How I live: My finite news system

This post is part of a larger attempt to share my personal “systems” that help me organize my life. I’m no expert, but by sharing my system, I hope to get feedback and inspire others to share as well.

Why should I care about this anyway?

Information is everywhere, and there is tons of it. Passively collecting your news information will fill your mind with thousands of cute cat pictures (don’t get me wrong, I love cat pictures), or just straight up wrong information (cue the “Fake News” chant). While curating information consumption does require overhead cost, that extra curation will help you focus on knowing the things you care about, instead of how many selfies Kim Kardashian took this morning.

The Endless Feed Problem and RSS

Endless feed models never truly “end” — you can spend all of your breaks constantly getting more information. Finite feed models will eventually run out of content, forcing you to find a new thing to do after you’re done consuming information.

Most of us get news from practically endless feeds (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter). These news sources never end, and you’ll never read every single thing published on the platform, since there’s just so much content.

I’m personally opposed to having a limitless amount of content to consume, since it turns my break time into a two hour session of reading every distant acquaintance’s political rant or Instagram caption. I’d rather read a finite amount of news, then move on to other tasks for the day. To avoid this, I use something called RSS, known as Real Simple Syndication.

RSS Readers are effective at only showing the new articles from each site.

RSS collects all the news from your favorite blogs, and brings them back to you whenever something new is published. Feedly, my RSS reader, makes it really easy to get started. Pretty much all of your favorite blogs have an RSS feed. This way, you have a finite, well-curated amount of news every day — only what these particular blogs publish. RSS also prevents you from visiting the same website over and over again, and constantly running into content that you’ve already read.


Stephen’s News System

I subscribe to about 50 different blogs in Feedly, organized as shown in the diagram below. While it may look like a lot, the majority of my blogs post less than monthly, which amounts to about thirty minutes to an hour of news reading per day.

Technology

Since I’m in the tech industry, I follow one major tech blog, The Verge, which give me a good dose of today’s tech news, in addition to some others (shout out to Hacker Noon). I also follow some VC blogs such as A16Z.

Self-improvement

I follow Lifehacker, 99U, and Wait But Why.

Interest-based feeds

I have certain specific interests and follow blogs based on these interests — for example, I follow the subreddit for /r/bodyhacking since I’m a wannabe cyborg. Check out my nootropics Medium article if you’re interested in learning more.

Company blogs

Whenever I find a company I’m interested in or that I think is interesting, I follow it on a specific “company blogs” feed. This is really useful for staying up to date on particular company news, especially if you’re ever considering interviewing there in the future. I follow Google’s blog, Trello’s blog, and the Wealthfront blog, among others.

Friends’ blogs

I have a separate feed of all the blogs that my friends write on — this way, I can always know immediately when someone updates their blog — you can even do this for Medium writers!

Events

I subscribe to Eater SF, a custom-made Thrillist SF feed (yes, you can make your own RSS feeds for any website!), and some local San Francisco Events websites. Whenever I see a cool restaurant opening or an interesting event, I’ll message some friends about it and see who’s down. This feed is a great way to always have fun and interesting hangout ideas.

Culture

I subscribe to Vulture’s blog about Movies/TV/Pop Culture, Alan Sepinwall’s blog on Television, and some musical artist blogs on Pitchfork. This feed is for my personal enjoyment, since I’m a big TV/Film nerd.

Comics

I follow XKCD, The Oatmeal, and Existential Comics.

Outside of Feedly

Google

Every morning, I’ll scan news.google.com, and Google the word “Trump” to see what’s latest in political news. Google has a good smattering of left and right wing blogs in its search results.

The Economist

In general, I dislike political news, and I feel like I already get enough political news on Facebook. One exception is The Economist: I read The Economist’s Editor Picks each week on The Economist mobile app (iOS, Android), for free each week.

Facebook

On desktop, I block my news feed using the News Feed Eradicator Chrome Extension. On mobile, I log in to facebook.com on my mobile browser (I don’t get the app, since I don’t want to be logging in *too* much). I usually get a healthy amount of political news from within my echo-chamber, and catch up with friends’ news. I subscribe (by selecting “Close Friends”) to most of my friend’s Facebook profiles.

Email

I typically stay away from email newsletters aside from Product Hunt, and I aggressively filter newsletter-type emails into Inbox Bundles that I’ve set to only appear on a weekly basis.

How I Consume News

I read news on my Feedly app while I’m on the go — it’s a great way to fill time between moments, and feels more productive/enriching than going through an endless Facebook feed. If I see something worth a second look, I’ll save the article, and I go through my “Read Later” section when I’m on my desktop computer. When I’m done reading, I try to look around and be present, read a book, or listen to some music and relax.

When I find an article I really like, or if it’s particularly relevant to a friend, I’ll share the news article with a brief message.

Some Caveats

My Feedly news is always what I want to see

I’m never getting news from blogs outside of the one’s I’ve subscribed to. While this is great for getting targeted news, sometimes it’s healthy to see different perspectives or expand beyond the echo chamber. This is where Google News is really helpful at balancing out my news.

I read a lot of headlines

I’ve gotten quite used to scanning tons of headlines a day, and being quick to pick which headlines interest me and skipping the ones of low interest.

It’s easy to drown

At first, I signed up for WAY too many blogs. I quickly realized I would never be able to actually finish all the news I was signed up for. It’s important to subscribe to only blogs you know you’ll read. I also use the Sortly Chrome Extension, which helps the most trending articles appear at the top of my feed.

It’s important to always be curating

Not all blogs stay the same, and there are always interesting new blogs that come up. I make an effort to, every three months, review my news consumption and delete blogs I’m not really ever clicking on. I’ll also scan some of the blogs I follow to see if any affiliated blogs are of interest to me.

Less news is best news?

There are a lot of interesting opinions about how to consume news, some of which would argue that reading headlines too often is also a waste of mental energy. I think finite feeds are a step in the right direction, but am excited to continue to prune my news system. For now, I’m okay with reading more headlines because I enjoy the snippets of news, the total volume isn’t that high, and it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends by sending them fun/relevant articles.

 

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