Despite the shuttering of Google Reader, I plan to continue on with RSS over the pseudo-alternatives provided by Twitter, The New York Times, and this new development I’ve heard of called “search.” It’s difficult to let go when my reading life (the internet version, at least) fits so neatly into folders like these seven:
RSS feeds are ideal for an info-hungry, overly obsessive sports fan looking for an end around of what sometimes feels like an endless, tedious rehashing of the dreariest stories of sports (steroids, NCAA violations, etc. — seriously, take a glance at ESPN.com’s headline section sometime). I’m a Michigan native, and I tend to subscribe immediately to any Detroit or Michigan State-focused sports site that catches my eye. I’ve added well over 50 feeds to the “Detroit” folder over the years, slowly whittling away all of the sites that either suffer from a lack of quality and consistency or feature an overabundance of “sports rage”(i.e. making too big of a deal out of every loss and/or managerial decision and/or bad call from a referee).
The end result is a folder with approximately ten sites that update somewhere between weekly and a dozen times a day and keep me informed to an almost ridiculous degree on game recaps, recruitment news, and ankle sprain updates. Is it all a little over the top? Yes. Do I love it? Oh my God, yes.
I think the attempt to add some degree of curation to your RSS feeds — lots of folders, frequent additions and subtractions — creates a particularly strong connection with those sites, especially the random labors of love like Samara Pearlstein’s funny and offbeat baseball cartoons that continue to be great over a number of years. It’s a way of making a commitment, however light, to stick with them and make sure you don’t miss anything they have to say.
A mix of feeds with steady news (The Atlantic Wire, Daily Intelligencer), interesting links (Kottke.org), and publishing info (Media Decoder) that I can use to discuss/bluff my way through any conversation I might have throughout day. Basically, it’s my way of condensing the news I care about (think The New Yorker on speed) into a paragraph or two look at what’s going on in the world. Basically, I’m looking to reside somewhere between Twitter’s torrential rush of info and the responsibility of having to, y’know, read a full article on the topic.
Over the last few years — particularly via Reeder, an indispensable mobile RSS app — this folder is my way of reading the newspaper in the morning and collect a weekend’s worth of interesting longreads in the process.
If you’re the kind of person who tends to become interested in a topic and jump right into the deep end — as I did with European soccer, circa 2010 — RSS is a great way to transform a burgeoning fandom into full-on obsession. I’ll admit it’s not for everybody, but how else does one keep an eye on sites like this statistically inclined Liverpool fan’s brilliant post-game data visualizations?
Part of the fun of RSS is the way it allows you to collect sites and commentary on a subject in one place as a sort of trial run to see if a particular passion is a good fit. At various times, I’ve had folders for subjects ranging from online poker (I’m still not sure what I find more surprising: the number of 20-year-old college dropouts willing to write 2,000-word posts on a particular hand they played the day before or my own genuine eagerness to read about it) to men’s fashion (which I finally realized was just not a base-level interest of mine after a Put This On discussion regarding which supply chest will best hold your shoe care supplies).
I’m currently on a major “food blog” kick… We’ll see if it lasts.
While I find that my two main hubs of information on the internet, Twitter and RSS, work well in tandem: Twitter is far my preferred destination for laughs and keeping up with my friends, while RSS is my go-to for political links and news. This folder is the place where I try to collect the fair-minded voices I trust on political issues, e.g. Jonathan Bernstein, Chuck Todd, Nate Silver, Tyler Cowan, etc., in the hopes of giving myself the slightest chance of avoiding hive mind opinions (“Edward Snowden is a traitor!” “Wait: he’s a hero!”) and forming my own unique and thought-out opinion on major news.
These last three folders are both the most personal and arguably the most “newsy” of the feeds I subscribe to. They include news and updates in my industry (book publishing sites such as Galley Cat and The Millions), a number of I-can’t-eat-another-crummy-midtown-panini Manhattan food sites (Serious Eats, Midtown Lunch), and blogs geared toward my neighborhood in Brooklyn (I live in Park Slope, pick any one of eight dozen).
These folders provide an ideal mix of local news and interesting ways of living, eating, and finding out more about your city. Does anyone, after all, truly forget their first introduction to lard bread?