Information is addictive. RSS  feeds are a great tool for getting the latest news and information quickly. But like all tools, they can become a hazard if you let your feed reader bloat, draining your time and dividing your attention.
I only subscribe to sixteen feeds and I never let it get beyond twenty. Keeping my reader slim isn’t an easy task. I get sent dozens of links to new blogs each week and get many referrals from existing blogs. Information is like food, too little and you will starve, too much and you end up bloated.
Benefits of Keeping a Slim Reader
I’d like to argue that if you currently have more than 30 feeds in your reader, you have too much. Here are some reasons you should cut back:
- Overestimated Scanning Ability – Perhaps I deserve some blame for this for promoting speed reading  (of which I agree with only some of the core concepts). But you probably overestimate your ability to scan. I’ve noticed that when I start scanning, quality information doesn’t get read – attractive information does. Flashy posts drown out ideas that might require a little more attention to process.
- Wasted Time – Reading articles shouldn’t be the priority of your day (even this one). If you’re subscribing to a lot of blogs, this means you are spending a lot of time reading posts. Get your priorities focused and don’t let easy reading consume all your time.
- Less Thinking – Eating food requires digestion. Consuming ideas requires contemplation. Einstein once said that any man who reads too much and uses his brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.
It may seem somewhat ironic for a blogger, who relies on subscribers, to encourage people to slim their feeds. Don’t get me wrong, I believe blogs are a great way to get new ideas in a speedy format. But unless the emphasis is on quality over quantity, it will just eat up your time.
Three Methods for an RSS Diet
I’ve found three major ways you can accomplish an RSS diet and head towards a slim reader:
1) Binge and Purge
My preferred method is to add new blogs as they interest me and undergo a purge every 2-4 weeks. This means my reader will bloat up to 18-20 blogs before I unsubscribe to the least useful 3-5.
- Pro – This will make you more willing to try new blogs and find new ideas.
- Con – If kept unchecked, this can easily lead back to a bloated reader with more information than you can handle.
2) Constant Volume
Another method I’ve tried is to maintain the reader at a constant number of blogs. With each one added another is removed.
- Pro – This prevents the problem of bloat entirely.
- Con – You may become hesitant to try out new subscriptions due to the time spent picking a feed to dump.
Most blogs follow similar themes. Unless the author is continually providing new information, most blogs tend to tread similar ground. Cycling involves taking the older blogs from your reader and removing them after a few months.
- Pro – Keeps you from sticking with blogs that were once new and filled with useful information but have since become repetitive.
- Con – May lead to lower quality blogs filling your reader.
Managing Your Information Stream
RSS and blogs aren’t the only form of information grabbing at your attention. E-mail, books, television, magazines and newsletters all send out packets of wisdom and ideas your way. Controlling your information stream is just as important as controlling your work, since both use time.
Most of these ideas I’ve applied for RSS easily applies towards other forms of information. Even if your reader isn’t fat, perhaps you have a television or an e-mail bloat you might want to take care of?
Having an absence of feeds isn’t the point. Rather, regularly pruning will ensure your information stream stays fit and continues to provide good ideas.