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How Scoble Reads 622 RSS Feeds -- Thoughts and Reactions

by Tom Johnson on Jun 4, 2007
categories: blogging technical-writing

If you've not heard of Robert Scoble, he's one of the blog icons. He keeps up with 622 different RSS feeds, scanning for relevant information to pass on to readers. He is a human aggregator of information, picking out little gems here and there from a river of news. He's so thoroughly saturated online, just searching for Robert on Google returns his blog as the first result.

Watch this video of Scoble describing how he follows 622 feeds.

  • He reads to find information to post on his blog.
  • He reads to keep relationships with others so that when he meets them, he's in touch with what's going on in their lives.
  • He scans down a river of feeds (rather than reading each feed individually).
  • He looks for feeds that make an impression -- keyword dense headlines; links (indicating the information is dense and of high quality); keywords related to his industry of interest.
  • He says graphics slow down his eye.
  • At Microsoft, he was tracking 1400 feeds a day, but it got to be too much. He lowered it to 100, and has been growing it ever since. Now he's at 622.
  • He says he checks feeds once or twice a day, or when he's bored.

Personal Reactions to the Video

The comments on the post are worthwhile to read. Although I like reading Robert's blog and think he's an amazing person, I don't think tracking 600+ feeds is how I should spend my time. In some ways, there's just not a lot that is noble about dedicating a lot of time either to blogging or to tracking blogs. I find it hard to really say that, because I love blogging. Blogging has changed me so much. And yet, over-blogging seems like an unbalanced lifestyle. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that.

However, Scoble's blogging is part of his job. And drinking from the information firehose is what energizes him. And he is providing a human aggregation service so we don't have to do what he does. But what I walk away with are questions: Am I tracking too many feeds? Should I be diligently following all those feeds in my RSS reader? Should I switch to Google Reader?

How Many Feeds Is Right?

I don't know how many feeds are in my FeedDemon reader. Maybe 250. I have several categories: technical writing, wordpress, and podcasts. When I read blogs in my feedreader, I usually read them as a river of news (meaning, sorted by date, not by feed). I also recently pulled out some feeds and put them into a priority feed folder, because I wanted to keep up with them.

But I don't have a schedule for checking feeds daily. I feel bad that some people leave comments on my blog, but I don't read their blogs regularly. It takes a lot of time to blog -- time away from one's family. I know, because I'm now a blogging widow: my wife has been consumed by her blog. Actually, my wife was blogging and instant messenging and laughing loudly for a good several hours tonight. Talk about annoying! :) just kidding. Nice to see a reflection of myself in the mirror once in a while.

Should I whittle down my feedreader to 20 feeds? What would happen if I exited the blogosphere altogether? What if all this news that goes on in the blogosphere isn't that important, if I can just turn off the computer and lead a happy (perhaps happier) existence without being "connected"?

All of these thoughts came out from this video.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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