News Reading Thoughts

I never have enough of a good thing. The first time I read the online edition of a magazine I immediately wished for a filtered edition which would only contain the articles of my choice. When Greek Naftemporiki newspaper’s online-edition provided filtered, personalized content, I immediately wished for a method to push the content to me, instead of going around the sites and soon after that RSS appeared (what I like about technology; it always catches up).

Now RSS is commonplace. Filters increase, but the implementations are still early and immature. For example, except for Google and similar sites, filters usually apply to a single site; that of the content source (like -only in greek). RSS makes it easy to gather information from multiple sources to the feed reader of choice, but by itself provides no filtering in the source, except in the form of multiple feeds. So, where should filtering apply?

The tools have been expanding and improving. From the days of raw content we now have search, filtering, RSS and a multitude of clients to put them to good use. I tried the very good BlogBridge for a while for its keyword-based virtual feeds (thanks, karagos, for suggesting it). It being offline and other problems I had (bad greek support and hitting the 600 feeds limit of the free edition while not convinced to buy yet) made me return to Google Reader. Regardless of reader, my everyday struggle to get and keep informed about the news and my interests has been getting very time-consuming, mainly due to increasing volume (never have enough of a good thing, remember?).

How many sources and how many pieces of news and info am I talking about? A quick count showed around 2800 items from my (ever expanding collection of) ~750 subscriptions in Google Reader in the last 12 hours. This includes my ~450 FriendFeed subcriptions feed, but not my ~900 people Twitter feed (strangely, only a small count of the tweets I follow make it to the RSS feed). Thankfully, a good portion of the tweets make it to FFd as well (although I fear not all FFd posts make it to the RSS feed, either). At this rate of incomings, it takes me 10-20’/h to browse everything, read and microblog about whatever catches my eye.

This is way too much time. In practice, I browse some of the titles when there’s time and only read the interesting items among them. I do use the Google Reader Filter GreaseMonkey script to highlight items containing an increasing number (~100, so far) of keywords and it is helpfull. But the real problem is with the multiple sharing of the same (great) URLs in FriendFeed, which in turn produce multiple different (as they come from different users) items in Google Reader. Those are not caught by the script’s “hide duplicates” option.

So, for the time being, I consider avoiding duplication my #1 goal for increasing my news-reading productivity. I hope Friendfeed will listen and convert duplicate link posts to likes or comments of the first such post. This would also result in a major added benefit: aggregating all the relevant discussions in one thread, as discussed here. I find it so important, I even requested Robert Scoble to lobby for this here (I guess it’s impossible to read everything, even for him)!

#2 goal is to reduce sources that produce similar content, like press releases etc. Google News does well about it but doesn’t track all the sites I do. Mechanisms of bookmarking sites like Delicious might also help, as they keep URL scoring. While I work on a plan, I’ll stick to goal #1. Please join!

4 comments to News Reading Thoughts

  • Tommy, I am not sure what your disagreement is nor what to update.

    If it helps, my situation is about the same. My RSS sources are now more, as are my twitter follows. More news now come via Facebook and FriendFeed is disappointingly unchanged since Facebook acquired it. Luckily, I have Mixero (Air) to filter the Twitter stream, Snackr (Air) news ticker to scroll my Google Reader feed in front of my eyes and My6sence (Android & iPhone) to guess what in my feed interests me the most.

    Still, my duplication problem is far from solved and I think there is an excellent business opportunity there.

  • i have to agree with a couple of your statements, but the one i dissagree with, is the most recent, could you update yoyur post, letting myself and others know exactly what ur opinions are?

  • Thanks for your response and sorry for the delayed approval; the system considered this comment a spam.

    If quantity is such that eventually posts end up not being parsed by the reader, duplication gives us another chance. Then again, extensive duplication results to such quantity; the chicken or the egg?

    My preference is one searchable thread per subject and better parsing mechanisms.

  • Either a Social Networking site such as FriendFeed or a third party tool will eventually be developed to truly pull, filter, organize and store precisely what each reader desires. Until then we must make do with what is available.

    For many, duplication is a blessing rather than an obstacle to be avoided because it increases the likelihood that they will see the most valuable information posted.

    My number one desire would be the ability to organize and store material for reference at FriendFeed in a format easily accessible by subject so that it would be a resource for others as well as myself.

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