Google Reader

30 Jul

I hate to promote Google given their trajectory to take over the world, but I just switched over to Google Reader for reading RSS feeds. I had accumulated over 60 RSS feeds, and it was becoming difficult for me to determine which feeds I should keep and which I should delete.

I was hoping for an automated tool that would keep track of which feeds are beneficial and Google Reader has exactly what I was looking for!

The trends feature will keep track of which articles I read from each feed and report on the total number and the percent. So, over time, I’ll be able to easily delete the feeds that have a low number and/or low percentage of read articles. If you decide to use Google Reader, you should be aware of some idiosyncrasies. When viewing in “Expanded view”, the default is to mark articles as read when you scroll past them which totally defeats the trends feature. You can turn that off in the settings.

settings | preferences | scroll tracking

I like using the “list view” instead which allows me to quickly view the titles. After I’ve read the articles I want to from a feed, I click “mark all as read” and Google Reader is smart enough to not count those in the “read” statistics.

If you’re already using a different RSS reader, you can easily import all your feeds via an opml file. I was using Liferea and had folders of feeds, and I had also renamed the feeds – the import to Google Reader kept track of all of that – nice.

Google Reader has a lot of other nice features such as keyboard shortcuts, tags, folders, etc., but once I discovered the trends feature, that was all I needed to see 🙂

I suppose the trends feature can be “unfair” though. Consider the following scenario:

  1. You have two feeds A and B
  2. Each day each feed publishes 10 articles
  3. The feeds overlap on 5 articles that are worth reading
  4. Feed A has 1 unique article that you read
  5. Feed B has 3 unique articles that you read

If the feeds are read in alphabetical order, then you’ll read the 5 overlapped articles from Feed A along with the 1 unique article -> total = 6, or 60%. Then you’ll read the 3 unique articles from Feed B -> total = 3, or 30%. The stats will show Feed A as being twice as valuable when clearly Feed B is more valuable. I suppose to get good stats, I should read the feeds in random order, but that seems difficult to manage.

UPDATE: ah, never mind. Simply view the folder that contains A & B and you’ll see the union of their articles in chronological order – whoever gets the overlapped story first wins 🙂

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