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How to be an Authority Maven: 21 Tips for Keeping Up to Date in Your Niche

Google Reader and How to read hundreds of RSS feedsKeeping abreast of news in your niche can be tough. I know the feeling of being left behind, when you think you need to be checking thousands of feeds 24 hours a day.

Fact is you do not need to have such a punishing regime.

I have been known to follow stupidly excessive amounts of RSS feeds, plus my Twitter following got well out of hand.

My feeds are now down to 300 and I am slowly trimming who I follow on Twitter. I’m down from 900 and some to hopefully approaching a manageable number below 700.

This might still seem like a lot to you, how do I manage to follow so many feeds?

Here are 21 tips for a more productive approach to keeping up with all the crucial developments in your niche. They will work for feeds or Twitter in most cases but I have aimed mainly at RSS:

21 Niche News and Feed Reading Productivity Tips

  1. Split your readers – Use an online reader for the important and immediate stuff and read less pressing material offline in downtime like commute, air and rail travel
  2. Let stuff slip – Know that you don’t need to catch everything. We can’t hope to know everything about everything, don’t knock yourself out trying.
  3. Have multiple sources of news – If you stick to the point in number 2 you will miss stuff first time round but if you have multiple sources you will catch it on the echoes. Important stuff makes ripples, if it matters it will be repeated, probably a number of times.
  4. Is it a fad? – What you don’t follow is as important as what you do. I have completely stopped reading anything about programming, I now hire programmers. Same with design. You don’t always have to be on bleeding edge, let others make early mistakes. Aren’t you glad you didn’t research everything about HD DVD now that BlueRay won?
  5. Find the filters – Each niche will have a human filter. People like Scoble, Duncan Riley, and co are on the ball and can tell you what is important so you don’t have to read everything. Either follow their feed or follow on Twitter. It’s a good tip for wannabe Authorities – You can be an authority by filtering, explaining and simplifying. An Editor, DJ, Director can be as important as a creator.
  6. Use topical folders – I only check my photography news once a week, tech news a couple of times a week, productivity every few weeks.
  7. Use stars and flags – Most readers will provide you with a tool to pin a post to be read later. Find the good stuff but don’t read it right away. Mark to read later then read at your leisure.
  8. Nuke it – Use mark all as read rather than leave unread items “just in case”.
  9. Prioritize – Organize your feeds into priority: 1 = Crucial, 2 = Valuable, 3 = Non Essential … 4 = Just for Fun – Most days you might only manage to read (1), on slow days you can get to (3). You might read (4) on breaks.
  10. Use google alerts
  11. Audition Feeds – When you discover a new feed put it on probation. After a test period you can decide to keep or drop, don’t put it into proper rotation right away.
  12. Routinely trim – Be brutal. Don’t feel guilty. Your time is too precious.
  13. Use aggregation – Social voting, meme trackers and breaking news sites give you an at a glance update without wading through feeds. Think techcrunch, techmeme, gizmodo
  14. Batch-read – It’s not effective to read stuff that will not have a massive impact every day. I can go weeks without reading Seth/Gapingvoid even though they are excellent. Thought-leaders are often not that essential, as compared to knowing the big news.
  15. Skim – Headlines, subheads, bullets, quotes and graphics. Get an impression of if this article is worthwhile … hints for writers as well as readers here
  16. Use “river of news” – You do not have to read feed by feed, switch to river of news/ all-items view to get an impression of a topic
  17. Set aside a fixed amount of time – Give yourself 30 minutes and no more. Stick to the time limit and you will find you are more aggressive about not wasting it.
  18. Set your criteria? News, important relationships/people, industry keywords … Not everything is niche-changing, ask yourself “do I need to read this NOW?”
  19. Use software filters – Create a merged feed of just the important stuff using AideRSS
  20. Use Twitter – Replace feeds with following people on Twitter. Lots of people post links to their Twitter feed. If they think it is important enough to Tweet then it is probably important enough to consider reading, but not always.
  21. Only subscribe to full feeds – Controversial possibly but there are only a few partial feeds left in my reader. Partial feeds force you to click to see if the article is worthwhile, which could turn out to be a waste of precious time. Don’t bother.

