Monday, March 3, 2008

Using FeedJournal #1: Choosing Feeds to Import

This is the first in a series of posts describing how you can make FeedJournal into the newspaper you always wanted. Future planned posts in the series are "Filtering Active Feeds", "Sending Any Web Page to Your Next Issue" and "Getting Full Articles from Summary Feeds".

My RSS subscription list weighs in at 105 feeds today, which I believe is a normal number. How do I figure out which feeds will benefit from being moved to FeedJournal Reader?

To get to the answer, I ask myself 4 questions to see if a feed belongs in my regular RSS reader or in FeedJournal Reader:

  1. How likely am I to be interested in reading a random article in this feed?
    I subscribe to this feed for a reason. If I am not interested to read all stuff in the feed, it typically means that I am digging for gold, waiting for that golden post to arrive. If that's the case, I would be better off reading it in Google Reader, and when that golden post shows up I may tag it, and subscribe to the tag in FeedJournal.
  2. What is the length of articles published in the feed?
    If the articles are too short it might not be ideal to have them printed, as FeedJournal really shines when it comes to reading longer articles, uninterrupted. If the posts are short, odds are you will be able to read them with equivalent comprehension in your electronic RSS reader.
  3. How urgent is it for me to read new items in this feed?
    If the feed contains alerts that I need to act on ASAP, I want to have them in my regular RSS reader, using a priority tag/folder, instead of wasting time printing them and maybe reading it half an hour later.
  4. How likely am I to be wanting to follow a link to get more information?
    If the feed contains short summaries or referencing other resources on the web, like a new software patch or a forum post, I should be reading this on a computer. Expert geeks might want to look into wrapping such feeds with Yahoo Pipes and move the linked content into the actual feed - to have it ultimately served to FeedJournal.

These four questions can serve as rules of thumb for identifying feeds which might not be ideal for subscription in FeedJournal Reader. Feeds which pass these questions, will serve as excellent news sources for your print edition, and soon you might start to consider these bloggers as journalists.

As an example I will describe how I picked out which feeds to move from my Google Reader account to FeedJournal Reader. First, I divided my 105 feeds into categories:

  • Niche blogs (Blogs specializing in subjects close to your heart): 36 subscriptions
  • Friends' blogs: 6 subscriptions
  • Local content (local bloggers and newspapers): 5 subscriptions
  • Product blogs (software and service updates): 30 subscriptions
  • Ego searches and my blog comments: 16 subscriptions
  • Discussion fora: 6 subscriptions
  • Alerts of new media (podcasts, video blogs and torrents): 6 subscriptions

Your feed subscription list can probably be categorized in the same sections. Let's examine the characteristics of each category:

Niche blogs is the largest category, hosting one third of all my subscriptions. These are the primary candidates for FeedJournal. As FeedJournal will print a maximum of 8 articles per feed in one issue (a limitation which will soon be history), you should ask yourself if you could afford to miss an article or two if the feed is very active. An excellent solution to feeds with too heavy traffic, no matter if you are reading them on paper or not, is to route them through AideRSS, a free service that filters out less popular articles from any feed.

Blogs of friends I want to keep up with is usually an excellent group to use with FeedJournal. It's very neat to have your friends' blog entries in your morning (or evening) paper!

Local content also works very well to have printed in your newspaper, especially if you're reading FeedJournal on public transportation as it might be fuel for conversation. You might also run into the blogger and break the news about her promotion to journalist!

Product blogs, ego searches, forum alerts and media alerts typically have content that requires access to a computer. These feeds normally belong in your RSS reader's subscription list.

As you can see, about half of my regular feed subscriptions (47/105) are candidates for being moved to FeedJournal, where they will have a better life. They will be printed on quality paper where they will have an imtimate tete-a-tete with the reader, without interruptions from e-mail, IM or twitter alerts. And, it's better for your eyes.

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