Surviving Google Reader with the 80/20 Rule

Some pretty heated discussion going on right now at NECC about Twitter (and also Google Reader, to some extent). I'll talk about my strategy for surviving Twitter later, but right now, I feel like talking about Google Reader (or any feed reading application for that matter) and how I manage to not feel overwhelmed.

I use the 80/20 rule. In the case of Google Reader, that means 80% of the value I get from reading feeds comes from only 20% of them. If you really think about it, I'm sure the same is true for you. This means I'm regularly taking a critical look at my feeds and weeding out the ones that hardly give me any value. I know that can be tough though! Some times I think, "Well, there were a few REALLY good posts (out of the last 100) and I could miss those if I unsubscribe!" If you catch yourself thinking like that, I suggest you unsubscribe from that feed right now. There are A LOT of great blogs out there and your time is valuable. When you find blogs that interest you, definitely subscribe for a while to check them out, but don't forget to be honest with yourself and re-evaluate your reading list on a regular basis. Otherwise, you'll just give up on the 20% of feeds that are consistently great, because the other 80% are burying you alive.

Here are a few other tips I suggest:
- If you've been away from your feeds for a while and they've piled up, don't be afraid to "Mark all as read" and start fresh. It's better than getting intimidated out of reading your feeds altogether.
- A lot of sites have a few different feeds. For example, if you've been reading the New York Times feed just for the education articles, search for "New York Times Education" and see if they have a feed just for articles related to education (hint: they do). Similarly, a lot of sites have a "Top" or "Most Popular" feed where you can see only the cream of the crop. Might be worth checking that out for the sites that post hundreds of times every week.

If anyone else has some tips for staying afloat amidst the waves of information in your feed reader, share them in the comments! I can always use more! :-)

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Tags: feeds, google-reader, rss


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