Those are my tips. Please share yours! πŸ™‚

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Comments

  1. Excellent list. Although I do not have any way near as many things to follow as you, I will be implementing several of these suggestions.

    Cheers

  2. Excellent list. Although I do not have any way near as many things to follow as you, I will be implementing several of these suggestions.

    Cheers

  3. I also found out the hard way – now I have feeds that I’ll read every fortnight and ones I’ll stay bang up-to-date with.

    It’s just too easy to overload yourself and then, in the end, turn yourself off from what you were initially enthusiastic about.

  4. I also found out the hard way – now I have feeds that I’ll read every fortnight and ones I’ll stay bang up-to-date with.

    It’s just too easy to overload yourself and then, in the end, turn yourself off from what you were initially enthusiastic about.

  5. Excellent tips Chris! I used to lose a lot of time reading feeds and tweets, that were, frankly, useless. I soon organized my feeds in folders, by: daily, weekly and monthly. Feeds that filled me in with breaking and important industry news were classed as daily, those that posted articles that didn’t had an imediate impact were classed as weekly and those that published posts that are relevant and valuable even after months (Seth, Skellie etc) were classed as monthly. Saved me a heck load of time.

  6. Excellent tips Chris! I used to lose a lot of time reading feeds and tweets, that were, frankly, useless. I soon organized my feeds in folders, by: daily, weekly and monthly. Feeds that filled me in with breaking and important industry news were classed as daily, those that posted articles that didn’t had an imediate impact were classed as weekly and those that published posts that are relevant and valuable even after months (Seth, Skellie etc) were classed as monthly. Saved me a heck load of time.

  7. Nice list!
    I filter out daily delicious links to blogs, as I use google reader “next” function. And I really don’t want a lot of links. I like to get the links with some content. I use several computers, but all have windows live messenger. So I created a windows alert for my twitter feed. So now I get the twits where I am online.

  8. Nice list!
    I filter out daily delicious links to blogs, as I use google reader “next” function. And I really don’t want a lot of links. I like to get the links with some content. I use several computers, but all have windows live messenger. So I created a windows alert for my twitter feed. So now I get the twits where I am online.

  9. Good advice as always, Chris πŸ™‚

    My feeds in Google Reader are getting out of control again. I need to take more advantage of Shared Items lists. I already subscribe to 2 (Scoble and Steve Rubel’s ‘thinkers’ list). Does anyone have any suggestions for other good filters to subscribe to?

    I have my own ‘Shared Items’ link blog for techwhimsy.com, but I definitely don’t presume it is of any interest to anyone but myself (it’s my ‘re-read this later’ pile more than anything else).

    Shane

  10. Good advice as always, Chris πŸ™‚

    My feeds in Google Reader are getting out of control again. I need to take more advantage of Shared Items lists. I already subscribe to 2 (Scoble and Steve Rubel’s ‘thinkers’ list). Does anyone have any suggestions for other good filters to subscribe to?

    I have my own ‘Shared Items’ link blog for techwhimsy.com, but I definitely don’t presume it is of any interest to anyone but myself (it’s my ‘re-read this later’ pile more than anything else).

    Shane

  11. Chris Prakoso says:

    Thanks for the tips. I really do need to spare some times to ‘prune’ my goog reader

  12. Chris Prakoso says:

    Thanks for the tips. I really do need to spare some times to ‘prune’ my goog reader

  13. I am all over this post. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the push to finally clean up my feeds. I’ll move the weekly ones off to google reader (which I’m not fond of but makes a nice backup) and leave the important stuff where I habitualy click. πŸ˜‰

  14. I am all over this post. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the push to finally clean up my feeds. I’ll move the weekly ones off to google reader (which I’m not fond of but makes a nice backup) and leave the important stuff where I habitualy click. πŸ˜‰

  15. Nice ideas. My strategy is just to have less feeds overall. Instead of trying to keep up with every little thing, seek out information as you need it.

