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11/01/2005

Feed Overload Syndrome: 5 Reccomended Ways To Cure It

Looks like there has been a major outbreak of RSS inspired "Feed Overload Syndrome" and it's spreading faster than the Avian flu.  First Fred Wilson admitted that he was fully infected and then both Jeff Nolan and Om Malik confessed to similar symptoms.  At this rate Feed Overload Syndrome may soon become an Internet-wide pandemic.  Perhaps the government will divert some of that $7.1BN to establish the CFC or the Centers for Feed Control.

Some may recall that in the past I have posted about the dangers of Feed Overload Syndrome and I admit to having one of the first confirmed cases (at least confirmed by me).  While I am still dealing with Feed Overload Syndrome (you can never cure it, just control it), I have made some progress fighting it and with that in mind I would like to offer my Top 5 Ways To Combat Feed Overload Syndrome:

  1. Direct Multiple Feeds to the Same Folder.
    Many RSS readers or plug-ins allow you to create user specified folders.  While the default option is usually one feed per folder, in most instances you can direct multiple feeds to the same folder.  By consolidating multiple feeds into a single folder you can dramatically cut down on the overall clutter of your feed list.  For example, I subscribe to about 6 poker related feeds.  All these feeds post to one folder called, creatively enough, "poker'. I have done the same thing for a number of other subjects as well.  You don't have to do this for all your feeds, but it is especially good for feeds that you read infrequently and/or that post infrequently.
  2. Subscribe to meta-feeds.
    Metafeeds are RSS feeds that are composed of posts from a number of individual RSS feeds.  For example, I like the business intelligence feed provided by Technology Updates.  This feed contains articles about business intelligence from a wide variety of other feeds.  I also subscribe to keyword based meta-feeds from sites such as Pubsub and Technorati.  Meta feeds are rapidly increasing in popularity and can now found in places such as Yahoo! where you can, for example, subscribe to all the news on a particular stock or all of the articles on your favorite football team.   Once you subscribe to meta-feeds make sure to eliminate any old feeds that are now covered by the meta-feed.
  3. Increase your publisher to distributor ratio.
    A very coarse way to segregate feeds is as publishers or distributors.  Publishers tend to publish relatively few posts that are longer than average and filled with original content.  Distributors (also called linkers) tend to generate many posts a day and typically republish short excepts of other people's post with a short commentary of their own.  Each has their place on the web, but you will find over time that as you feed list grows, the distributors will provide less value to you because you will already be directly subscribing to many of the same feeds that they tend to republish.  Selectively eliminating just a few distributors/linkers can dramatically lower the number of posts you have to read each day.   
  4. Regularly purge and organize your feed list.
    You should review you feed list once a month with an eye towards removing old feeds you no longer want to read, consolidating existing feeds into shared folders and substituting meta-feeds for primary feeds that you read infrequently or selectively.
  5. Support efforts to create true metafeed services.
    As I have written about before, RSS is in danger of becoming its own worst enemy thanks in large part to the fundamental factors driving Feed Overload Syndrome.  The best hope for controlling this affliction is to support the growth of both metafeed and metatagging services.  I personally do not believe that unstructured "democratic" tagging methodologies stand much of a chance as tags without a standardized and consistent taxonomy are not much better than simple keyword based meta-feeds.  Creating metatags and metafeeds that are logically consistent and easily integrated into a well formed taxonomy will only be accomplished once the necessary intellectual horsepower and financial resources are focused on it.  Interestingly enough, Google long ago hired many of best minds in this area and has more than enough money, so they probably have the best shot of anyone of curing or at least controlling Feed Overload Syndrome.

Following these 5 steps is not guaranteed to cure Feed Overload Syndrome, but I guarantee it will start to control it.

November 1, 2005 in Blogs, RSS | Permalink

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The thoughts and opinions on this blog are mine and mine alone and not affiliated in any way with Inductive Capital LP, San Andreas Capital LLC, or any other company I am involved with. Nothing written in this blog should be considered investment, tax, legal,financial or any other kind of advice. These writings, misinformed as they may be, are just my personal opinions.