Break Out of Your Feed Reader and Enjoy the View

Reading an article by Kyle Meyer about blog identity in the age of feed readers reminds me once again of my own feed reading habits.

I started subscribing to feeds a couple of years ago, using the serviceable Sage extension for Firefox, before ditching it in favour of the remotely hosted Google Reader. It’s taken some time to attain a sustainable habit, swinging between binge and fast, but recently I think I’ve pegged it.

In Google Reader, having the articles laid out on a level playing field seemed like a good thing, at least initially. Set as they were under the uni-identity of the reader, I was ploughing through several hundred posts a day, not exactly at my most discerning.

But, I started to miss the design of the web-sites, even though I was reading their actual content. I wanted to enjoy posts in their proper context again. I ended up reading about my field (web design), while at the same time cutting myself off from it.

Recently, I started following a practise picked up from Zen Habits (I mentioned it previously in my Interesting elsewhere links):

RSS posts: I’ve been adjusting this as I’ve experimented, but I’ve settled on reading 6 posts per day. The method: I open my Google Reader in list view, scan through the headlines, and choose just 6 to read, opening them in new tabs. I then “Mark All as Read” and go and read my 6 posts in further detail. It has made RSS reading super fast.

I definitely read more than 6 a day, but a lot less than previously. That leaves just the interesting articles, and the crucial step of opening them in a series of new tabs means leaving the sterile environment of the reader. It’s like using a catalogue with a printed list to shop for books. Select the ones you want to read, then leave the list behind.