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I Broke Google Reader: An Adventure in Extreme Reading

As my regular readers know, I am an information junky. I gather info just to collect it and because I’ve learned that the more info I pile up in one place the more I can learn from it.

I probably follow a more diverse and larger selection of RSS feeds than anyone I know, but I still feel it’s not enough. And that is why I recently added 1,300 more RSS feeds to my Google Reader account.

A couple weeks ago I was reading a Canadian blogger and he happened to get on to the topic of RSS feeds. Joe Clark is somewhat like me in that he uses a feed reader to follow quite a few different blogs. He even availed himself of a tool which let him export the list of blogs he followed. He actually follows over 1,400 blogs, but the list he posted only contains just over 1,300 RSS feeds.

I installed them last night, and now I understand why he doesn’t use Google Reader. After adding Joe’s collection of RSS feeds, I was following (at peak) 2,349 blogs, news sources, and search codes. Google Reader was not happy.

I’ve noticed that once I reached some arbitrarily large number of RSS feeds Google Reader tended to randomly:

  • reload the page,
  • forget to show RSS feeds with unread posts,
  • misplace entire folders of RSS feeds.

I think at one point it may have told me there were 5 lights, but I could be wrong.

I’m now down to only following 2,021 RSS feeds, and I will continue to thin the collection as time goes by. I kinda have to. While stress-testing Google Reader was fun, I need it to work reliably.

But I am very glad I added all those feeds. From that huge mass I have found several dozen blogs which I am thrilled to read and occasionally link to. I even added a few new sources to this morning’s links post, and I have even more ready to add to tomorrow’s post.

This, I think, is half of the reason why I have the best link blog in digital publishing (the other half is knowing what to pick). I am always growing my source list – even beyond any reasonable need.

And that, folks, is how I do extreme reading.

P.S. If anyone know of a tool which will better handle 2k RSS feeds, please let me know.

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kitten November 1, 2012 um 10:14 pm

I know it is your job so you can justify reading some of those…maybe even most. My questions are: How do you find time to do anything else? Are you able to retain what you read? Do you have a filing system for things you may want to re-access later? Can you integrate the information?

Nate Hoffelder November 1, 2012 um 10:57 pm

About 97% is dross, and about 1% or so is personal stuff: comics, reviewers, bloggers I like, and other entertaining reading.

I pulled some stats out of gReader to show you where the rest goes. According to gReader, about 60k posts came through the feeds last month. I "read" about 10k, clicked on 413, and starred 53.

The "read" stat isn’t valid; many were posts I opened just to clear a feed. The number of posts which I clicked on to view as a webpage were a better judge of what I read, and shared. And even most of those may not have been read; I only have so much time in the day and I do try to think about what is before me.

I don’t have a filing system, though I do use Instapaper to save links. I also tend to open posts in tabs just to leave them open.

But I wish I did have a filing system; I could probably do a better job connecting seemingly unrelated stories and write better posts if I had one.

digital reader fan November 1, 2012 um 11:34 pm

Man that’s a lot of reading, fascinating. Do you use prescription reading glasses? I finally have some and am hooked. Non distance ones…..focal point it where average computer monitor sits.

digital reader fan November 1, 2012 um 11:35 pm

typo: focal point is where average computer monitor sits

Nate Hoffelder November 1, 2012 um 11:39 pm

Just the glasses which I have worn for the past 15 years. The prescription has shifted only slightly when I got a new set about 6 months ago.

digital reader fan November 1, 2012 um 11:56 pm

Not all can… but If you can afford a second reader pair Heavy computer reader folks have liked them. My eye doc friend explained what the reader pair does to the eye. I put in some 10 plus hour computer monitor days and feel the Diff. I Don’t want to side track your interesting post. You are one serious reader, thus it came to mind.

Nate Hoffelder November 2, 2012 um 12:02 am

I could probably use the glasses. A lot of text is too small for me these days and I’m not even 35 yet.

Tim Gray November 2, 2012 um 3:41 am

Er, people have reading glasses because their optician prescribed them. They’re not a universal off-the-shelf thing. Everyone’s eyes are different and you need what’s best for you.

And Nate, if text is looking small that may be because something like half of websites -make- it too small without considering the needs of users. It’s one of my rants.

