andrew burke





All About The Flow II: How I Handle RSS

Posted on: 2006-08-16

This is part two of three postings on how I've managed to use Flow to make at least the computer-based aspects of my life easier. Here is Part One.

Staying up-to-date Online. I should probably hand in my web credentials for saying this, but I really like the RSS reader in OS X's Safari browser. What I like most about it is how it can check an entire set of feeds and put all of the postings on one big dynamic page - all sorted chronologically. I have a nested directory called 'RSS Blogs' in my bookmarks bar with sixty or so feeds, from Boing Boing to Spacing Wire, CBC News to The Onion, Cute Overload to The Daily WTF. I just click on 'View All RSS Articles', pick 'Today' and sort by 'New', and I have my own personalized newspaper that I can browse through pretty quickly to find interesting stuff.

Regular RSS readers like NetNewsWire have all of the articles separated, and the feeds are highlighted in bold with little numbers showing how many posts you haven't read yet - i.e. how far behind you are in Keeping Up. This drove me nuts and killed hours of my time, since I needed to Read ... Every .. Single ... Post ... So ... I ... DIDN'T .. MISS ... ANY ... THING! It was like when I subscribed to the Globe and Mail (physical) newspaper daily, and I never had the time to read it so the unread papers would build up a taller and taller stack in my apartment, symbolizing my inability to deal with things. I couldn't just throw them away, since that would be admitting defeat, but the stack started looming over the couch and looking dangerous. Eventually I moved out and cancelled the subscription, and it was like a weight lifted from my shoulders.

The Safari RSS reader may be flaky and slow and it may put random lines in the middle of posts - but it doesn't nag me if I missed something. If I really want to make sure I caught every post from a high value but low volume feed like Daring Fireball or Joel on Software, I can always switch to just that blog, and set the range to 'All'.

Reading RSS feeds still takes a chunk out of my day, but I consider it as important as listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, or reading industry journals - all things I used to do but don't bother with anymore, so I think I'm still ahead. Using this approach with the Safari reader lets me just get the flow of the latest postings all in one place, without having to go to dozens of sites, or be reminded of all the things I've missed. It takes a chunk out of my day, but at least it's an efficient chunk.

Previous: All About The Flow I : How I Manage Email
Next: All About the Flow III: How I Handle Music and Podcasts