Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Friday, March 18, 2011

all the news that's fit to read

In the past year or so, as more and more websites — of all kinds — have acquired Twitter feeds, my daily newsreading habits have shifted: whereas I once began the day by going through a large collection of RSS feeds, now I start with Twitter. And as I have added Twitter feeds, I've noticed a good deal of redundancy: sites giving me links to their new posts through RSS and Twitter alike. I responded to this phenomenon by purging my RSS feeds, ultimately leaving in my RSS reader only those sites that don't have Twitter feeds, and making Twitter my chief portal for news as well as conversation with friends.
And you know what? This doesn't work so well. Twitter doesn't handle news as well as RSS, largely because of the 140-character limit. Given so little information, I often can't tell whether a story is worth reading or not, so — because I don't want to miss out on something awesome! — I often end up clicking through to stories that prove to be that interesting or informative. RSS, by contrast, typically gives me either a complete story or a full first paragraph, so it's a much more efficient conduit, leading to fewer unnecessary click-throughs.
Also, while for conversations I might want Twitter to refresh frequently, for news that's not necessary — unless it's breaking news, in which case what you want is not your regular stream but searches by relevant hashtag. Setting the RSS reader to refresh every hour at most, the Twitter client to refresh more frequently, is the way to go. For me anyway.
Fortunately, before I started trimming my RSS feeds I made and stored a copy, as an OPML file, of my list when it was at its largest. So I'm restoring that, and cutting back my Twitter feed largely to friends. Twitter is great for conversations; RSS is better for the daily news.

3 comments:

  • I just went through all my sites of interest and grabbed their rss' and put into Google Reader. That effort took quite a bit of time, but has been worth it - I now feel solidly tapped into all the areas of interest I have. One problem is that I monitor several aggregator sites, each of which may send me the same post. I wish there was a way to limit these dups. I also get a lot of email updates and newsletters and facebook posts from all these sites. I am now going though all this to trim redundant sources of info. In order to track this effort I have set up an excel spreadsheet.

  • I've been tracking right with you on this. Making nearly all the same moves and finding it odd how in sync my reading of the situation is with yours. I can tell you as I, too, shift back toward RSS, if you're a Mac user, the app Reeder makes RSS so much more enjoyable to read.

  • That's actually fascinating to hear.

    My Twitter usage being pretty limited, I'm still an RSS feed guy. But one thing I've noticed is that, even with RSS feeds, redundant links keep popping up. Except that I've found the redundancy to be useful rather than just time-wasting. This is because as time has gone by, I've cut down actual information sources from my RSS feeds (say, the NYT or the Washington Post) and added more opinion-makers/aggregators (Matt Yglesias, Text Patterns, Alan's Tumblr feed). So sometimes redundancy tells me how interesting a link is. Also I often forget to read something or have no time to read it, so the redundancy helps bring an article/link back to my attention. My guess is that this redundancy has a big role to play in how we read on the internet today. Thoughts?

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