Henry Wood November 2, 2012 um 1:38 pm

I’ve been shortsighted all my life and have always worn glasses. A couple of years back my prescription had changed quite a bit asnd I asked the chain opticians who had tested me, and where I bought varifocals and a pair of reading glasses with the usual half lens, how much for a pair of reading glasses with full size lens for using with computer monitor. They quoted some unearthly figure even though I had just spent a fortune with them.

I prowled about online and found a private optician who I explained my needs to. He came back and suggested "computer glasses" rather than full lens reading glasses and which they already advertised on their website but I had not noticed. He explained the focal point is about 20 inches, but wanted me to measure to the centre of the screen from where I normally sat. I did this, emailed him a copy of my prescription and the glasses were delivered to my home about 10 days later and at a quarter of the price the chain opticians wanted. What a difference they have made! Like you I spend maybe 10+ hours a day in front of the monitor and I just leave them beside my monitor when the computer is not in use. For my tablet and mobile phone use, I use either the varifocals or the reading glasses. I will be buying "computer glasses" every time my prescription changes.

Eolake November 2, 2012 um 6:17 am

I think I read quite more than most. But when I got up to a few dozen feeds in Google Reader, I found I never got around to most of them.
Now I use FeedMyInbox to make sure I don’t miss my favorites. And that’s about a dozen I guess.
And I don’t even work as many hours as most. So I can’t really figure how anybody can follow more than a couple dozen feeds, and still have time to work, socialize, and read more important stuff like books.
(I say the last because books are often reflective of the world, trying to expand perspective, while very few blogs are, they are mostly just full of brief news bits of very temporal character.)

Eolake November 2, 2012 um 6:31 am

I agree with Tim. Most sites have always made text too small. As evidenced by the fact that it was only after "Reader" made it to the iOS Safari app that most web sites became readable, not only on the iPhone, but also the iPad.

I’ve always had my default text on my desktop browser set to 18-point, and even then I often use Reader or such.

OK, with glasses I *can read* anything a web site throws at me if I have to, but I may be more aware than most of unnecessary eye strain, and the long term possible cost of that.

Robert Nagle November 2, 2012 um 5:49 pm

Surprising that you haven’t mentioned the obvious question: RSS reading apps for devices!

On ipad, I use Mr. Reader which seems to work the best in Offline mode. I found that most tablet apps require all the feeds to come from Google Reader. Which sucked because I accumulated a lot of feeds on Google Reader which I barely read, but wanted to keep available somewhere. (Let’s see, what was the name of the website with the blue graphics and about life and culture in Japan?…..)

I think I probably had 600 or 700 feeds, but when it became clear that importing your OPML files into your app was becoming more problematic (and painful), I ended up just connecting to Google Reader and pruning about 50% of my feeds (if not more). Personally I find that any more than 200 feeds and you find lots of the sites are repeating the same kinds of links and commentary. Also, when I maxxed out at about 400-500 with my ipad apps, I found that the app frequently choked (especially with feeds like "wood s lot" and other hyper-publishing blogs).

I spend about 90 minutes on the bus, and so the offline mode for reading RSS is a must for me.

Nate Hoffelder November 2, 2012 um 8:55 pm

I follow a dozen or so blogs in languages I cannot read. Unless a feed reader app has an auto-translate feature it’s not much good for me.

That’s why I stick with Google Reader on Android. It doesn’t have a translate option either, but at least with that app I know its shortcomings.

Nate Hoffelder November 3, 2012 um 2:40 pm

" Personally I find that any more than 200 feeds and you find lots of the sites are repeating the same kinds of links and commentary."

The nice thing about Google Reader is that it makes it easy to scan post titles and skip duplicate stories.

Vikarti Anatra November 4, 2012 um 10:44 am

I only have 338 feeds,
and even with that NetNewsWire for Mac (synced with Google Reader) crashes from time to time.

S***: Google Reader to Shut Down on 1 July – Can Someone Recommend a Replacement? | The Digital Reader July 14, 2015 um 9:00 am

[…] am a hard-core user of Google Reader, and I currently follow over 1,900 RSS feeds. While that is a little on the high side, the one time I ran a poll I learned that most gReader […]

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