Sometime recently I gave up. After making RSS reading part of my nearly-daily routine for the past four years, I stopped logging in.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened. I had noticed getting through my Google Reader was taking longer and longer, becoming a serious time sink, and I even converted to using Fever to lessen the time needed to go through my feeds, but it wasn’t enough.
I started skipping days regularly and it eventually got to where there was often over a week of backlog waiting for me. Then, I just stopped going. Though Fever and Google Reader are both great apps, I just stopped.
I haven’t logged into an RSS reader for several weeks now and I don’t feel as if I’ve missed anything. I’ve used a hodgepodge of Twitter, Google News and following a few select sites closely to keep on top of everything and, for the most part, it has worked well.
However, I may not be rid of RSS for good, I may be coming back. But if I do it will be for a very different reason and with a very different approach in mind.
Why I Quit
It’s easy to blame on my abandonment of RSS on “overload”. Indeed, it did play a role, as my Google Reader feeds became more and more active and larger in number, the time kept ticking up though the reward was fairly flat. I was spending probably 3x the time reading feeds that I was when I stated but only seeing about the same amount of useful information.
Some of this was my doing, by adding more sites to follow, and some of it was the environment, for example, my blog search watchlists have steadily gotten more active as the number of blogs have gone up. Some of it was avoidable, some of it wasn’t.
The bigger problem, however, was that it just wasn’t working. RSS wasn’t keeping me better informed. As my usage tapered off, I found myself visiting the important sites when I had a free moment, which I found to be a much better experience all around as I got to read comments and participate more actively.
In short, RSS wasn’t a rewarding experience, it wasn’t simplifying my life and it wasn’t keeping me better informed. It was time for it to go.
What I’ve Done Instead
Since I ditched RSS reading, I still have had to stay on top of the news in my niche. However, I found that Google News did an extremely good job keeping me informed. What Google News missed, a Twitter search I maintain has pretty much always picked up.
I also am on a few email newsletters I read regularly but haven’t found them necessary lately. Since Google News picks up most of the sites I would use as a primary source, searching for the topics I’m interested in usually gives me a good rundown of the day’s news.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how complete Google news is and Twitter is much more effective at getting news out quickly than blog searches, making it faster and at least as complete.
In short, my RSS reader has been beat both in terms of authority and speed, making it trapped in the middle of two superior options.
Why I Might Come Back
That being said, I did enjoy the centralized nature of RSS and I often feel as if I’m behind on the sites I do enjoy. After all, it might be a few days before I catch an important post on a blog if it doesn’t make it on Twitter.
So, I might return to RSS and have even laid the groundwork. However, in doing so I am starting over. I’ve deleted all of my Google Reader subscriptions and plan to start completely from scratch and with a different mindset.
No longer will RSS be my primary means of getting information about my field, instead, it will be what it should have always been, a convenient way to read some of my favorite sites.
The number of sites I subscribe to will be much smaller and, if I do re-add my watchlists, it will be in a folder that will not be checked irregularly. The goal will be to make it so that, once again, RSS is a time-saving tool that makes me more efficient, not a time waster that doesn’t help at all.
In short, RSS might start filling the niche it should have always been used for.
Personally, I think that RSS is still useful though Twitter and other information tools have forced it into a smaller and smaller niche. It is conceivable that, in a few years, RSS could be outright obsolete though not necessarily likely.
After all, RSS never really caught on as a mainstream technology, few outside of blogging and tech circles actively use it, and its use in those circles seems to be waning.
RSS isn’t wat it used to be but it still may have a place. But then the question becomes “For how long?”