Be the Master of Your Domain, How to Conquer Your Feed Reader

I’ve heard many of my friends comment that they are overwhelmed by their Google Reader, so much so that not only are they regularly declaring Reader bankruptcy but that they are avoiding it all together.  My information professional friends, Google Reader is a TOOL, do not allow it to inspire fear and loathing, it’s there to meet your needs.  Here are some suggestions for mastering it.

Don’t be afraid to declare bankruptcy

For me this means in the weeks leading up to and during and after conferences I will likely declare bankruptcy once a week. I don’t wait until the end, it’s too overwhelming, I just go in once a week, fully knowing I’m going to mark all as read and do it.

If you’re declaring bankruptcy too often you are subscribed to more than you can keep up with, if that is 20, 200, or 2,000 it doesn’t matter.  You put those feeds in there because you thought they were important. You need to figure out what the most important ones are, so you can keep up with those. It’s ok to let the others go. Better that than feeling bad. You need to figure out what you’re looking for in feeds, what information are you interested in, what are your priorities. The first step is putting them in folders.


Come on! you’re a librarian, we like to assign things to categories. Make folders or tags in your reader. You can call the folders whatever you want but they should indicate your priorities.  If you already have folders take some time to re-evaluate them.

  • Daily – I try to read these every day, they are top priority.
  • Me – my feeds to monitor mentions of me, my blog or links to my blog. If you’re not monitoring yourself you should be.
  • Friends – friends blogs
  • Transliteracy – some feeds I have set up monitoring transliteracy mentions, blogs related to transliteracy and some Google alerts for potential blog posts.
  • Non-lib – blogs I read that are not about or written by librarians
  • Weekly – less important things
  • CVL – feeds to monitor mentions of my library online.



You need to get rid of what you aren’t reading and what aren’t priorities. You could just start from scratch, unsubscribe from everything then add new things as you see fit. Or you could try selective weeding.

Read with awareness. If, as you’re reading, you realize a blog posts too often, doesn’t write in the style you prefer, no longer meet your needs or align with your priorities and goals – unsubscribe, don’t read anything because you feel you “should”

Ask yourself if you are getting the information somewhere else, like Twitter or Facebook. Do you prefer that method? Unsubscribe. Ask if you can get the info somewhere else? Prefer that method? Unsubscribe.

Look at what you are reading. Under “All Stuff” is a “Trends” link


There is a lot of information underneath here.


Take a look at the Subscription Trends first. .

  • First weed anything under Inactive.
  • Then take a look at Frequently Updated. Maybe if it updates too frequently you should consider unsubscribing. I’ve done this with some very popular tech sites. Not that they don’t have great information, but I noticed that I will see anything important they post through Twitter and Facebook.  Since I can not keep up with all of their posts I let the hive mind filter it for me.


Now look at the Reading Trends tabs: Read, Clicked, Starred, Shared, Emailed and mobile.  This tells you want you are actually reading.  This is important. Are you reading what you put in your Daily folder? If not why not?


Repeat as necessary.

What tips or suggestions do you have for organizing and conquering RSS feeds?

More tips:

21 thoughts on “Be the Master of Your Domain, How to Conquer Your Feed Reader

  1. Great article. I really need to organize my feed better, I have everything in one folder. Also, I learned some analytical tools I can use to make trimming blogs easier. Thanks!


  2. Great post! I really need to do better with my reader, I’ve divided things into folders (organization rules) but have a hard time unsubscribing (especially from people who are subscribed to my blog).


  3. Another great post, thanks! My minor problem with Reader is that they seem to have stopped showing you which threads you read least though, which is what I really need given the number of feeds I’m subscribed to. Maybe I’m just missing it? I know they used to have that option.


  4. wonderful post! I was just about ready to ditch all of my feeds and start over entirely from scratch so this gentle nudge of valuable wisdom and advice came just in the nick of time for me.


  5. I know there are different approaches, so I’m wondering if you would share *how* you monitor mentions of you, your blog or links to your blog? Do you build one custom feed or use several different tools?


  6. This is a very helpful post. I’m new to Google Reader (over from Bloglines) and didn’t know some of the points that you noted. Question though, how do you monitor yourself via RSS feeds (blog / link / twitter mentions)? I’d be interested in setting that up since I just started my own blog recently. Thanks!


  7. Why weed inactive feeds? Librarians weed inactive books more from the limitations of shelf space than anything. A feed reader has unlimited space, so weeding out inactive feeds just means you won’t see possibly-valuable posts from infrequent bloggers. These aren’t the feeds that cause daunting unread counts in the first place.

    Mileage varies in Google Reader. For instance, I get through 22,000 items from 1,000+ feeds each month, rarely weeded, and most feeds are uncategorized.

    My strategy is divide & conquer. I put Reader in list view and then space bar through the posts very rapidly, hitting ‘s’ when something looks interesting. This lets me skim through tons of posts without stopping.

    Once I’ve starred all the best stuff, once a day I’ll go into my starred items and do a more thorough browse, possibly opening posts in other tabs.

    I only weed feeds when they post a large volume and their signal/noise ratio is out-of-whack.

    Thought this strategy might be useful to others. Thanks for posting about Reader! So many people seem to avoid it for some reason.


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