  16. Nice ideas. My strategy is just to have less feeds overall. Instead of trying to keep up with every little thing, seek out information as you need it.

  17. Thanks for posting this! Tibi, I like your way of organizing–by importance, relevance and timeliness.

    One of the things that’s insightful about this post, Chris, is it actually teaches a person how to be a better blogger/twitterer/etc… how to cut through the noise and get your stuff and news read. When I relaunch my blog, I’ll be using this insights and your others to help me be a better blogger and network user.

  18. Thanks for posting this! Tibi, I like your way of organizing–by importance, relevance and timeliness.

    One of the things that’s insightful about this post, Chris, is it actually teaches a person how to be a better blogger/twitterer/etc… how to cut through the noise and get your stuff and news read. When I relaunch my blog, I’ll be using this insights and your others to help me be a better blogger and network user.

  19. Thanks Chris

    I’m guessing you’re keeping up with a lot more than me but even so it can be hard at times, and easy to keep distracted.

    I try and read / follow things with a sense of purpose – which is partly to fit within my main focus (writing confidence) but also a broader purpose in blogging – to make human connections, to learn, to meet interesting people. Otherwise I’d cut out some of the fun, human stuff which makes the whole escapade worthwhile.

    Joanna

    PS I’m with you on partial feeds

  20. Thanks Chris

    I’m guessing you’re keeping up with a lot more than me but even so it can be hard at times, and easy to keep distracted.

    I try and read / follow things with a sense of purpose – which is partly to fit within my main focus (writing confidence) but also a broader purpose in blogging – to make human connections, to learn, to meet interesting people. Otherwise I’d cut out some of the fun, human stuff which makes the whole escapade worthwhile.

    Joanna

    PS I’m with you on partial feeds

  21. Funny you should mention Twitter, I found this post through Darren’s twitter feed.
    As for your list, I’m glad to see that I was already following a lot of the tips you listed. Being a neat freak, I guess I could’ve expected that. Still, nice list.

  22. Funny you should mention Twitter, I found this post through Darren’s twitter feed.
    As for your list, I’m glad to see that I was already following a lot of the tips you listed. Being a neat freak, I guess I could’ve expected that. Still, nice list.

  23. Excellent post, information overload can be the death of productivity.

    I just tried out AideRSS this morning, and while it looks cool, the filters don’t match my preferences very well. I usually only read about 20% of the items that come in on my feeds (based on the headline) then mark the rest as read, like you recommend.

    Unfortunately, AideRSS picks the most popular items, not the most useful to me. I know it can be tweaked with filters, but is it worth the time? I’d love to hear from an experienced user.

  24. Excellent post, information overload can be the death of productivity.

    I just tried out AideRSS this morning, and while it looks cool, the filters don’t match my preferences very well. I usually only read about 20% of the items that come in on my feeds (based on the headline) then mark the rest as read, like you recommend.

    Unfortunately, AideRSS picks the most popular items, not the most useful to me. I know it can be tweaked with filters, but is it worth the time? I’d love to hear from an experienced user.

  25. Great article overall, but I’d have to disagree with you on the point about Twitter. Twitter is a mess of people saying just about anything. Many people will send multiple tweets if they can’t fit everything in one shot, completely bypassing the whole point. The worst offenders are the biggest bloggers. You can’t use Twitter to keep on top of the “important” stuff.

  26. Great article overall, but I’d have to disagree with you on the point about Twitter. Twitter is a mess of people saying just about anything. Many people will send multiple tweets if they can’t fit everything in one shot, completely bypassing the whole point. The worst offenders are the biggest bloggers. You can’t use Twitter to keep on top of the “important” stuff.

