What I Want in a Feed Reader

12 Jul ’07

Lately I’ve been getting mightily annoyed with the daily feed reading – hard as I try, the feed count is straining to creep upwards, constantly testing the limits of the little daily time I have for reading. And it seems that whatever I try, much of that reading time is wasted on duplicate posts – essentially, people in the same conversation saying pretty much exactly the same thing – and on empty wells – posts that seem at first glance to offer something on a particular topic but aren’t very useful or interesting, or are only ostensibly about a particular topic, and are really more about something else entirely.

A few examples may be in order. First, as much as I love Techmeme (who doesn’t?), many of the posts arrayed under a main post are only tangentially on topic, or aren’t on topic at all (they may, for example, be generally about the same company, but on different topics). So much of the time I spend drilling down for more discussion on that topic is pretty much completely wasted. Recently, I’ve been drilling down less – too many empty wells – and I’m using Techmeme really just to see headlines.

Second, there’s an enormous amount of chatter in any particular conversation. There are many kinds of chatter, but in my book the worst is posts that consist of “Hey, so-and-so said this, here’s a link. And here’s a link to some other people who are talking about it, too. How about that.” We’ve all done it – I do it far too often. I have no idea why. But my feedreader is full of it.

Third, there are so many people talking in the ‘sphere now that the proportion of truly novel and original thought or writing seems to be asymptotically approaching zero. Few among us are capable of anything truly novel (no doubt some among you feel that about this blog – fair enough), and with the explosion of content we’ve seen it’s getting awfully hard to find the gems. This isn’t so much a dry well problem as it is panning for gold problem – one has to sift a lot of dirt to find anything of value.

So what I’d like is a feedreader that magically and reliably solves all these problems for me – relevance, “quality” (whatever that means), summarization and reliability all served up in a daily feed. I haven’t seen anything like this yet (though I’ve just learned about AideRSS, which might be interesting). All suggestions gratefully received.

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