RSS overload, part 2

Thursday, 7 Jul 2005 [Sunday, 14 Aug 2005]

Update: see also Rajat Paharia’s Pressure Connections.

I wrote about my strategy for dealing with aggregator overload before. As it turns out, that was insufficient. Back then, my first large blogroll pruning was just behind me, sparked by a spectacular failure to keep up with an accumulation of high-volume feeds. I hit the brake after trying to stay on top of everything became a thankless chore.

After that, I started filtering by volume. Feeds moving so fast that they’d consume a lot of my attention did not even make it into my subscription list. But for a while, I was still adding any low- or moderate-volume feed that looked like it might be interesting. These were easier to keep up with, indeed, but as should be expected, sheer numbers eventually made for a large aggregate rate of items anyway. So I recently pruned again, after I admitted to myself that interesting as they may be, I never read some of those feeds. I feel much like David Weinberger on this point, who recently wrote No, I'm not keeping up with your blog. (And that post, too, I only found through Paul Hammond’s link log.)

At this point, with just under 200 feeds (exactly one of them high-volume), I’ve reached a stable equilibrium where I can slowly make a dent into the number of unread items. I envy people who seem capable of keeping up with 5× the number of feeds I subscribe, a bunch of them high-volume; but I can’t, so I have to budgetise my attention. This probably has to do with the fact that I’m not very good at skimming. I have learned to ignore some of the torrent of information that is pattering down on me, purely out of self-preservatory need, but it’s still very much an all-or-nothing issue in which I either give something full attention or ignore it wholesale.

Any new feeds I subscribe have to compete with those I already read, which at this point, after several cycles of subscriptions and minor prunings, is quite the eclectic selection with regard to my tastes and interests. For any newcomer to make the list, it has to either wow me instantly, or be at least 90% highly interesting material posted at a slow enough rate that I both really want to keep up, and realistically can expect to be able to.