  27. Do you not worry about using Google Feedreader, in that the borg know what you are looking at.

  28. Do you not worry about using Google Feedreader, in that the borg know what you are looking at.

  29. I only follow about 20 feeds. But every week I seem to add a few more. So what I do is every Sunday go through them and if I really can’t justify keeping a feed I go ahead and delete it.

    If a feed is good and or important it will come around again. But if you get too many of them you probably don’t end up reading them anyway.

    The Masked Millionaire

  30. I only follow about 20 feeds. But every week I seem to add a few more. So what I do is every Sunday go through them and if I really can’t justify keeping a feed I go ahead and delete it.

    If a feed is good and or important it will come around again. But if you get too many of them you probably don’t end up reading them anyway.

    The Masked Millionaire

  31. Great article. I have been using prioritized folders inside NetNewsWire for about a month. Between that and twitter I have been checking a lot of RSS feeds less.

  32. Great article. I have been using prioritized folders inside NetNewsWire for about a month. Between that and twitter I have been checking a lot of RSS feeds less.

  33. My favourite tip on your list is to ‘audition’ a new feed before putting it into regular rotation. I’ll be going back through my many subscriptions this evening to move ‘maybe’ items into a folder of the same name.

    Another thing I find helpful is to set up 3 different ‘tabs’ (one for each of 3 topics) on a Google personalized home page, each showing only the feeds from my hand-picked top-priority blogs – a quick glance at each tab first thing in the morning gives me that ‘river of news’ overview, so I can get on with the work day without a nagging feeling that I might be missing something vital.

  34. My favourite tip on your list is to ‘audition’ a new feed before putting it into regular rotation. I’ll be going back through my many subscriptions this evening to move ‘maybe’ items into a folder of the same name.

    Another thing I find helpful is to set up 3 different ‘tabs’ (one for each of 3 topics) on a Google personalized home page, each showing only the feeds from my hand-picked top-priority blogs – a quick glance at each tab first thing in the morning gives me that ‘river of news’ overview, so I can get on with the work day without a nagging feeling that I might be missing something vital.

  35. @BW – Best to get into good habits before you have a huge list πŸ™‚

    @Jay – Yes, overload is as bad as not enough info

    @Tibi – When the pressure is off you can enjoy keeping up to date

    @Nicolai – yeah context is important with links, one of the annoyances of twitter in fact

    @Shane – Shared items are great, it is just finding the right people to hook up with that is the challenge

    @Chris – Prune away, you will thank yourself πŸ™‚

    @Andrea_R – It’s funny how I still have feeds that I never really react to thinking “maybe one day”. Seems there are a lot of blogs that do one or two killer posts then go off the boil.

    @Jason – I follow far fewer niches than I used to, that helped me a lot

    @Reese – Indeed, we are our own best teachers when it comes to surfing behavior πŸ™‚

    @Joanna – I hate to be so blunt about partial feeds but when every second counts …

    @Henning – Twitter is fast becoming a great addition to our arsenal

    @andy – It is good as an addition rather than a main tool. I prefer popurls clones and river of news, but in niches where I only have to keep one eye open for the big stories (like gadgets) it is very useful

    @Ed – All depends on who you follow and how much you get sucked in really. There have been news stories I saw way earlier than I would otherwise due to Twitter. Takes a lot of tuning though to get that good signal/noise ratio, PLUS I see it primarily as “coffee break” mode rather than “research” mode

    @ukgimp – Worried? I’m *counting* on it! πŸ˜€

    @The Masked – A good % of mine are churning but I need to trim further. Funny how few you miss.

    @Chris – Twitter has been a boon to me but also can be a time drain πŸ™‚

    @Jen – Good tip about Google personal homepage, will have to play with that πŸ™‚

  36. @BW – Best to get into good habits before you have a huge list πŸ™‚

    @Jay – Yes, overload is as bad as not enough info

    @Tibi – When the pressure is off you can enjoy keeping up to date

    @Nicolai – yeah context is important with links, one of the annoyances of twitter in fact

    @Shane – Shared items are great, it is just finding the right people to hook up with that is the challenge

    @Chris – Prune away, you will thank yourself πŸ™‚

    @Andrea_R – It’s funny how I still have feeds that I never really react to thinking “maybe one day”. Seems there are a lot of blogs that do one or two killer posts then go off the boil.

