Friday, May 23, 2008

Confessions of an Oversubscribed Reader

Sometimes too much of a good thing is a bad thing. This is where I stood this month with Google Reader. When I first started using a reader, it was a thing of beauty. I no longer had to remember to go check a blog's URL to see if there was anything new. I would sign on with my one-stop-shopping reader account and enjoy some good articles.

Then Came Twitter
At first, I had a great idea. When I would follow someone on Twitter, I would add their blog to my reader. My logic was: if I'm communicating with them on Twitter, shouldn't I be reading their deeper thoughts on their blog? This was all well and good when I had ten people following me on Twitter.

Too Much To Read
I've slowly built up to a little over 300 following/ followers. This is great because my network contains really interesting folks doing fantastic things with their students. My policy of putting all the blogs into my reader gave me a full time job that felt overwhelming, though. Between joining the 31 Day Comment Challenge and having too many posts to read, I found myself giving up. Instead of being able to pick and choose what I found interesting, I was ignoring the reader.

Fear of an Echo Chamber
If that wasn't enough, I started worrying that the only blogs I read belonged to those on Twitter. I went on a binge of looking for educators outside my network to read. I can't tell you how many subscriptions were in my reader, but it had to be near 400. Yikes!

Now Comes the Great Rebuild
I've left 25 blogs in my reader. I'm looking forward to a renewed interest in both my reading and commenting. The whole experience leaves me very curious. I wonder how many people really feel like they have a great mix of items in their reader that they can keep up with. What makes a satisfactory balance?

Image Citation:
Lim, Kevin. "Dead Sea newspaper." inju's photostream. 2006 March 13. 2008 May 24.


  1. I seem to go through this same thing several times / year. I have never been as high as 300 blogs, but I've often found myself over 200. Lately I seem to have levelled off around 120 or so. Now when I add one, I look very hard in my reader to see if there is another I can delete. This is where I also love the share feature in Google Reader. Even if I don't subscribe to something, if a post is really great, I get it from someone else in my network.

  2. Clarence:
    I kept trying to avoid "Reader Bankruptcy" but it was just too much. I could spend eight hours just to get back down to a near empty reader. Going through the process several times a year probably makes a lot of sense. I feel a renewed interest in the network today. It's amazing how much I needed to make the decision to start over.

  3. Ann my reader sits at about 250, but I would say that 1/3 are subscriptions to the comments feed for blogs I read. My favorite folders are my local folder (people from SC), my media specialist folder (since that is what I do-these people are in my trench and face the same similar issues day to day), and then my Women Blogger folder, since I love it that so many women are using this tool to find their voice. Yes my reader frequently is overflowing, and I will immediately mark some as read (like news, ning, twitter.) Yes, I have a twitter folder, and like you I tried to follow my twitter friends too, but have whittled that one down, and probably will soon do away with it, as I move the people in there to another category. I feel my reader is at a manageable rate, 250, only b/c I do immediately mark the ones I identified earlier as read if it is too much. I don't feel guilty b/c I feel the radio or tv will update me news wise, and generally twitter will update me abt twitter. So its a guilt-free action. That's the beauty of the reader too, and you already mentioned it, that if I mark it as read, I won't miss it b/c my other tools (echo chamber) will keep me abreast if what I missed. Great post.

  4. Cathy:
    It was the guilt that was making me avoid the reader. I've been reading Here Comes Everybody and it has helped me see that there's a human factor limit in what we can absorb. I've tried to keep the initial blogs that I enjoyed when I started reading and will add those that speak to my job. There are tremendous resources out there, but with the nice network that I've grown I can let my "team" point me to really good posts. I also have to realize that I know more now than I did two years ago without a reader and a network in place. Thanks.

  5. In this age of connectiveness I think we all suffer from information overload at times. There is so much good stuff out there, but at the end of the day there is only so much time that individuals can give to their discovering it all and reading etc. It could easily be a full-time job in itself trying to keep up with it all!
    I try and keep a balance, if I miss out for a few days I have to revert to marking as read, otherwise I'd be there all day and night trying to get through it.

  6. Marie:
    When I first found out that there was such a thing as an edublog, I was amazed. Perhaps it's a reflection of wanting to see all the different opinions and ideas that are out there. I think I needed to give myself permission to back away from the information overload. I never cleaned out my reader until this weekend. Now that I have, I'm feeling a renewed interest connecting and reading. It's amazing what a change in mindset can do. It's nice to read about your attitude towards hitting that mark as read button and moving on. I think it's an attitude I can adopt without reservation now. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Definitely feel for you when you reached 400 blog subscriptions. I'm very mindful of my number of subscriptions because it does take me time to go through and read.

    I made a decision early on to limit adding blogs from twitter; instead I use Twitter Link Monitor and can check out posts that way if I choose. I also sort out my subscriptions into folders so if they get out of hand I can always mark the less important subscriptions mark as read.

    While the friends shared items is a good idea if you have limited blog subscriptions -- I find mostly I mark as read because of time constraints.

    Another good way of trimming down is to use your Google Reader trends information. Helps you work out what to leave and what to remove. I also have a folder called asleep for those blogs that are sleeping. Like to leave them in Google Reader because I now use my reader a lot for searching for articles.

  8. Sue:
    You've given me two new things to think about. I hadn't run into the Twitter Link Monitor and just looked at it. A bonus for me, it works with a protected id. I have seen the Google trends, but really haven't used it much. I'll keep that in the back of my mind as I build a new reader.

    I have only a few people sharing links with me, so it does work well for bubbling interesting articles from a variety of sources to the top of my list. With a much smaller reading list, I'll probably look forward to those more than ever.

    It's quite a journey learning what works, but so worthwhile. I'm continually amazed by the quality and thoughtfulness of what is written in blogging world. I'm equally glad that I've had a chance to make your acquaintance as a part of my network.

  9. Looks like alot of us are in the same boat. I'm beginning to view my readers as something i browse twice a week for fun. If something strikes me i read it and leave a post. I haven't reached the 300 mark and i could see how that could be a little overwhelming.

  10. Charlie:
    One of the nicest outcomes, for me, has been reading the responses to this post. There do seem to be a lot of people in the same boat. My reader seems like much more inviting place now that I've trimmed things back. My biggest problem was that opening the reader wasn't fun any more. It is again. Thanks for adding your thoughts to the post.

  11. I use the Trends a lot when I'm doing the Google Reader spring clean since it tells me how often I really read someones posts. Every now and then I will pick up a cool link using Twitter link monitor or TweetScan. So all helps.

    Also happy to be part of your network.

  12. Hi Ann,
    My comment is probably pretty redundant at this point...with over 1000 unread items in my reader it is amazing I even found your post :-)
    I guess I can't help myself, if I find a blog I like, I subscribe. I don't feel any need to read them all. I just kind of pick and choose based on post titles that catch my eye as well as a few favorites that I always read. I seem to be really drawn to posts about information overload! I guess we all deal with it in our own ways, and like you noted, there are so many great ideas going around--you have to trust you will read just the words you need exactly when you need them.