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Observations on using an RSS Newsreader
2 min read

Observations on using an RSS Newsreader

I’ve been using a newsreader (NewzCrawler) on my laptop for a few weeks now, exclusively, to do my blog reading…

I’ve been anti-rss prior to my experiment because:

  • feedreading causes you to lose design and more importantly, context (ex. “about” pages)
  • I read blogs across multiple machines… only server-based aggregators would allow me to sync my reading on different computers. (ex. catching up on a blog on one machine should catch me up on all machines)…
  • server-based newsreaders have terrible, unusable interfaces
  • client-based newsreaders have only marginally better interfaces

So I guess I was inspired by rhetoric at SxSWi to think about trying to hop on the trend-train and change my reading habits.

I thought I’d share my experience:

  1. I keep up with an order of magnitude more blogs. (currently 200 on my list!)
  2. I still maintain a sense of “tiers” for which blogs I check more frequently (ex. Austin bloggers get checked everytime… slashdot, maybe once every other day (since the sites they link to tend not to work for a few days, anyway)). I frequently check up on about 50 blogs…
  3. There is a flag-for-later feature in my news reader. I find myself clicking on the little flag and marking the message as “read” even though I may not have actually read the article (i.e. scan a few lines of the intro text and title, see if subject material is interesting, and mark for future reading)… This is bad because I’m really just procrastinating on blog reading and not necessarily reading faster.
  4. Not feeling overwhelmed with so many new info streams. Seeing them in the aggregate and through a common interface helps.
  5. I miss design.
  6. I miss the whirligigs, blogrolls, and doo-dads on the sidebars of everyone’s blogs… sometimes interesting and useful material appears there that is not syndicated
  7. I’m still limited to one machine because I can’t “sync” the unread/read status among computers… the only difference now is that I can take this single machine with me to work and home… I’d much rather be reading lots of text on my Mac’s monitor.
  8. in the aggregate, I can see trends and catch lots of topic threads… like my own personal trackback or daypop… for example, when a meme appears on an A-lister’s blog, it’s only a matter of time before that meme shows up and down that blog list (i.e. new posts on blogs). So I can make intelligent decisions about whether I need to follow that thread or just pass them through.
  9. The search feature is KILLER.
  10. In the aggregate, the A-list pontificators are no less irritating, incestual, or (sigh) inspiring
  11. Everybody is doing their RSS/RDF differently which causes bizarre artifacts… (ex. causes weird multiple-postings for new comments).
  12. I’m rarely reading blogs without a feed
  13. I am frustrated with excerpt-only feeds.
  14. I’d like the ability to deal with incoming articles graphically… so I can apply groupings and file away interesting tidbits…. for now, everything seems transitory.
  15. I’m going to need to pick a blog a day to dive in, read archives, follow-up on my flags, etc. to get the context that I’m missing through an aggregator.
  16. To sum up, I’ll keep flogging this one….

    …but we’re not there yet… not by any stretch of the imagination.