Feed Me, Seymour

Leo at Zen Habits has a post on dropping RSS feeds. He discusses how he cut his 100 or so RSS feeds (which he spent an hour a day reading) down to a more manageable sixteen. Quite a leap. In his article, he outlines a ruthless system for minimizing the time spent on feeds every day.

For him, that may have been a necessary leap. But the article suggested readers take a look at their own feeds, so I did just that. According to Google Reader, I followed 175 feeds when I finished reading this article. Of those, maybe fifty update daily or more than daily. Maybe another twenty update on a regular schedule, two or three times a week. The rest are weekly or even less frequent.

One of his suggestions is to cut infrequent blogs. This was a bit of advice that I personally am going to put aside. To me, infrequent blogs are content that I enjoy that don’t take much of my time precisely because they rarely make demands on it – and yet, unlike an infrequently updated website, I don’t have to remember to come back to them and look for new content.

In the comments of the post, Leo mentions that part of the value for him in reducing his feeds is the sheer joy he feels from looking at a list that he’s whittled down that much. I suppose I can see how someone might feel that kind of joy, but I think that’s the difference between me and someone who’s a genuine productivity porn enthusiast – I find the techniques interesting, but I derive no inherent joy from having less of something. Less work, less worry, those are benefits of organization for me. Just plain less, or fewer enjoyable things, doesn’t have the same appeal.

I think that sort of near-fetishization in organization or productivity is a distant cousin of the “attachment to non-attachment” that sometimes crops up in enthusiastic Buddhists (and the related truism that new converts to almost any religion are often among the loudest and most obnoxious adherents). There’s a Buddhist tale about a monk who came to a river and needed to cross it, but there was no crossing for many miles. He built a raft out of the materials around him, and made his way across the river. When he got to the other side he left the raft there. He didn’t forget that the raft was a tool to get him over a specific hurdle.

So I’m keeping my infrequent feeds, and my comic strips, and my friends, and basically all the feeds I enjoy reading. I did remove a handful that I realized I was mostly skipping over… ironically, mostly productivity blogs or blogs about blogging. If you find you have more feeds than you have time to read them, you might also find his article helpful.

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