Following my post on using iOS "Out of the Box", I received a few questions on what apps and workflows I use for RSS/news/short-form reading, since I don't have an RSS reader app installed. I've actually been meaning to write about this topic for a while. Believe it or not, the system I use for RSS hasn't changed since long before I lost my shit and reset my iPhone back to factory settings.
The "What" and "How" of this story are pretty simple. The "Why this works" might take a bit of a leap, though.
Long story short, I use the amazing web service If This Then That to send new RSS items to Instapaper.
It's an easy system to figure out, but in a nutshell:
- Start an account at IFTTT
- Link your Instapaper (or preferred read-later service) as a Channel
- Start a new "Recipe" selecting RSS as the Trigger
- Select Send to Instapaper as the Action
- Choose the elements of the feed item you want to be delivered and the order you want them to come through
- Name it something unique. I prefer "<RSS Author> to Instapaper" because I'm a super creative guy.
- Repeat for each RSS feed desired.
That's it. Someone I follow publishes a new item to their blog, it shows up in my Instapaper.
You don't necessarily need a read-later service to use this system. For a week or so at the outset of my stock iOS experiment, I had changed all my recipes to send a link to the new feed item or article to my email address. When the email arrived, I would send it to the Safari Reading List (tap and hold the URL in the email and then select "Add to Reading List"). I've since gone back to Instapaper, though, and redirected all RSS items there.
This only works for me because I have redefined my relationship with RSS feeds. I've ruthlessly culled the almost 90% of my subscriptions and what I have left is an all signal, no noise reading experience.
This started a while back when I was trying to remove Google from my online life (a project I affectionately called "Google Minus"). One of the biggest road blocks in that process was trying to figure out how I was going to keep up with the two hundred or so feeds that I had set up in Reader. I've since gone back to using Google for search and a couple of email accounts, but I still don't follow any RSS feeds there.
I decided I would give Flipboard a try, and rather than hooking up Google Reader as a channel, I would add each feed as a source. Adding two hundred feeds in this fashion would have been labour intensive, and from previous Flipboard experience, likely would have caused some pretty serious performance issues. I decided this would be a good opportunity to consciously reevaluate each of my subscriptions before adding them in. Only feeds with a strong signal to noise ratio would make the grade. I ended up with around twenty feeds, each one from an author I knew without a doubt I would want to read every single time they published.
While I enjoyed the reading experience and UI of Flipboard, I rarely ever read anything in it. Instead, I found myself scanning the headlines and saving to my Instapaper account. So I figured if I was sending all of my articles there anyway, why not just skip a step and send them automatically?
Instapaper dropped RSS support a while ago, so I had to find another way to get articles in. I thought I was pretty clever and started subscribing to sites' email newsletters with my send-to-Instapaper email address, but that was frequently unreliable, particularly if the email was handled by Mailchimp. That's when I found IFTTT, and it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.
Admittedly, this system won't work for everyone. I'm not advocating this for someone who covers tech news, for example. There's just too many articles published on tech news sites daily to effectively manage if they were all sent to your read-later account.
However, if there are writers or sites that you know you are going to read almost every time they publish an article, and you're going to read-later anyway, why not automate the task?
If you're willing to reevaluate your relationship with your subscriptions and let go of the fear that you might miss out, give it a shot.
Maybe you could do it for thirty days, or even two weeks. Pick your top twenty feeds and set them up in IFTTT. Don't delete them out of Google Reader yet, just delete your RSS reader, or move it in to a folder and temporarily disable badges and notifications.
You might find the signal to noise ratio a refreshing change. You definitely won't miss hitting "Mark all as Read" in overwhelmed frustration.