Update on my RSS obsession

So, it’s been what? A month Almost two months (I had to look that up), since Google killed Google Reader? And it’s been just over four months (I had to look that up, too) since I wrote my melodramatic “Ode to Google Reader“. I was just checking my feeds on “The Old Reader” and it dawned on me… I don’t really miss Google Reader.

To be fair, this is mostly because my habits have changed. And, to give credit where credit is due, my habits have changed mostly because Google killed Google Reader. I still want to follow blogs I like, but I am no longer obsessing about following everything. I’m still an information junkie, but now I go for days at a time without ever checking in on my feeds.

So what’s changed?

Before Google Reader died on 1 July 2013, I transferred almost all the 20 or so blogs I follow over to The Old Reader. As far as I am aware (and, internet, please do correct me if I’m mistaken…) The Old Reader does not have an Android app. So, now that Google Reader is dead, I am reader-free on my phone.

I briefly considered some of the feed reader options that also had a phone app, or that were primarily phone apps, but I didn’t really like their terms and conditions. So, I have no reader app on my phone. Oddly, I have realized that I’m totally okay with that.

I think it works for me because most of the blogs I follow are friends’ blogs. And most of these have either been completely abandoned (I only subscribe in case someday they change their mind and post something), or they are only occasionally updated (my friends are busy people, most have small children that occupy most of their time, and blogging has become somewhat uncool these days, I think).

There are only a handful of blogs I follow that are actually updated regularly, and I follow most of those people on Twitter, so I usually see when they post things. Unfortunately, when I’m on Twitter I rarely have time to read anything longer than 140 characters (it’s just a quick break to check in on what’s going on in the world). So, I almost never click through to read blog posts. I rely on the fact that those blog posts are waiting for me on my laptop at home.

Yes, that’s right, I only check my RSS reader on my laptop at home. I follow a policy of “not crossing the streams” as my IT folks at work put it. Work stuff on work laptop, home stuff on home laptop. I mean, I’ll book flights for vacation on my work computer, I just won’t access my home email, or RSS reader, or (OMG) Facebook.

(Side note: why in the world I even still ever log into Facebook, or have a Facebook account is beyond me. Actually…. I take that back… Come to think of it, I know exactly why I have a Facebook account and check it a few times a week. It’s because all those friends that stopped blogging only post stuff on Facebook. So, if I want to know what’s going on, I have to log into Facebook. God, I HATE Facebook. Why can’t everyone just get a Twitter account? Just saying… )

Anyway, I went on vacation almost immediately after Google Reader died, and I had limited screen time on that vacation. So, I started reading books like a crazy reader person, and after about a week I think I just sort of forgot about my feeds. Step one in changing a habit: if you can do it for a week, you can likely keep it up indefinitely.

When I returned from vacation, I realized that I couldn’t keep up with my favorite tech blog effectively if I didn’t have a reader app on my phone and wasn’t obsessively checking my feed reader. So, after about a month of trying to absorb a week’s worth of my favorite tech blog’s posts in one day on the weekend, I gave up. I unsubscribed from that feed in The Old Reader. I mean, I follow them on Twitter, and I subscribed to their daily email digest that discusses the major topics / stories of the day and lists them all for easy clicking. I decided that was good enough.

Instead, what really happened was that I just stopped obsessively reading about the tech industry. And that is probably a good thing. Because honestly, it’s a lot easier to read about the tech industry when you are a) not living in San Francisco, and b) not working for a big name tech company. When you’re doing both “a” and “b” you pretty much live and breath tech news. It’s sometimes all people talk about. So, having a break from it is sometimes welcome. Besides, most of these stories are just incendiary garbage meant to generate clicks and satisfy the voyeuristic tendencies of those who are not doing either “a” or “b.”

I began to realize that every story, even well written and insightful ones (and those are few and far between), have a tendency to make me slightly stabby. Either because I HATE the (stereotypical) entitlement culture of the young hipster tech geeks in the Bay Area (and that is almost always the way Bay Area tech people are portrayed in tech blogs — though, I admit, it is a valid portrayal of a not insignificant portion of the people working at these companies), or because it is really difficult for non-tech, non-business people to write a story about a technology company without going for the easy, link-bait, rile-’em-up angle.

In fairness, some people are trying. I think the blogs I choose to follow (mostly PandoDaily, and some individual journalists like Alexis Madrigal from The Atlantic, and, increasingly, the tech writers at the Washington Post) do a pretty good job, usually. When they’re off, they are usually just doing the best they can with the information available to them. But sometimes even the good guys whiff and write some face-palm story that completely misses the point.

As you’ll see when I post this month’s “by the numbers” post, the result of less obsessive RSS feed reading is more time reading ACTUAL BOOKS! And, more time thinking creatively. And, less time freaking out about the apparent deterioration of journalism (due in large part to the deterioration of the attention span and critical thinking skills of most of the population) in the US.

Okay… clearly, I still maintain the potential for working myself up into a fit of “stabby.” I’m going to hit publish now and then close my laptop and go read a book. Or talk to a human. Or something. 🙂