Treat RSS Feeds Like Books And Learn More

Let me start this post by saying that I love RSS. It speeds my day up by leaps and bounds. It’s a wonderful technology, and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without it. However, the embrace of RSS into our culture has had some serious ramifications, and has turned us into people who only glance at something for 5 seconds, then move on to keep up with the glut of information. We read a lot of information quickly, without giving enough time for our brain to soak it in and really learn it.

The same thing could be said about our culture’s obsession with lists. It’s all the rage to use lists to get your point across. Why? Because they grab attention, and everyone knows that grabbing attention is the way to get traffic.

So here we have a recipe for disaster: our already too fast-paced world sped up even more by RSS technology, causing people to write more condensed posts that get to the point. This trains our eyes to scan through the “extra” and get to the meat of the article.

Except the “extra” is what we’ve been missing.

We’ve trained ourselves to filter out the “fluff” and other subtleties in writing, losing those tiny crucial tidbits that aren’t in bullet points or a numbered list. Consequently, we’re only looking at 50-70% of an article if we’re lucky. And you can’t be an expert at something if you’re only reading 50-70% of an article and retain very little. So how do we fix this mindset that more, condensed information is better?

The Solution

Do you remember the days when people used to read books and newspapers for fun? Because information is free on the internet, people tend to want to read through the online medium. But that’s one of the reasons why books are still better tools: people read them more thoroughly. There is an investment attached to owning a book, so people tend to read them from start to finish. You don’t just toss it into your trash when you’re done either. It’s a physical reminder of what you’ve learned. And a more comprehensive understanding of a concept means you’re more of an expert than the guy who just reads bullet points and lists. You’ve taken the time to really understand what’s going on. Sure, it’s a slower approach, but it’s 10 times more effective in the long run.

So we could start treating our RSS subscription like our favorite book, by reading nearly everything inside of it.

But there lies a problem with this method: We’ve already got too many feeds as it is! This means we’ve got to start weeding through the mediocre feeds, and only keep only the cream of the crop: the ones that we know we’ll read every day.

Generally, the more info that comes in, the less you’ll really understand it. The Pareto Principle tells us that 80% of our information only comes from 20% of our feeds anyway. You could clean house on your RSS feeds and cut the ones that you don’t really read anyway. You want to keep the feeds that you read 90% of the time without scanning.

A feed like that for me is 43Folders. Merlin writes in such a way that you want to hang on to every word. It’s just that well written. You can tell every word is well thought out. And here’s the kicker: he does it in as few words as possible. I need to take some notes on that subject.

All of us bloggers should strive to write in such a way people want to hang on to our every word. Taking more time and care into each post is one way to make sure your posts are read completely. A great tactic is to let your posts marinate: coming back to them several times before you post. I’ve revisited this post four times today now. Hopefully it will be four times better than what it was when I finished it the first time ;)

Leave a Comment

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Sugar Mouse In The Rain February 27, 2007, 4:30 pm

    This post reminded me of the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Thank you.

  • glen November 15, 2006, 10:24 am

    That’s great to hear the method is working. I’ve also used it too for my longer articles and I would argue it has made the posts at least twice as good, IMHO.

  • Sarit November 15, 2006, 9:06 am

    I also took on the marinating posts idea, and I’ve used it since. It really helped me “produce” more thought out posts and now it’s a sort of a habbit.

  • glen November 10, 2006, 5:05 pm

    Good tip! That makes them more of a tangible reminder of what you’ve read. Great tip for DIY magazine ;)

  • Manny November 10, 2006, 2:42 pm

    I agree: the knowledge that RSS feeds deliver is extremely valueable. In fact, I DO treat my favorite feeds like a book. I go to Bloglines and print out my favorite feeds every weekend so that I can digest them. I generally staple each feed together…so it realy is like a weekly magazine for me.