Everything starts with a slice of the Web, in the guise of a bunch of RSS feeds. Currently my blog roll hover a little above 280 feeds. There are the broad blockbusters like Techcrunch, ReadWriteWeb, Techmeme, Presse-Citron (a French blog), the mainstream media (e.g. French newspapers), but there are also a lot of small, specialized, « vertical » blogs from developers, entrepreneurs, competitors and/or friends.
Of course I cannot cope with the quantity of content that those ~280 feeds fetch. Some people are very anxious about reading everything in their blog roll, which for instance led to the introduction of a new anti-feature in Google Reader : « hide unread count ». I was a bit like that back in pre-history (circa 2004) but nowadays I just tell myself that I won’t be able to read everything, c’est la vie.
One thing is sure, I won’t miss anything important thanks to the « echo chamber » effect. As soon as big news hit the interpipes, I see it multiplied a few dozens of times on many feeds, and even if I missed it during the first 24 hours, I get a second chance with the French mainstream media which are often 48 hours late.
So each day I get the big news fast and I can quickly skip over the echoes. Then I get a bunch of small news, « vertical » articles, things that border between work, geeky things, technical articles, friends updates and so on.
My main tool for reading all this is Google Reader. More precisely, I mainly use the iPhone version of Google Reader during my daily subway trips, which gives me around 60 to 90 minutes a day (morning + evening) to do some triage and select interesting items to review later at my home or office (I star those items in Google Reader), or items to share right away.
The iPhone version of Google Reader is especially well designed for triage : the app has a mode in which it only displays 15 unread items at a time, and there is a « mark as read » link which marks all those items as read and loads 15 new items right away. So that’s what I do in the subway : just skip items whose title doesn’t seem interesting, read interesting items, star those I want to come back later on a bigger screen or share them right away. Believe me, since I’ve began doing this, I’ve never been bored while in the subway or while taking a cab . Google Reader tells me that in the last 30 days, I’ve read 5.384 items which gives nearly 12 screens of 15 items a day.
BTW, I guess the batch loading mode of the iPhone app was designed to address connection problems, and it’s especially effective in the subway. For example, on my daily subway trip, there is a weak spot in my operator’s coverage for one Metro station, so I take care of loading a batch just before entering the station. This way, I don’t need the connection while in the weak spot. I sometimes get frustrated when I go on Metro lines that I don’t know as well, though
The items that I share are reviewed by friends directly on Google Reader, but they can also be found on a public RSS feed that is injected into FriendFeed for comments there, too. The RSS feed is also injected in one of our corporate blog powered by WordPress (+ FeedWordPress) so that my colleagues and I can discuss about it far from the prying eyes of our competitors . Things could change now that Google Reader has a true commenting system with some privacy features, but having a private blog hosted by ourselves is much more reassuring for now.
For fun, I’ve got a few more services aggregated into FriendFeed : my Amazon wish list (feel free ), my public activity feed from github (I’ve got two projects there, though I’m not very active), LinkedIn feeds, etc.
Finally, FriendFeed posts everything to Twitter (except what’s coming from Twitter, of course, the echo chamber metaphor should remain one), so that I don’t have to do it myself . To be frank, the reason I made FriendFeed push to Twitter is that for now, I don’t really use Twitter, but it seems to be quite important nowadays… So this is a cheap way to push updates on Twitter without going all the way into micro-blogging mode.
So, does anybody have some more tricks to share about how to manage the gazillion tons of information the Web throws at us each day ?