Why the RSS river of news drowns Facebook and Google Reader

My Facebook page has had a serious clear out. I junked my Twitter feed, Friendfeed and Mento links (along with a host of other stuff that I never liked or really wanted but which I acquired every time a friend sent me something).
The reason was simple: whenever I logged on I was faced with an overdose of my tweets, Friendfeed rss, bookmarks, notes and more.

As an individual user, I don’t much like Facebook. I don’t want to be sent kittens, issued with challenges or quizzed, and I prefer sites where I don’t have to decide whether to fend off Zombie attacks. I like FB status updates, but that’s about it. I use, as opposed to visit, Twitter, Plurk, Flickr and Delicious, all the time. Wired Journalists, Dipity, Last.fm, Spotify and Blip, and Good Reads are coming up on the rails.

So, on a personal level, Facebook as an aggregator is a turn-off for me but it’s not alone; my Google Reader has also undergone a wholesale clearout. I realised the best way I found new blogs and websites was through Twitter – I sometimes subscribe to hashtag themes in my Reader so I can follow a debate, but Friendfeed works just as well. And it’s a lot less time-consuming to dip in and out of a hashtag search than see there are 1200 unread items in my reader. Mashable, for example, has been binned and replaced with an rss of @Mashable’s tweets – faster to skim through, no adverts – and it saves me clogging my Twitter feed.

I talked at TEDx Liverpool about journalists now having a river of information available to them through social media; I later learned the River of News analogy was well-established in regards to RSS . Google has also been thinking about this RSS news river and the need for more social opportunities in our Reader, I guess, because it’s now added ‘comments’ and ‘power reader’ recommends to its options (click to enlarge the image):

I’m not really interested in the comments (they tend to be of the ‘great post, Jon!’ variety) and although I click on the ‘1 person liked this’ links sometimes – I found this interesting post on the subject through six degrees of separation from the ‘like’ option – I don’t want to know what’s in a power user’s Reader.
If I’m not following them on Twitter or Friendfeed someone who does will no doubt be retweeting them or linking to a post. And if they don’t, does it really matter? It’s not like I need to know everything that’s new or news. And what I think is important might be trivia to someone else.

* River photo by talaakso

6 thoughts on “Why the RSS river of news drowns Facebook and Google Reader

  1. I think it all comes down to controlling which of these rivers you let information flow: for me I thought long and hard as to how to separate personal, public and professional.

    I use Facebook extensively but only in a personal context, it's where my friends and family are.

    Twitter can become overloaded far to fast – and really shows me no way to filter information it's a bit all or nothing. So I have limited real person connections, I can't be fussed with the bots that tell you what's on the telly now.

    I live in Google reader – It lets me group and filter, and I can get a lot of information fast. I'll be honest and say there is a lot of junk in there but I can do two passes on it all in around 20 minutes. – let 'star' and 'share' be your friend.

    Your right though the social aspect does nothing for me, not least because if I share or note something about home education everybody at work would get it as well – this is where freindfeed's groups are really good.

    – sorry I've gone on a bit in your comments there – another river to swim through.


  2. I've been considering letting go of Mashable and LifeHacker and other volume blogs, and relying on my network to filter them and tell me what's good via Twitter, Google Reader Share, Delicious and “Links for…” blog posts. I don't know why I haven't done it yet.


  3. Thanks both for taking the time to share thoughts; it's appreciated.

    Kevin you're right – controlling the information torrent is the key, and maybe I'm not using Google Reader to it's full potential. I'm down to the basics now and am finding it more manageable. I think the trick is to accept that sometimes info will pass you by first time – but if it's important, someone in your network will eventually bring it to your attention.

    Go on Dilyan – let go of Mashable and Lifehacker; I know you wrangle rss like a pro, but those two are such monsters the only thing to do is dip in and out.
    Oh, I would add that after a few days of just having an rss of Mashable's tweets, it's a lot faster to scan them. No adverts for a start!


  4. It's worth pointing out swift in this thread – a mark up tool in development that combines human tagging of data streams with algorithms to filter for veracity and importance.

    Although indirectly linked to Swift through my work at Arabic-English dialogue nonprofit http://meedan.net, I can safely and objectively say that the motivations behind this work are really interesting:

    -Provide a structured, weighted index about a crisis in real time
    -Make it easier to find known facts about a crisis
    -Make it easier to find things that you didn’t know you were looking for in a crisis
    – Make crisis data more sharable (”linked” eg “structured” eg “semantic”)
    (from http://swiftapp.org/)

    Substitute 'crisis' for 'story' or 'meme' and you have a flexible tool for sorting out what's worth reading. Ok there's a lot of work to be done and it's going to take a galvanised community to pull it off, but v exciting nonetheless:

    Check out the demo http://demo.swiftapp.org/

    And the mailing list


  5. Thanks for the post, I think you are ahead of the curve for most social media users. Many of the troubles you are having they will have soon.

    I expect most people to find a way to thin the information down to just people they care about or just topics they care about combined with a simple way to discover new content. My wife has all but given up on FB and gone back to email and NYT. I am not there but I do have a project on my back burner to redo my friends lists on myspace, fB, and twitter. It sits on my back burner because it has just been too much work. As a result I don't get enough of the information which is really relevant to me or keep up to date with the people who are really close to me. Tools like tweetdeck have been helpful but it doesn't help me on other devices.

    One the information side there is one tool which has extended the life of my Google reader, Feedly. Since the first days of RSS this is a tool I have always wanted. I even took some of the early steps to build something like this in 2003 or 4, but it was too early and Google reader hadn't hit critical mass yet.


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