How I’m Consuming my Feeds

I’ve been very occupied lately with the job hunt, but thankfully have found work for the Fall.  I’m excited to follow up with my previous post on using RSS feeds with my progress!

I’ve improved the actual experience of getting news through RSS by organizing my feeds into more specific folders.  I found through some searching that this is what most people do with their RSS feeds, and it was certainly a pain point for me.  I now have separate folders for national/world news, local news, sports news, music notation blogs, and tech sites.  I have a few particularly low-volume/high-interest feeds outside of folders entirely.  This makes my RSS a lot more digestible, but I find myself totally catching up with some folders (mainly the tech news) and barely touching others.  One of the ones that I’m opening less is the national/world news, which was part of the whole goal of switching to RSS.  It’s largely because the feeds in here are a mix of worthwhile content and insightful op-eds buried under content that exists purely to fill quotas.  

Reeder as an app has grown on me.  I’m still manually syncing by OPML (although a Workflow could probably help speed that along down the road).  Discovering how to actually use the “Mercury Reader” feature on iOS was a major improvement.  Most articles only preview ‘before the break’ as you go through them.  Mercury Reader simply pulls everything after the break to read in the app instead of opening in your browser.  It’s must faster than waiting for all the extra elements of most sites to load and closing the ad that blocks the whole screen on most news sites.  I was using it heavily on my Mac (where it’s clearly labeled in a dropdown and a shortcut).  I assumed it wasn’t on iOS until I discovered you can get it by using the zoom-in gesture or tapping the favicon on an article.

Despite RSS improving, I’ve actually found myself drawing more from Twitter and Reddit again, because I’m managed to improve those experiences.  When Twitter announced they were dropping support for their Mac App, I wanted a better way to manage a group chat I was in on Twitter.  I picked up Twitterrific for Mac on sale and really liked the experience.  (Interestingly, the Twitter API doesn’t let 3rd party apps access group messages, so it didn’t solve that need).  After a bit of time using Twitterrific, I decided to switch to Tweetbot which I’m still using on Mac and iOS.  

I was always content to use the official Twitter app, but using a 3rd-party app in 2018 has really improved the experience.  While there are a few features missing (polls, in-app Periscope access, etc.) it is a chronological feed.  I didn’t realize how much I disliked Twitter’s algorithmic feed until I had a chronological feed again.  No matter how many times I told it that I didn’t want to see “what I missed,” I still saw it.  I was using Twitter less, not in protest of this feed, but because I found the content less compelling.  Having my raw feed, I feel the same connection to Twitter I did when I first signed up.

I would wholeheartedly recommend picking up either Twitterrific or Tweetbot if it didn’t seem Twitter is putting another nail in the coffin for 3rd party apps with a change to the APIs.  I hope this doesn’t come to pass, but I’m not optimistic.  I’ve been told that by using Lists, one can get a chronological feed natively on Twitter, but that seems like a lot of extra steps to just check a social media site.  I see my Twitter use basically dropping off again if the APIs break.

I mentioned also using Reddit a bit more than I did.  This is largely due to picking up Apollo for my iPhone on a whim.  I’ve always hated the Reddit mobile site, but always been fine with the desktop site on mobile.  I didn’t think there was a need for Apollo to solve for me, but I’m actually a big fan of the app.

Until (unless?) Twitter kills their API, I see this set-up for my feeds working very well for me.  When that time comes for Twitter, I don’t know how my consumption will change, but I’m sure I’ll post updates here.  I’ve got a few posts cooking, including a “blog roll,” or rather, feeds I’m reading a lot of that I can recommend.

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.