While security and development may be my profession, it's certainly not my only passion. I read blogs in a lot of different disciplines, not only security. Prior to RSS, keeping up-to-date on all that information would have been a nightmare. But even with RSS, separating the signal from the noise can be very difficult. I don't consider myself to be an expert on reading a large volume of material, but I thought I'd share how I at least make it manageable - while still only reading about twice daily.
Without trying to push a particular reader, my mind works well with the "river of news" model. Rather than read a feed, then another feed, then another feed, or even a subject, then another subject, then another subject, it's easier for me to just process all of my reading in a single stream. This is probably my first step in being able to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. There are a handful of ways to do this. If you prefer to use your own reader, even if it's not "River of News", there's always FeedBlendr. There are a handful of desktop readers that display in RoN as well, but unless I have a specific need for one, I'm not a big fan of desktop readers.
Having said all that, you can probably surmise that what's left are web-based readers that support River of News. And while there are others, I personally use Google Reader. I know in the industry a lot of people dislike Google because they harvest so much information, so when they have a vulnerability, it's a big deal with a wide impact. I feel relatively safe with my Google Reader reading, though - I don't watch anything uber-sensitive in Reader, and don't use Google Docs/Spreadsheets.
So how do I use Google Reader in only two or so passes a day? Here's a bullet list:
- I only subscribe to one "World News" site and one "Local News" site. Those change from time to time because of technical issues with the feeds on some of them - I don't like to read the same information twice. But keeping the number to two, I'm able to see what's going on in the world (to a degree) while those feeds not dominating my reading list.
- I visually filter in one pass, read in a second pass, and sometimes research in a third pass. There's far too much information to actually read every item, so I skim in the first pass and snipe off the items I want to spend some time looking at. There's a lot of stuff that goes into this first pass:
- Who wrote the post.
- Link density (if there's going to be more to read about it later)
- Source feed - if it comes from an aggregate site, it might be older or pre-picked before I get to it.
- I use keyboard shortcuts. For the first pass, this is crucial. So my two requirements for any reader are River of News and Keyboard Shortcuts. In Google Reader, I keep my fingers on the home keys - J is next, K is previous, S is for Star (or in my case, snipe).
- The second pass I do by going to the Starred (or Sniped) items - "gs". Then I'm back to the keyboard shortcuts. Here, 'v' opens the item if I need to read the whole thing (see later about synopses), but generally I use splodge-click so that the site (or link in the post) opens in a new tab but does not get focus - this I do in preparation for the third phase, which is research.
- I prefer feeds with full posts as opposed to synopses - except in my local and world news feeds. I know that some of you have ads or fancy-schmancy graphics you want people to see, and I can understand with the ads. But I prefer to be able to read the whole story without having to visit your site.
- I generally don't subscribe to aggregating sites. While I think Planet Websecurity is fantastic (thanks christ1an for standing it up and maintaining it), the aggregated sites generally lose some of the formatting and often include more line-noise to begin with. If there's a site that aggregates, I prefer to get a feed of the blog of that site so I can see what blog got added and why. Then I look at the actual site that got added to see if it's something worth watching ongoing.
Now a lot of you are going to give alternate reading methods that you think are vastly superior. But for those who don't read a lot but would like to read more, that's how I get away with it while still only reading twice a day.