I’m a couple of weeks into my effort to rework my information consumption, and so far it’s going pretty well. Unsurprisingly, ninety percent of the impact was achieved by simply deleting Tweetbot from my devices.
One of the things I enjoyed most about Twitter was the ability to follow professional journalists directly. It resulted in the best journalism of the day across a wide swath of outlets bubbling up into my timeline.
It’s a shame that there aren’t more news outlets that offer byline-specific RSS feeds. (The Intercept is one exception I’ve found that does.)
In an effort to fill my Twitter news void, I’ve been experimenting with dialing up my RSS subscriptions to mainstream news outlets’ general feeds. While some have removed or neglected their RSS feeds, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many sites still have very good RSS support.
National and Local Options
The New York Times is the hands-down winner on RSS. They have a nice assortment of category-based feeds, including a handy home page feed that tends to surface the top or best articles while keeping the feed volume reasonable. They also have a searchable collection of over 10,000 topic-based feeds, which is pretty amazing.
The Washington Post also has a solid assortment of feeds, but unfortunately it doesn’t have a home page / greatest hits feed.
Locally (to me), the The Boston Globe unfortunately does not offer RSS feeds. Surprisingly, my local newspaper, The Standard-Times, has a good selection of feeds, even though its website is otherwise a train wreck. I live pretty close to the Massachusetts / Rhode Island border, and The Providence Journal is part of the same parent company as my local paper and has a nearly identical bad site with good feeds setup.
Embracing Email to RSS
I started off by going a bit wild with increasing my feed subscriptions from news organizations, and unsurprisingly the volume quickly became difficult to manage. I’m pretty good at RSS triage, but at a certain point my brain zones out and starts marking stuff as read without truly processing it.
I’ve gradually dialed the feeds back down to very specific categories (e.g., local events, town-specific news, etc.). Unfortunately, most sites don’t have a home page / greatest hits feed like The New York Times does, but many do have email newsletters with top news and “must-read” articles. I really dislike this type of thing clogging up my email inbox, but I’ve started taking advantage of Feedbin’s ability to receive email to subscribe to newsletters more liberally without overloading my actual email inbox.
I’ve now settled into a mode where I have a feed folder called “News Feeds” that has true fire hose RSS feeds and another called “Curated News” that aggregates newsletter roundups from various publications, including RSS neglecters like The Boston Globe.
Breaking News Push Notifications
I’m not a big notifications guy in general, but I do opt-in to breaking news push notifications from The New York Times and The Washington Post. They both do a pretty good job of keeping me informed about major news without abusing their notification powers.
I also don’t find these notifications too distracting. Most of the time, I just glance at the short summary on my Apple Watch, continue what I’m doing, and revisit the full article later if it’s something I’m interested in.
My Nuzzel Safety Blanket
While I’ve been very good about keeping my nose out of my Twitter timeline, I do have one little cheat. Nuzzel is an iOS app that you can connect to your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts to identify items that multiple people you follow have linked to.
The normal way to use Nuzzel is to occasionally pop the app open for an aggregated collection of articles based on your social connections and optionally receive push notifications for hot items. Rather than doing that, I just have a simple rule that emails any link shared by three or more people I follow on Twitter to my Feedbin email address.
This is a safety blanket of sorts, and I’m not really sure I’ll need it much longer. I’ve been surprised by how infrequently the links I get this way matter to me. Usually, they are either things I don’t really care about or major news stories that I already know about from a push notification or RSS feed.
There are still some aspects of Twitter other than news that I miss, but overall I’m pretty pleased with how my post-Twitter news consumption workflow is going. I don’t think I miss much, and I’m also not wasting time watching a bunch of half-baked takes about the same news story ping-pong back and forth all day.
I don’t think I’ve achieved my original stated goal of reducing my level of information consumption, but just staying off of Twitter has made a positive impact on my mental state. My head is neither in the sand nor spinning wildly.