- It lets me star or flag articles I find particularly insightful or relevant
- It automatically copies those articles to a special folder, so I can see JUST the articles I’ve found insightful & relevant
At the end of 2 months, I discovered that I had flagged 352 articles as insightful or relevent (6 per day). Armed with this data, I could begin to bring an end to the insanity. I went into the Flagged items folder, and sorted by feed name. That let me count how many “insightful or relevant” articles I had found in each feed (I will post my actual numbers below). Thinking about this data let me make some smart decisions: 1. I don’t need to follow 7 different Apple blogs. I found that I had flagged more articles on 9to5Mac.com than on any other Apple-related group blog. I can now safely unfollow the rest and not worry about missing anything important. The same goes for gadget sites, where Engadget beat Gizmodo.. 2. I should NOT put aggregator sites or group blogs in my feed reader! The unread count is ever increasing, and there is no way a mere mortal can keep up. The increasingly high “unread” count causes stress. I’m talking about: reddit.com, hacker news, gizmodo, wired news, boingboing, the new york times, and other mass-content-producing sites/networks. 3. I do not have to abandon aggregator sites & group blogs, I just need to NOT track how much of their content I have not read. The easiest way to do this is to put them all in a bookmark folder and simply right-click and “open all” when I want to browse random (previously deemed worthy) information. 4. I should make a policy of only subscribing to sites run by a single person. They usually have a much higher ratio of awesome posts to crappy posts. That person is either a good writer, or they’re not. With group blogs & aggregators this is definitely not the case. Also, because individuals publish less, it’s less to keep up with.
The next logical (but tedious) step would be to see how many articles were published by each feed during those 2 months, so that I could then figure out the signal to noise ratio and then trim down my feeds based on that data. For example, if Hacker News (an aggregator) published 2000 articles in the last 60 days, and I found 20 of them insightful or relevant, the signal to noise ratio would be very low at 1%. By comparison, ASmartBear (blog run by 1 person) might only have published 10 articles, of which I found 3 insightful or relevant. The signal to noise ratio there would be 30%. Definitely high value. That makes me wonder: why isn’t this feature built-in?
Why can’t I sort feeds by my personal signal to noise ratio?
That would be AMAZING!
That way I could always be presented with the content I’m most likely to find valuable FIRST.
Come to think of it, Twitter clients/apps should have that too!
Just click a star on every tweet you like, and the app shows you SVN ratios for everyone you follow.
Anyway, I hope this helps you cure your own feed addiction.
Knowledge is power, and there’s still a lot that software can do to empower us.
P.S. - I just discovered that when you unsubscribe from a feed, all of the flagged/starred articles associated with that feed also disappear. I guess I should have known that, but it still sucks that I’ve now lost track of a bunch of good articles. Bah. If you don’t want to lose those flags, create a new folder called “waste” so it appears at the bottom of the list. Drag all of the feeds you would be unsubscribing from into that folder, and never check it again (unless you really need to kill time, like, at an airport).
Here’s my raw data, by the way. I put *** beside aggregators & group blogs. Their numbers are lower than they would be, because at some point I became overwhelmed by them, and stopped reading & flagging their articles. I will be unsubscribing from them later today, and putting them in a bookmark folder, as I mentioned. I would have linked them all for you, but there were just too many! - 38 - *** news.ycombinator.com - 22 - *** search engine land - 16 - *** AllFacebook - 15 - *** phpdeveloper.org - 10 - *** planet php - 10 - *** reddit.com - 8 - daringfireball.net (john gruber) - 9 - entrepreneurs-journey.com (Yaro Starak) - 8 - dumb little man - tips for life (jay white) - 8 - seth’s blog (seth godin) - 7 - *** 9to5mac - 7 - *** Ajaxian - 7 - *** engadget - 7 - *** wired news - 6 - *** the unofficial apple weblog - 6 - zen zhabits (leo babuta) - 6 - *** readwriteweb - 6 - *** real UFO videos and news - 6 - *** signal vs. noise - 6 - *** gizmodo - 5 - dilbert.com blog (Scott Adams) - 5 - *** arsTechnica - 5 - chrisbrogan.com (social media marketing) - 5 - *** boingboing.net - 5 - mixergy (Andrew Warner on entrepreneurs & ism) - 5 - *** macNN - 5 - freelanceswitch (may give it at *** in future) - 5 - small business marketing blog (John Jantsch’s duct tape marketing) - 5 - *** smashing magazine - 5 - the single founder (Mike Taber of Micropreneur Academy & Startups for the rest of us Podcast) - 4 - 47hats (Bob Walsh of StartUpToDo.com) - 4 - the personal excellence blog (Celestine Chua) - 4 - bobulate (Liz Danzico on Intentional Organization) - 4 - I, Cringely (Robert X Cringely on technology) - 4 - *** inside facebook - 4 - *** mashable - 4 - mysterious universe (awesome podcast) - 3 - the launch coach (Dave Navarro) - 3 - unclutterer - 3 - *** lifehack.org - 3 - *** lifehacker.com - 3 - *** onstartups - 3 - *** appleinsider - 3 - *** cultofmac - 2 - tynan.net (Tynan on life outside the box) - 2 - @TheKeyboard (Chris Hartjes on PHP & Python) - 2 - boxofcrayons.net (Michael Bungay Stanier on Good Work) - 2 - scriptingnews (dave winer) - 2 - high scalability - 2 - About.com’s Paranormal Phenomena blog - 2 - interesting monkey - 2 - startup lessons learned (eric ries on lean startups) - 2 - venture hacks (good advice for startups) - 2 - wil wheaton - 2 - rotten tomatoes: new DVD releases (I flag the ones i want to see! super-handy way to remember) - 1 - software as she’s developed - 1 - software by rob (Rob Walling of Micropreneur Academy & Startups for the rest of us Podcast, author of Start Small Stay Small - A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup) - 1 - steve blank (customer driven development) - 1 - ted talks - 1 - the art of non-conformity (Chris Guillebeau) - 1 - the startup success podcast (Rob Walling & Mike Taber) - 1 - todd sattersten (100 best business books of all time) - 1 - workhappy.net (Carson McComas) - 1 - xkcd.com - 1 - *** NYT > Technology - 1 - penny-arcade (Mike Krahulik & Jerry Holkins) - 1 - chris shifflett (PHP) - 1 - raphael stolt (PHP) - 1 - asmartbear (Jason Cohen) - 1 - About.com’s UFOs/Aliens - 1 - ash maurya (practise trumps theory - lean startup + customer dev + bootstrap) - 1 - blog.stackoverflow.com (Jeff Atwood & Joel Spolsky) - 1 - JoelOnSoftware (Joel Spolsky) - 1 - bob martin’s object mentor blog - 1 - codinghorror (Jeff Atwood) - 1 - dan pink (author of Drive, Free Agent Nation, & others) - 1 - david hayden (?) - 1 - howard rooijen’s blog (work smarter not harder) - 1 - Ilia Alshanetsky (PHP)
Comments from my old blog:
Ian said: Completely agree on all accounts. RSS is best for following single people.
I think in netnewswire on the mac there is at least a way to see the signal to noise ratio but I’m not sure about sorting by it. It’s in one of the menus but I can’t check what it is right now. at 2010-08-25 15:50:20