The Opportunity in RSS Overload

Dare Obasanjo has an interesting post, with a good comments thread, on overflowing feed readers. He’s quoting from a post by Farhad Manjoo on Slate:

You know that sinking feeling you get when you open your e-mail and discover hundreds of messages you need to respond to…

Well, actually Dare’s post is from two weeks ago. The reason I got to read it only now is exactly that…

Yes, I know I don’t really need to ‘respond’ to subscriptions, and the answer should be – unsubscribe, or go on a feeds (or ‘follow’ edges) social diet. But these binary decisions are not always optimal, as I have plenty of feeds I subscribed to after hitting one or two posts I really liked, but that were not on that author’s main subject (if such exists at all). Thus I have to skim through many un-interesting (for me!) posts, many of them somehow always end up discussing twitter. In fact, that’s how most of my feeds look like (including the twitter part).

We need shades of grey between subscribed and unsubscribed. It would be great to have a feed reader that learns from how you use it. It should be quite clear which posts interest me – ones I took time to read, scroll through, press a link etc. – and which did not. Now train a classifier on that data, preferably per-feed (in addition to a general one), and get some sense of what I’m really looking for.
Mark All As Read Day - flickr/sidereal

Now, I don’t need this smart reader to delete the uninteresting ones, let’s not assume too much on its classification accuracy. Just find the right UI to mark the predicted-to-be-interesting items (or even assign them into a special virtual folder). Then I can read these first, and only if/when have time – read the rest.

I assign this to be my pet project in case I win the lottery next week and go into early retirement. Alternatively, if someone saw this implemented anywhere – let me know!

Update: a related follow-up post on a new filtering product I started using.

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8 responses to “The Opportunity in RSS Overload

  1. I’ve wanted a feature like this for quite some time now. So tired of the daily “task” of skimming through my Google Reader.

    Perhaps it’s time to get an iPhone.

  2. How does an iPhone help there? is there such an app, or did you just mean this way you’ll have a reader with you at all times, so you can spend even more time reading feeds…

  3. The latter – if I skim through my reader on idle moments during the days, this leaves less “work” to clean it up for more productive moments.

  4. my6sense claim to do what you are asking…

    • Thanks, looks interesting. If I were them I’d start with a desktop plugin solution first (like Xobni), to make development faster and catch more users early on. Having to import all feeds there is a pain.
      Still, I gave it a try, but unfortunately I had to give up on m6s after three failed attempts just to register, probably still too early for a working solution… 😦

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