I want more from the information that's out there today. I want to spend less time hunting and gathering it, and more time acting on it. I want to find the information that gives me an edge. Most importantly, I want to avoid the "free shopping spree" pattern, where if I grab it all as I go, I may not get the most value for my time.
As I talk to more feed readers, I find there's patterns that work and patterns that don't. I'm a fan of starting with examples of "what's working" and "what's not" before building a new solution. The most common anti-pattern I found was "too many feeds, not enough time." The most effective pattern I found was a set of tuned and pruned feeds.
To fix my feeds, I used the following approach:
- Started with a clean slate.
- Figured out my objectives (what do I want to know? what would I do with the information?)
- Figured out my constraints (how much time and how many feeds?)
- Hunted and gathered for the most effective feeds.
To wipe my slate clean, I archived what I had. I had several hundreds of feed sources. I figured I could compare later, but I wanted to start fresh and lose potential baggage.
To figure out my objectives, I asked a simple question -- "what do I want to accomplish?" I figured listing the questions I need to answer with my feeds would be the most effective:
This created my map of what feeds I needed to add. I ended up surprised by how different my deliberate map was than my typical feed reading habbits. I didn't realize this until I had the map above to check against.
Next, I figured out practical time and quantity constraints. I set a bar of 30 feeds and a max of 20 minutes reading time max for reading time. Talk about a true exercise in prioritization, considering I'm used to hundreds of feeds! I decided I want to trade lightweight and effective over exhaustive and a burden. Put it another way, I want to spend more time with the cream of the crop, and less time filtering the wheat from the chaff.
As I hunted and gathered for feeds, I distinguish sources of news from sources of insight. I want both but I prioritize insight. I also looked for bloggers that take the time to distill information for some key areas, so that I don't have to. In some areas, I do my own distillations, in others, I want to leverage the network effect. As I hunted for feeds, I also kept the following guiding questions in mind:
This gave me a good baseline of feeds. It also put me in great shape to bring over some of my favorite feeds I had archived. It was easier to bring over just a handful of the best vs. sort and filter through everything I had.
While this wasn't my first do-over, it was probably my most useful. I feel closer to the sources of information that I'm actually going to use, and less burdened by the noise. I'm going to test more tools and techniques for feed reading, so if you have any tips or techniques to share, I'd like to hear them.