If you don’t have a clue what the headline for this post means, you’re in luck. I’ll explain it here. If you’re an old hand at RSS, feel free to skip ahead.
RSS stands for “really simple syndication.” Basically, it is a way to publish website content. All you need to know is that it allows you to easily keep up on websites, news, and blogs. For a good explanation, check out RSS the Oprah way.
Google Reader is a free online program that enables you to easily read RSS feeds. You can also share them with friends and do other neat things.
Sign up for a Google account, login to Reader, and you can add “packages” of feeds. This enables you to quickly get up and running. Then you can subscribe to receive content from your favorite sites. Neat, right?
Assess your RSS mess
If you have been using RSS for any amount of time, you probably have a lot feeds in your reader. I know I do. Today, I decided that I needed to organize them in some fashion.
Instead of trolling through hundreds of items every day, I want to have the option of passing over feeds that are merely searches or that have low priority info. I want to be a more productive feed reader. I want to have peace of mind that I’m not missing something important, just because I have unread items.
The first step here is to assess your situation. Can you group your feeds into logical reading sets? I don’t mean just content-type categories (cars, movies, games, etc).
You want to group them in sets that you want to read all at once. You need to prioritize your feeds in some manner.
Develop your system
I came up with a simple category system that might work:
- affiliates – These are feeds for affiliate programs to which I belong (Text Link Ads, BlogKits, etc). I want to know what new things are happening, but I definitely don’t need to read these every day.
- clients – Since I started doing blog consulting, I want to keep up with client feeds. These are fairly low priority.
- fun – These are not really related to my blogging or personal development. They’re just fun.
- monitoring – You gotta keep track of who’s talking about you. Also, FeedBurner has a feed status feed, to alert you when your own RSS goes down. Those go in here.
- search – I have several Technorati keyword searches that I want to keep an eye on. These are mid-priority, and I can definitely miss a few posts if need be.
- zap – Everybody has feeds that you are thinking of ditching. Put them in here and chew on it.
After that, I have all my other feeds. These are the blogs with content I actually want to keep up with daily. I guess they’re my high priority list. I couldn’t think of a fun label that would put them first in the list, so I went with “a”. They’re my A List feeds.
Tag your feeds
Google Reader provides a simple way to tag feeds. Just go into your reader, click on “Manage Subscriptions” at the bottom. You can then click on the drop-menu on the far right of each feed that says “Add to a folder.” Simply select the tag you want to apply. Note: If you add a new tag, you must exit the subscription manager and come back to populate the drop-down list.
You can also manage subscriptions within the reader view itself. When you’re looking at a feed in your reader, click on “Feed settings” toward the upper right. You can change folders, add a new folder, unsubscribe, etc. This allows you to easily delete or “zap” a feed right as you’re reading it.
Set your start page
Since your feeds are now all tagged, you can decide which group you want Reader to start with. Just go to “Manage Subscriptions” again, and select “Preferences” at the top. Change the “Start Page” value to whichever tag you like. I set mine to the “a” list.
Now you should be all set. You can “zap” feeds you are thinking of ditching, clean that tag periodically, or just let them live there ignored. You can only read your “a” list when you don’t have much time. If you need some inspiration, or just want to check out what others in your area are saying, check out your “search” feeds.
These are just my thoughts. What do you think? Do you have a better way to organize your feeds? How do you stay productive yet on top of the latest posts in the blogosphere? Just drop a comment below or shoot me an email.
[tags]legal andrew, google reader, organize rss, rss[/tags]
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