The Boy Who Cried RSS

Take a quick glance at this snapshot of my Google Reader feed list. It’s my “Shopping Deals” folder. If you look closely you’ll notice I’ve all but abandoned reading all the other sites except one: Slickdeals. All the other shopping sites have over 100+ unread entries (Lord knows what the number really is). I’m really tempted to just unsubscribe from them altogether.
I’m gonna take a stab at an unwritten rule for RSS and information syndication:

The perceived importance and value of entries to readers is inversely proportional to the frequency of entries on any given day.

In other words, the more you post, the less I’m gonna care about any given post. I’ve only got a small, finite amount of “attention capital” to spend. I’d rather see bigger, more valuable posts than “penny posts.”
Slickdeals still matters to me because implicit in the spareness of their postings (it’s about 2-3 per day) is a care and selectiveness in deciding if something should go up at all. The other shopping sites spit out 30-40 entries a day. I tried keeping up but eventually gave up. Truth is, their posts were just one big blur. I’m sure there were some gems in there, but how am I supposed to know that? They’ve left the task of valuing their information to me, the reader. Big mistake.
Traditional blogs are really no different. I find myself valuing a blog far more if the author is careful about his or her topics and puts some real thought into them before posting. Contrast that with the mega-blogs Gizmodo and Engadget. They average about 50-80 posts per day. The result? Nothing is important. That’s not a blog. That’s a news wire service. The editorial duties have been left up to me.
Information is literally gushing out these days. We swim and paddle through it and are constantly searching for something worthwhile. What I appreciate about Slickdeals and sites like is that they still understand that their value lies not just the content of what they deliver but also the discretion they exercise in deciding what to publish at all.

10 Comments The Boy Who Cried RSS

  1. DannyT

    Haha, I just used your rule looking at my google reader. Out of the blogs i read every day, only one isn’t all read jd ;)
    (no offence intended, i actually enjoy reading JD’s thoughts, just there are a lot of them so they don’t get read as frequently).

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  2. Aran

    You are absolutely correct about this. The blogs I read most in my reader are the ones that average 2-3 posts a WEEK. Whenever I feel like I have falled behind in reading a blog, I usually end up unsubscribing.

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  3. Richard Ziade

    Secretly, I hope there’s a backlash in regards to blogs. This whole Twitter-ification makes me ill. It’s the complete antithesis of the rule stated above. Tons of noise. None of it matters.

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  4. Jeff

    I seem to live by your rule even without realizing it. When I can keep up, I read everything that comes through my RSS reader but when I’ve been away for a day, there are hundreds of feeds and I rarely read any of them. I find myself clearing them out because I just don’t have the patience to look through them.

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  5. Chris

    I have the same tendencies as Jeff – during the normal day, I can keep tabs on my reader pretty frequently, and managing the flow of posts is easy. But when Sunday night or Monday morning rolls around, I’m usually clicking the “Read All” button quite a bit.
    This principle makes sense in general, I think. Rarity increases perceived value in many (all?) categories of things.

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  6. kim

    What you are all describing is why I haven’t jumped on the RSS bandwagon. While I’d love to use the reader as a way to be a repository of specific info to search later when I’m doing some research on a specific topic, I don’t like seeing that I have 1000+ unread items if I don’t have time to do my reading. There isn’t an easy way to archive the unread items for later (or is there? and which reader does this?)

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  7. Richard Ziade

    Kim, there are ways…FeedDemon sort of does (sort of) but it’s not exactly part of the whole RSS experience.
    Dave Winer said it best a couple of months ago. Imagine picking up a newspaper and at the very top it constantly reminds you of all the stories you haven’t read. Not a good feeling.

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  8. Russell

    This article is a real eye-opener and makes me wonder whether there will soon be a push for “smarter information” and not simply the information free-for-all that we seem to have today.
    We live in the “Age of Information” but that doesn’t mean we need to be flooded with it. It is time for a “Information Revolution”.

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