    @Jason – I follow far fewer niches than I used to, that helped me a lot

    @Reese – Indeed, we are our own best teachers when it comes to surfing behavior πŸ™‚

    @Joanna – I hate to be so blunt about partial feeds but when every second counts …

    @Henning – Twitter is fast becoming a great addition to our arsenal

    @andy – It is good as an addition rather than a main tool. I prefer popurls clones and river of news, but in niches where I only have to keep one eye open for the big stories (like gadgets) it is very useful

    @Ed – All depends on who you follow and how much you get sucked in really. There have been news stories I saw way earlier than I would otherwise due to Twitter. Takes a lot of tuning though to get that good signal/noise ratio, PLUS I see it primarily as “coffee break” mode rather than “research” mode

    @ukgimp – Worried? I’m *counting* on it! πŸ˜€

    @The Masked – A good % of mine are churning but I need to trim further. Funny how few you miss.

    @Chris – Twitter has been a boon to me but also can be a time drain πŸ™‚

    @Jen – Good tip about Google personal homepage, will have to play with that πŸ™‚

  37. Rather than doing # 21, Dosh Dosh wrote a post in which he recommended a Greasemonkey script, (called GPE perhaps? Google Preview something …) that will load the full page in your Google Reader window. So, if a post is truncated, you can just click the post title and read the whole thing right there, even comment.

    Doesn’t work for New York Times articles, though. They’ll just pop right out and load in your open window.

  38. Rather than doing # 21, Dosh Dosh wrote a post in which he recommended a Greasemonkey script, (called GPE perhaps? Google Preview something …) that will load the full page in your Google Reader window. So, if a post is truncated, you can just click the post title and read the whole thing right there, even comment.

    Doesn’t work for New York Times articles, though. They’ll just pop right out and load in your open window.

  39. That’s fine for GReader but half the time I am reading offline, plus Greasemonkey has never worked reliably for me (especially those that deal with flickr for some reason)

  40. That’s fine for GReader but half the time I am reading offline, plus Greasemonkey has never worked reliably for me (especially those that deal with flickr for some reason)

  41. Thank you for the tips, Chris! πŸ™‚

    Very useful post.

  42. Thank you for the tips, Chris! πŸ™‚

    Very useful post.

  43. Great tips Chris. I’ve setup a Google Page to get some general feeds setup. I’m kind of anal when it comes to feeds sometimes (just trying to find what I’m looking for regarding anything good ecommerce-related is like trying to find a needle in the vast reaches of the universe). But the more and more I realize after 21 years of existence, that time is indeed precious. There’s no need to wade through tons of crap just to cram as much info into my head as possible.

  44. Great tips Chris. I’ve setup a Google Page to get some general feeds setup. I’m kind of anal when it comes to feeds sometimes (just trying to find what I’m looking for regarding anything good ecommerce-related is like trying to find a needle in the vast reaches of the universe). But the more and more I realize after 21 years of existence, that time is indeed precious. There’s no need to wade through tons of crap just to cram as much info into my head as possible.

  45. Hey Chris,

    Thanks for the great list! I’m definitely going to implement number 11 immediately and have an “audition feeds” folder. After the trial period, I can move them either into the appropriate category, or into the trash. Simple, but great idea that I hadn’t thought of!

    Thanks again,
    Jay

  46. Hey Chris,

    Thanks for the great list! I’m definitely going to implement number 11 immediately and have an “audition feeds” folder. After the trial period, I can move them either into the appropriate category, or into the trash. Simple, but great idea that I hadn’t thought of!

    Thanks again,
    Jay