Beating RSS Overload

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Beating RSS Overload

When I first started freelancing full-time I was eager to learn more and wanted to take in as much information as I possibly could. This lead to me setting up an account on Google Reader and using RSS to subscribe to as many design, tech, and business related blogs as I could find. My thirst for knowledge had definitely caused me to get a bit carried away and before I knew it I had subscribed to so many blogs that I would have 100+ new articles to go through every day.

I managed to keep on top of it for a while but it soon got to the point where it became a chore and I often found myself checking in every couple of days, skimming through a few articles, and then clicking ‘mark all as read’ because there was just too much on my plate.

What I was doing completely defeated the object of RSS, but judging by a few comments that I’ve seen online recently I’m not the only one to have done something like this.

After spending the last year or so striving to cut down on the amount of content I consume and RSS being a huge part of that, I thought I’d share some advice on how to get the best out of it and beat RSS overload in the process.

Here goes…

It’s important to make sure that the content of the feeds you subscribe to is of the highest quality and that it’s relevant to you and your goals. Personally, these days, I only subscribe to a feed if I believe that the content is going to teach me something relevant, really get me thinking or inform me of valuable design resources.

In my opinion, it’s pointless subscribing to feeds that consistently post round ups of “inspiration” because for me there’s no immediate value in it. What I mean by that is that unless you happen to be working on a sign-in page at the time, “50 examples of sign-in pages” isn’t going to be of any real use to you. Instead I believe that this is the sort of content that is more appropriate for you to search for as and when you really need it. After all, that’s when it becomes valuable.

Not only does this help distinguish between what you should and should not subscribe to, but it also really helps when it comes to cutting down the number of your subscriptions.

The particular method I use for this is to go through my feeds and make a note of the number of articles from each feed that I don’t read or don’t find particularly useful. I tally them up as I go along each day and if I find that the total number of unfavourable articles from a specific feed is beginning to get quite high then I delete it from my account.

Using this method I went from having 100+ articles to go through each day to less than 10, so I would definitely recommend giving it a go. Remember, the aim is quality over quantity – you want to be able to consume less and obtain greater value, all while saving yourself time.

Do you have any additional advice for beating RSS overload? If so, feel free share it with us in the comments section below.

Sam Jones is a freelance designer and the owner of one man design studio, Sivioco. His work spans multiple disciplines such as brand identity, design for print, web design and illustration. If you would like to get in touch feel free to drop him a line via Twitter @Sivioco.

  • Organize and classify. If a blog commonly posts ‘inspiration’ pieces then slot it into a separate group. Every RSS reader that I’ve seen allows you to create groups and to update/mark read separately. So you can have your favorite sources of inspiration but you don’t need to read them unless you need them or maybe you are on a plane with some extra time on your hands.

    • Hey Jeff,

      This is an option and I’m sure a lot of people do this but again you have to ask yourself do I really need this other group, or do I have it just because I can? Everybody has their preferences but the point of this article is to help people cut down on the amount of content they consume via RSS. Suggesting that they then use their free time to consume more content via RSS would be missing the point. Personally I would tell anybody with some time on their hands to use it to get some extra work done, create something or just experiment. Whatever it is, just do something that’s more creative than scrolling through a list of feeds.

  • I think you are right. Many blogs that people subscribe to will only provide content that they want a small percentage of the time. Too many feeds can result in the same problem as following too many people on Twitter – information overload. It’s important to manage the content you read effectively.

    It is, however, a little ironic that you wrote this article on Inspired Magazine, a blog that posts round-up articles every week :)


    • Hey Kevin,

      Inspired Mag do post their fair share of round-ups but I find that the majority are based on useful resources rather than just eye candy.