Feed Overwhelm

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.  [Nick Bradbury]

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