Tuesday, December 21st, 2004
I’ve been gathering feeds in my Bloglines aggregator for some time now, hoarding them like a bower bird in a tinsel shop, weaving them together into one unholy unread mess. A few months ago I had a flurry of half-hearted search activity for the perfect aggregator, and although then I think I concluded that the RSS plug-in for Firefox was nifty and that BlogMatrix Jäger was also worth a look, my nomadic non-laptop owning lifestyle of the time meant that a web-based aggregator was the only serious option, so I stayed with Bloglines.
At the beginning of this week I had 310 feeds showing around 25,000 unread posts. I had toyed with the idea of declaring RSS bankruptcy and just starting again, but I was getting increasingly unhappy with chaotic state of my feeds and deep down I knew that hitting ‘mark all posts read’ would do nothing to solve the problem in the long run.
There were two issues. Firstly, I never had enough time to sit and read all my feeds, or even to work out which ones I could safely mark as read whilst actually leaving them unread. Thus I would pick which feeds to read based on which had the lowest number of unread posts (anything in double figures was likely to get ignored, triple figures ensured I wasn’t gonna touch it for a goodly long time). Secondly, although I had made a stab at categorising them through the use of folders, they really were all over the place and utterly chaotic. This meant that ever time I glanced at Bloglines I was confronted with one fugly mess.
Aggregator crisis point had been reached.
The advantage of hanging out with well informed blog-geek Mac-obsessives is that when I whine about needing a new aggregator, I am given advice and I happily make the assumption that whatever is recommended is going to be good. So over the last couple of days I have migrated my OPML (someone, please sort out some sort of OPML standard so that I can export/import without having to manually to fix crappy, import-snafuing code) from Bloglines to NetNewsWire.
Immediately my unread headlines list diminished to less than 4500, just because NNW only pulls down the latest 30 headlines, instead of the maximum of 200 that Bloglines marks as unread before it stops counting. I managed to quickly delete 25 blogs I knew I didn’t need anymore, and easily sorted the rest into folders. Sitting now on the train back to Dorset, I’ve read through around 500 posts, because NNW caches them locally so I don’t need to be connected in order to read.
At last, I feel like I am in control of my aggregator again. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information that I ought to be absorbing, instead of feeling scared to open my aggregator because the unread posts are gonna overtop any second and flood my poor little brain, I feel like I have a nice, tidy resource that I can dip into any time I want. Of course, much of this is an illusion, facilitated by a folder cunningly called ‘blogs/tech/stuff’ which contains pretty much everything that’s currently uncategorised, but I can cope with that act of wilful self-deception.
All this, the offline reading, the chilling out with my friends’ feeds, the feeling of regained control, has been reinvigorating. There have been blogs of friends that I’ve not read in ages because I felt like I ’should’ be reading blogs related to work, even though frequently those are some of the least interesting blogs to read. No one can begrudge me spending a train journey reading through non-work stuff, not even me and I’m the worst workaholic I know.
Thing is, it’s reading the unrelated stuff, the fun stuff, that is important. It’s through picking up on a random comment by someone else that some how fits in just so with something that someone else said and something that I was thinking that pokes my brain and gives me that a-ha! moment that I constantly seek. It’s through faffing and playing around on the edges of things and allowing my brain to synthesise ideas without the imposition of expectation or structure that I stand the greatest chance of coming to some new understanding. It’s through finding a gem of a post that I regain/retain my love for blogging - and, doing what I do, maintaining a love for blogging is essential.