RSS in 2018

At the end of 2017 I decided to try using RSS for news.  Previously I’d check Facebook and Twitter’s trending topics, and I followed a number of news accounts (whose biases in coverage aligned with my own).  The bigger impetus for this was that I was on Twitter a lot less and was sick of seeing more news than posts from people in my social circles.

In theory this also meant that I could get a lot more news that would be unfiltered.  Facebook’s algorithm wouldn’t play a role, and I could add a lot more sources without feeling like it was crowding my social feeds.  I’ve got probably ten times the number of subscriptions of news sources that I followed on Twitter, and a wider variety of perspectives.

If you’re looking to try RSS, I started by using Feedly and switched over to Reeder which integrates with Feedly.  If you’re using Reeder, you can keep your subscription list on iOS and your Mac the same by exporting your Mac subscriptions to OPML and importing it to your iOS client (but you have to manually do this each time).  Your alternative is to sign in to a service like Feedly in your Reeder client.  Feedly is $45/yr if you want to remove the restrictions on your total number of subscriptions and integrate with IFTTT and Zapier.  It’s worth noting that IFTTT has good applets for raw RSS feeds as well (and Zapier probably does this too).

Using RSS, you’re the only person accountable for what news you’re seeing, which is really nice.  It’s not a perfect solution though if you’re used to consuming most of your news through social media and sites like Reddit.  Getting a feed that just shows you everything that’s been posted by a number of sources means the ones that are posting about everything are dominating and bigger stories are difficult to notice.  Feedly has a feature where you can look at “top stories” based on what other people are clicking from the sources you’re already subscribing to.  This is nice, but relying just on this gets back into the very “problem” I was trying to solve.

I have two groups of feeds, one for news and one for personal interest blogs (Apple blogs, notation software blogs, college football blogs…)  Segregating these feeds means I can see the lower-volume things that I like and clear some email subscriptions for some of these interest blogs.  I have local news included in my broader news subscription group, but I’ve been enjoying some of that coverage so much that I might want to get it out of the noisier group and give it its own.

In an era where most news sites are battling ad blockers or trying to sell subscriptions, and RSS has arguably been out of style since Google killed Reader, Reeder is a worse experience because of the problems with a lot of feeds.  Hunting down RSS feeds for the sites I wanted was a mix of pages not linked to on their sites anymore, or using third-party feeds.  I’ve got a mix of feeds that are just links to the story and stories that are actually readable in Reeder.

While I’m still trying to make this experiment work, I’m finding myself still drawing a lot of news from Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook.  I am off until my subbing job starts, and maybe I can get back into more of a pattern that uses RSS when I’m back to work.  If anyone has some advice on how to make my experiment go better, I’d love to hear in the comments.

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