The “newsfeed”: an aggregation of links with no beginning and no end; an always-on stream of connections to things other people say.
In the vast ocean of voices, who chooses which ones reach your attention? Who owns your attention? Who has the power to define the frame of reference for your thoughts?
That person should be you. You own your attention. The feeds of the modern platforms operate using closed algorithms. They are updated quietly and without announcement. They are arbiters and editors with no personification and an allegiance to something that is not you.
You can and should build your own newsfeed using a widely available system called RSS. There are two components involved: an RSS feed and an RSS reader. An RSS feed is a URL connected to a stream of updates, hosted by a given website. An RSS reader is a piece of software that collects RSS feeds and aggregates them into your own newsfeed.
Where do you get RSS feeds? Look carefully on any website that regularly posts new content.
The universal icon for an RSS feed.
A common location for the RSS feed link.
Where do you get the RSS reader? I use NewsBlur. It’s cloud-based and works on mobile. There are many others, including non-cloud readers, but I enjoy NewsBlur because of its active development by a small and engaged group.
Build your RSS reader’s feed library piece by piece, cutting pasting the RSS feeds from the websites you want to follow into the reader’s interface. As you accumulate more sites, categorize and organize them in ways that make sense to your personal interests.
A few of my own folders of RSS feeds.
Building your personal RSS feed collection takes care, time, intention, and responsibility. What you get back is equity in your own intellectual capital. With the RSS model, the composition of the feed is in your hands, so you are responsible for dealing with your own cognitive biases. That isn’t a problem that will ever go away – but much better to have the control in your own hands.
Curating and growing the aggregate feed of RSS feeds that is permitted to come to your attention is an ongoing process. Some sites will drop in quality, or your interest in the topic will decline, so you will need to fire them from the RSS reader. Other times you will get a new interest, or new writers will appear.
Finally, delete any obligation you feel to read every article. It’s not email and there is no one on the other end waiting for you to reply. There is a reason NewsBlur has a “Mark All As Read” button. Use your skimming and scanning skills.
This is normal number.