are still reading, then I’m honestly shocked. Really, this couldn’t have been that interesting, could it?