Feed Overwhelm

Jon Udell’s recent article about efficient newsfeed reading touches upon one of the main reasons I created FeedDemon. As the number of subscribed feeds increases, there’s often a feeling of overwhelm in trying to keep up with everything. Before long, reading feeds starts to feel just like reading email – you look at each unread item just in case it’s important, but most of the time there are only a few items that really interest you. Eventually it all feels like work, and you stop enjoying it.

But this isn’t email, folks – you don’t have to care about every last item you receive in your feedreader, as long as your feedreader provides enough help.

The most obvious way that FeedDemon helps is through its watch feature. A FeedDemon watch examines every incoming news item, but collects only the ones that contain specific keywords. This way you can subscribe to hundreds of feeds, yet only be alerted when one of those feeds contains something that interests you. Scoble has written about how he subscribes to – and manages – 1296 newsfeeds. Believe it or not, I actually subscribe to more feeds than Scoble – but there are only a handful that I read. Instead, I simply have several FeedDemon watches looking for my keywords, and I only read items found by these watches. The rest of the items are automatically marked as read (see Tools > Options > Reading in FeedDemon for related settings), so I never have to care about them.

FeedDemon’s newspapers help even further by grouping news items. Although many people choose to read their feeds one at a time, others may prefer to use FeedDemon’s group newspaper so that they can scan all items from a group of feeds at the same time. As Jon mentions, FeedDemon uses XSL to transform newsfeeds, which provides a lot of flexibility in choosing what to display. Although by default FeedDemon’s newspaper shows the contents of every item, you can simply switch to the “Headlines” newspaper style to scan only the headlines. And since newspaper styles are simply XSL files, new styles can be downloaded with ease. Plus, FeedDemon enables filtering the newspaper, so you can choose to show only unread items, only items received today, only items received this week, etc.

Although I’ve had lot of requests to add a treeview of all your feeds, I believe that the way FeedDemon displays only feeds in the active channel group avoids the overwhelm to which Jon refers. If you’re subscribed to hundreds of feeds, it’s visual overload seeing them in one big list. Breaking your feeds into distinct groups makes them much more manageable, IMO.

As more people become avid feed readers, the problem of managing all this new information will become even more important. I designed FeedDemon 1.0 with this in mind, and this will be a primary focus (if not the primary focus) of future versions.

12 thoughts on “Feed Overwhelm

  1. Hi Nick,
    I like the way you do channel groups, but I really would like to see an option to create indiviudal folders within groups. I personally like to see all of my feeds within one group (as opposed to have to keep switching between groups) but it would be nice to file certain feeds away in a folder. You could even set settings on the folder that would propogate to all feeds within that folder. For example, some feeds I only want to check once a week, and it would be nice to set that way at the folder level.
    So here is a vote to add folder options within channel groups. That allows individual users the ability to work the way they want to with more flexibility.
    Thanks for the great software!
    -John Roling

  2. You’re absolutely correct that your channels drop-down is much. much better than a tree view like NetNewsWire. I’m a Mac guy but find FD much more pleasant to use than NNW for this very specific reason alone.

  3. I believe that the most powerful aspect of FeedDemon is its simplicity and ease of use. Hopefully these features will not be overlooked as more and more functionalities are added, potentially leading to an overly-complicated do-it-all RSS Reader. I like it because it saves me time, so please do your best to keep it from getting too top-heavy. Thanks alot for listening.

  4. RSS Overload

    Nick Bradbury has an well thought out response to the question of dealing with too many RSS feeds. That was one of my initial questions when I used RSS for…

  5. Nick,
    I would like to be able to delete, mark and target in the news section for the channel. I know this is esentially the same as thelistview, but if I read the news I still have to go back and prune the listview.

  6. I think that instead of a tree view for channels, have a tree view for groups. It can be a separate pane above the contents of the current group, and show the unread count for each group.
    I believe something like this was suggested during the FD beta, and makes sense to me since that’s how Explorer, Outlook and most other Mail readers work. It might further the false impression that RSS is like e-mail, but I think the benefit to ease of use would far outweigh that.
    Then again, I’m still new to RSS and still stuck in RSS-like-email mode so I’m biased :)

  7. (read this as if feed==channel, feed!=channel group)
    I agree with keeping the channel groups sane. However, feeds in channel groups are only checked when that channel group is selected, am I right? It would be good to have the option to check all channels from all channel groups. Also, in that case, there would need to be some way to tell if a channel group has channels with unread items in it… some kind of home page with Favorite Channels shown individually, and other channel groups marked with (45 unread items from 5 feeds) or something…?

  8. Feed Overwhelm

    Great summary on how to use Feeddemon from the Nick. Persoanlly I have hundreds of feeds, and end up using the few in my “favourites” the most. I am going to use the “watch” feature even more, having read this….

  9. RSS feeds: when is many too much?

    Bill Burnham’s posting (no permalink), ‘RSS: A Big Success In Danger of Failure’, with its conclusion that ‘without the use of meta-directories and their standardized classifications and taxonomies the RSS community is in danger of collapsing under the…

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