I read online for almost two hours everyday. I don’t remember exactly how the time went up from a few minutes of casual browsing to two hours of serious reading, but, it all started when I bought my first smart-phone three years back. At first my reading was limited to Wikipedia and articles I googled on topics I was interested in. But, before I knew I had a list of websites I was visiting almost daily. I bookmarked them and dutifully checked for updates. As time passed, the number of blogs I read grew and pretty soon visiting all them became a chore. Looking for a solution, I stumbled upon something called ‘RSS’ – Really Simple Syndication – a notification system which alerts us whenever the blog/website we love posts something new. Sometimes, a RSS feed brings us just a few lines with a link back to the post and sometimes the entire new post eliminating the need to visit the site altogether. All I had to do to start with this was to create an account with a ‘Feed Reader’ service which I quickly opened with Google Reader – the then defacto leader of RSS reader service and bought a very good app (still on my home-screen) called ‘Reeder’ for my iOS devices – to sync to my account on Google Reader – to browse my feeds. It was bliss for a long time.
(Do you see the icon on my site to the right? Under Facebook, Twitter & Google+ icons? That’s the RSS icon. You can find the same icon on almost all sites, clicking which you can subscribe to their feeds).
Then, I discovered, the bloggers/writers I followed in addition to writing on their blogs, shared more information, had conversations with like minded individuals on Twitter and I wanted to be a part of this. However, Twitter was new to me and I honestly did not want a new social network on my hand. So, I took the plunge reluctantly but found it wonderful. I could now hang out with my favourite bloggers interacting with them when something interested me and keeping quiet when I didn’t have anything to add – fitting my introvert tendencies. It did not take long to understand Twitter and I followed all the bloggers I wanted to. But, this lead to duplication. Some bloggers shared nothing but what they wrote on their blogs (which I had already subscribed to) or only used Twitter to promote their brand. I kept hanging onto them for that useful nugget of information I was hoping they would share which I might have missed otherwise. But, after some time, when it didn’t come, I deleted them from my Twitter list.
With all this came the issue of ‘filter bubble’. When we subscribe to only one particular sector or people with similar interests we risk seeing an issue from one angle only. So, it becomes important to know the opposite/divergent views on situations & topics. Now, did this mean I had to add more feeds? I however, wanted to separate my ‘must read’ blogs/sites from general browsing. So, I checked for sources similar to RSS but more akin to a newspaper. That’s when I discovered ‘news aggregator’ services. I started off with Pulse, moved to Flipboard (which lets you subscribe from mainstream news papers like New York Times, & Washington Post to feeds from individual sites) tried Zite, Prismatic, Circa, Trove, Inside, but kept coming back to Flipboard & Zite on which I settled. Now I had the perfect system. (I later moved to Feedly when Google closed its Reader service.)
I glean Flipboard/Zite for general news, Twitter for specific news, and RSS for my must read sites. So, why am I telling you all this? To share my workflow system. If you are into online reading, you may already be following something similar to this, but, if you are not and planning to start then my way of filtering information might help:
- Use a news aggregator for general news. Almost all the top aggregator services offer news across genres and are on all platforms.
- Use Twitter as an information sharing tool and not just as a social network. Use it to follow your favourite blogger or person. (If you are not nerd enough to subscribe to RSS feeds, don’t worry, bloggers generally share the links to their latest posts in Twitter also)
- Use a RSS service like Feedly, Feed Wrangler, Feedbin, NewsBlur, Digg Reader, or AOL Reader for the sites you want to follow without fail.
A three tire system to manage the information overload and also to lose myself in useful bits and bytes.