Time and Mind Savers: RSS Feeds
I began writing this post just to remind readers this blog does have a number of RSS feeds—but then I thought … well, I probably need to explain why that piece of information is important.
The amount of writing, video, and audio being thrown at the average person today is astounding—so much so that, according to a lot of research, most people in the digital world have resorted to relying on social media as their primary source of news. Why do most people get their news from social media? I’m pretty convinced this is largely a matter of “it saves time.” The resulting feed might not be “perfect,” but it’s “close enough,” and no-one wants to spend time seeking out a wide variety of news sources so they will be better informed.
The problem, in this case, is that “close enough” is really a bad idea. We all tend to live in information bubbles of one form or another (although I’m fully convinced it’s much easier to live in a liberal/progressive bubble, being completely insulated from any news that doesn’t support your worldview, than it is to live in a conservative/traditional one). If you think about the role of social media and the news feed on social media services, this makes some kind of sense. The social media service tries to guess at what will keep you interested (engaged, and therefore coming back to the service), but at the same time each social media service also has a worldview they want to promote. The service largely attempts to both cater to what keeps you there and to pull you towards what the service, itself, believes.
The solution is stop getting your news from social media. period, full stop, end of sentence (although I’ve seen a recent paper indicating people find periods and other punctuation marks offensive in some way—when you find a period offensive, maybe it’s time to grow a little thicker skin).
So how should you get information instead? There are a lot of ways, from email based newsletters to watching television (please don’t, television turns everything into entertainment, including things that are not meant to entertain). My suggestion is, however, is through RSS feeds. Grab an account on Feedly or some other service, find the RSS feeds for the sites you find informative, and subscribe to their feeds. Some services have a learning mechanism that tries to accomplish the same thing as social media feeds—building intelligent filters to emphasize things you find important. I don’t tend to use these things; I have learned to just glance at the headline and first paragraph and make a quick decision about whether I think the post is worth reading.
Following RSS feeds can help you stop binging, jumping from place to place on a single site—essentially wasting time. It works against the mechanisms designers use to “increase engagement,” which often just means to consume more of your attention and time than you intended to give away. Following RSS feeds can also help you gain a broader view of the world if you intentionally subscribe to feeds from sites and people you don’t always agree with. It’s healthy to regularly read “the other side.” Following strong, well-written arguments from “the other side” will do much more for your mind than seeing just the facile, emotionally charged, straw-man arguments often presented (and allowed through the filters) on social media.
Further, services like feedly also allow you to follow lots of other things, including twitter accounts, youtube channels, and podcasts. I follow almost all podcasts through feedly, downloading the individual episodes I want to listen to, storing them in a cloud directory, and then deleting the files when I’m done. This gives me one list of things to listen to, rather than a huge playlist full of seemingly never-ending content.
All this said, this blog has a lot of different RSS feeds available. I don’t have a complete list, but these are a good place to start—
- The main feed (every post other than worth reading): https://rule11.tech/feed/
- Longer written pieces (no podcast, worth reading, posts on other sites, weekend reads, etc.): https://rule11.tech/category/content-type/written/feed/
- The Hedge: https://rule11.tech/category/hedge/feed/
- The History of Networking: https://rule11.tech/category/hon/feed/
I keep these very same links on a page of RSS feeds you can find under the about menu. If you’re interested in the RSS feeds I follow, please reach out to me directly, as feedly no longer has any way to share your feeds other than pushing an OPML file (at least not that I can find).
I agree completely with what you say about social media – there is so much disinformation and toxicity there that I have removed myself from large parts of it. Sadly, even LinkedIn these days seems to be infiltrated more and more with what one would normally associate with Facebook, Twitter and the like.
Yes, for me as well, RSS is by far the most efficient way to curate and consume information. I’ve been using it daily for around 15 years now, since the early days of Google Reader, and switched over to Feedly since the former’s demise in 2013.
I also use RSS to subscribe to YouTube channels as it allows me to organise my subscriptions by topic (something that’s harder to to via YouTube’s own subscriptions). I haven’t tried RSS with Twitter, but I might try that going forward for accounts where the tweets are not time-critical.