I was reviewing TechCrunch’s post from March 2006 about the state of Online Feed Readers because I’ve been wanting to find a way to read and track my feeds online. I’m a pretty heavy news junkie - for at least the things I like to read about (sorry, Associated Press), but I’m sort of bound to my computer to track and manage my feeds. Sometimes, I have a little extra free time where I’m waiting for someone or something and there is internet access nearby, so I’d like to be able to check out the latest feeds and catch up on them.

There are plenty of ways to do this online, but I don’t just want a reader. I want to be able to manage those feeds efficiently, too.

Currently, I use Thunderbird’s feed reading which is absolutely flawless. Flawless. I would highly recommend it. But, because Google just recently revamped their feedreader a few days ago, I thought it would be a good time to try it out.

After playing with Google’s for a little bit, it didn’t really work for me. Then I went to TechCrunch’s article and poured through the options there…. NewsGator, Bloglines, NewsAlloy, Rojo, etc… And after wasting nearly an hour, I came to the conlusion that nobody seems to “get it” - or either I don’t “get it”. One or the other.

Here’s what I really want, and if anyone can recommend one, I’ll be eternally grateful. A free, web-based reader that allows you to delete (instantly) each post after you read it. I don’t want to save “read” posts or have them fade gently away. I don’t want to have to “clip” posts I like into some special folder or folders. Just keep the good posts in the same folder they are already in - that’s fine with me.

I’d also like posts to automatically be viewable. Why should I have to waste time clicking on some “expand to read” icon? I don’t know about most folks who use RSS as regularly as I do, but I don’t subscribe to feeds that only have a few posts of interest to me. I don’t have the time. I pretty much scan or speed read every post. Having to expand posts is waste of my time. Having to mark posts as “read” is a waste of time.

I also noticed a lot of effort being spent on Web 2.0 stuff, AJAX, and so forth. Some of it is nice and Google probably has the best usability interface of any of them. But it’s one of those things where it seems a few companies have been caught up in the artistic business rather than the functionality business.

A lot of companies seem to be totally ensnared by the “tagging” bug. I don’t get it. I don’t have time to tag a post. Who does? I tag my outoging posts that I write on my own blog for the benefit of Technorati and search engines. Some bloggers also tag for other blog complilation sites. That’s fine. But, find me the sixteen-year old who is tagging all his inbound posts, and I’ll show you someone failing high school.

So, you can save the tagging and sharing features. The only thing I might possibly be interested in sharing would be my entire blog list - maybe the ability to have a link to a RSS feed of my current blogs as a whole so I can post it live to this blog here - rather than having to manually update it every so often. I’d like to be able to mark each feed I read as “public” or not as far as that RSS feed goes, since I have a few feeds that I’d rather the whole world not know I was reading. I’m sure others feel the same. They probably don’t want to publish an RSS feed letting everyone know they are reading “Chronic Depression and Suicide Research”, for example.

As far as tagging goes, I have only one thought about that. What are computers for? If the computer can’t parse the feed and figure out what the post is generally about, I’m certainly not going to do its job for it. A 1970’s miniframe with SGML could have done this. Certainly, our overpowered machines can handle this. Besides, even without tagging, the posts in a particular feed are generally all about the same subject. I was laughing at some of the posts and the “shared tags” of all the other users in the community. You’d have a post about the latest meeting of the W3C and it would be tagged with every imaginable keyword - hundreds of them - having anything at all to do with the internet and web development… HTML, CSS, standards, W3C, XHTML, hacks, web, internet, CSS2, CSS3, web 2.0, conference, pipeline, AJAX, development, PHP…. and on and on…. WHA? Is this supposed to help in some way? Some of the tagged terms, in fact many of them, would not even be mentioned in the post.

Besides, the idea that someone is going to “archive” all their posts for later searching is rather laughable. I subscribe to about about 40 feeds. By some standards, that is kind of small. I’ll probably max out around 60 or 70 some day. I seem to get rid of one every so often that I thought would be good, but it takes a turn for the worse or posts just stop coming. Some folks subscribe to hundreds of feeds. Why would anyone archive all that stuff? The whole point of a feed is a timely update of a subject you are interested in (or a person you are interested - in the case of my subscription to some of my friends’ blogs). I’m not running my own search engine here. Once I’ve read the post, away it goes - into the trash. If it is really good, or if there is some actionable item that I can associate it with (like using the article to do further research on a subject of my interest when I have more time), I’ll save it by not deleting it - not by “clipping” it into some other crazy folder hierarchy.

If I really want to find other feeds that I deleted or wanted to later refer someone to, I can just hop on over to a search engine and find it.

Lastly, for those that don’t understand my fetish to delete, it goes with my productivity principle of not having to touch things twice. I don’t want to have to see posts that I’ve already read and even have my mind dwell on them for a half-second. Either I’m keeping them for a purpose (”greatest post ever”, “forward to mom”, “good idea for website”), or they are gone and I’m onto other things. This is a principle I use with nearly everything - as do all productive people - which allows us to do much more because we create systems to put things into and then get them off our desk so we can work. Then we spend our whole lives refining those systems (<grin>), getting faster and faster, while driving all our friends nuts. But, hey, who do you call when you need something done? The guy who is busy with twenty things on his plate, right? You don’t call the guy who isn’t doing anything with his life because he’s not busy - he’s just wasting time, and he’ll waste your time, too. You call the guy who gets things done without leaving a trail of destruction and disaster in his wake. That’s me. I generally have gotten more done in the first 60 days on a job, than most new employees do in a year. But that’s another article for another time. Just let me delete my read posts! Easily!

Technorati : RSS, feeds, web 2.0

Posted in: Getting Things Done & Computing