After I’ve made myself a cup of coffee and a piece of toast, I like to sit down and spend half an hour or so reading around a thousand websites and newspapers.
I like to stay on top of what’s happening in the world — particularly in the field of online music business, but I also like to know what’s going on back in New Zealand, what’s happening around me here in Birmingham, what’s up in the world of technology and gadgets, and what my friends and family are up to.
So I subscribe to RSS feeds. Lots and lots of RSS feeds.
Really Simple Syndication
RSS allows me to get updates from all of those sites without ever having to go visit them. Using a feed reader, I can scroll through them by topic or all in one big list.
Of course, not all of those sites have new information on them every day. And the feed reader won’t show me anything from a website that doesn’t have anything new. Of the thousand plus websites I’ve subscribed to, typically I’m really only actually reading 600 or so.
One of the best things about feed readers is that they let you collect the feeds you subscribe to into folders. I have folders for my different interests, so I can go through thematically related sites all together.
And, of course, I’m not reading every word of every news item and blog post that comes up. Using shortcut keys, I skim through, looking for keywords that jump out at me and paying attention to headlines and authors I’m particularly interested in.
If I see something that requires a bit more attention — or should be linked to in the Newswire — I’ll open it in a new tab in Firefox, and give it a more leisurely read over my second cup.
Take a shortcut
Most of the sites I’m subscribed to are sites I have actually visited over the past year — but that’s not a necessary step. There is a shortcut you can take if you want to get an immediate headstart on the daily news in your area of interest.
As a result of a blog post I posted on my personal blog last week, I ended up having a conversation with Matthew Swanson from A Million RSS – a new project to compile a million rss feeds from around the web, and make them searchable by keyword.
I suggested he make the top 50 results available as an OPML file — a file that you can import into your feedreader and instantly subscribe to that entire collection of feeds.
And he took me up on the challenge. Nice, huh?
Here’s a search on marketing. The OPML link will take you to a page of what looks like gibberish. Don’t fret. Just save the page to your desktop, open your feedreader (I recommend the brilliant and free Google Reader) — and in the Settings, import the OPML file.
Hey presto! — you’re subscribed to 50 websites on the topic and will be up to date over breakfast too.
It still needs to be a bit more obvious to the newcomer, but until today, that service didn’t exist anywhere on the internet. That’s pretty cool.
If you’re at a page you like and you want to keep informed whenever it has anything new, then just add that site to your newsreader.
If they have a button that looks like that big orange one I use, just click it and you’re done. You’ll see that logo all over the internet. Pretty much any site worth visiting more than once has one of those on it somewhere…
But if that all sounds too much, and the whole RSS thing is just a bit confusing — then I think I might have the answer.
Really REALLY Simple Syndication
Just today, a new service was launched called Particls.
You download the software, type in a few keywords that you’re interested in, and it’ll start up a news ticker along the top of your screen when it finds anything that might be of interest to you. Or you can have it pop up out of your system tray whenever there’s something you might like.
It’s quite nifty. Not for the irretrievable geek like me, managing 1000 feeds, but for a friendly heads-up on the odd topic you want to keep abreast of, it’s a stylish solution.
Too much information?
Maybe a thousand sites is a little excessive. If I’m honest, it’s probably closer to an hour’s worth of browsing — and actually, I do repeat the process in the evening just to stay on top of things.
It’s possible I’m flirting with information overload.
But think of it as a completely targetted newspaper that I can skip through at my leisure. It’s a relaxed hour at breakfast — and it’s a productive one.
Why not start the habit yourself — in a much more restrained fashion?
Make yourself a nice cup of coffee, put on a good record and sit back while you skim through all the latest developments in your field.
You could even start by subscribing to New Music Strategies.
What are your favourites?
Drop me a note in the comments and let me know your favourite feeds. What are you reading that I might be missing?