Helping Creative People Create

5 Time Saving RSS Reader Hacks

RSS is a somewhat new technology that breaks down webpages into their most simple form, for easy transport around the web. In short: it’s a way to find and read more news faster. Now that there are online RSS readers like My Yahoo!, Rojo and Bloglines, many people are leveraging this great technology. But many people still don’t use it as effectively as they could.

I’ve managed to cobble together a list of helpful ways to improve your productivity while reading feeds. So here we go, my 5 RSS reader hacks.

1. Use Category Feeds

Many blogs only cover parts of what I’m really interested in. It seems like I’ll subscribe to a blog after reading a great post, only to have it followed up by 5 posts on something completely different. All those articles do in my RSS reader is clutter it up and waste my time. One way to fix that problem is to subscribe to only the blog’s category feed.

A good portion of blogging software and services allow for this, and it can really save you some reading time. The more specific you can get in filtering your feeds, the more time you’ll save.

2. Track Tags and Searches with Blog Search Engines

Don’t just limit yourself to your favorite sites on one topic. Branch out a little and try some of the wonderful that is Technorati. Not only can you track your favorite blogs, you can also track your favorite tags that are blowing up around the sphere.

For a more in depth exmple: f you’re a lifehacker, you probably read LifeHacker.com. It’s far and wide the most popular of it’s kind, and one of the most popular blogs on the net. BUT, it’s not the only place to look for nuggets of helpful lifehacking advice by far. If you go and search for “lifehacks” in tags, you’ll see 4,700+ posts just with that tag. And you could also track the term “tips”, “howto”, etc. Don’t limit yourself to just one blog for all of your knowledge.

Helpful Note: Tags are not made by the search engine, they’re made by the writer to help classify their post. A lot of times I find it better to search by tag because the author will add tags that a search engine typically wouldn’t. For example: Even though this post deals with RSS reader hacks, I’ll still add the tag “productivity” to it, even though it’s not mentioned but a couple times. It gives the post a little more context than just the specific tag “rss reader” or “rss”. Search engines really aren’t smart enough to do this (yet).

You can do the same thing with searches at Topix.net, Google Blog Search, Sphere, and others.

3. Feed Filtering

Here’s the flip side to #4: If you’re tracking tags and searches from blog search engines, you’ll soon find that a good portion of the results don’t have anything to do with your keyword. For example, I was tracking the word “tips” at Technorati, and around half of them were “golf tips”. Well, I’m more interested in technology tips, and golf is not what I’m looking for. So I jogged over to Feed Rinse, added the feed, and blocked all posts that had the word “golf” in the post or title. Bam! No more golf tips.
This service is an amazing time saver, mainly because you don’t have to scan through and sort all of those posts. For a more in-depth review of Feed Rinse, check out BoingBoing’s review.

4. Trim the Fat

80/20 RSS principle, and then dropping the feeds I wasn’t really reading. This has cut the number of feeds I actually track down considerably.

5. Don’t Obsess

It’s super easy to get carried away with RSS. Be very aware of how much time you’re spending reading it. RSS is like crack to us info junkies, and there should really be a support group for it. (RSS Anonymous, anyone?) The best trick to cure yourself from the RSS addiction is to constantly review your feed subscription and (#4) trim the fat. RSS is great for staying informed, but it can easily become controlling. Our society is obsessed with info overload, and it’s not healthy. Make sure you’ve got control of your RSS.

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