Web ApplicationsInformation overload: tips and tricks to effectively manage google reader subscriptions
[+43] [15] Shane
[2010-07-07 20:22:40]
[ google-reader ]

I often get overwhelmed by the amount of material in my Google Reader subscriptions. It almost always has over 1000 unread items.

I started by moving all the feed-aggregators and people who post too often into a folder called "don't have time"; I end up consistently marking them all as read (so today I unsubscribed from the entire folder). But I still inevitably end up with too much to read.

Are there any tools or tricks to help deal with the massive amount of material?

I agree. I made the change. - Shane
[+18] [2010-07-07 20:28:53] RandomBen

Personally, I look for the bloggers that are lightening rods for whatever I am into. What I mean is that there are usually 4 to 10 people who are the experts in the area. Follow them and get rid of the rest they are usually either duplicates or noise.

You have to remember that the goal of reading a post should be to educate you or for enjoyment. They shouldn't feel like a task.

In general if I go over 20 unread messages I try to trim the number of feeds I follow. In general I am at under 10 unread posts.

(2) Also note that many big sites (like Lifehacker, for instance) have sub-feeds that you can follow. For example, if the Lifehacker main feed is overwhelming, you can choose one of the 'tag' feeds, like #mac (the URL for which is - jrc03c
[+12] [2010-07-07 20:57:35] Justin L.

I've found a solution to this in Feedly [1], which takes your Google Reader data and presents it in magazine format, making it friendly to look at.

As for noise? I love its brilliant solution. Everyone is encouraged to share (through a simple icon on the item) articles or items that they appreciate. The articles that Feedly shows on your "Front Page" of your magazine are the items that are shared the most.

This assures that you only get the most interesting/noteworthy items right at your first glance.

There's also a feature that allows you to "star" a feed that is the most important to you, so they are given much much higher priority on the front page.

In addition to your front page, you have a different front-page of sorts for each of your categories/tags. The same method is applied to these, albeit to less of a degree. At the top of the category's page, the top shared are also listed.

But then, each individual feed is then listed with the most recent and relevant articles, which are also weighted by the number of times they are shared as well. It's an algorithm that basically works to ensure that the articles that are the most recent and interesting are at the top of the individual feed.

If you ever want to view an entire feed for a given feed, you can do that by just clicking on the feed's name.


@Shane: and this will bring down your 1000 interesting subscription in what way? just to watch 1000 items differently does not decrease their number. it is a nice app, but it wont help you with your problem. - akira
I have 1000+ items, but now I know which ones I should read and which of the 900 I should not. - Justin L.
How does it deal with unread numbers? For instance, if I check some items from the feed and then close it will Feedly mark other items as read? - Andrew Андрей Листочкин
I don't pay attention to unread numbers anymore because they are largely irrelevant. Read items are automatically taken off aggregated front pages. However, if this is important to you, there's a simple way to check every item on a page as Read with one click. - Justin L.
[+11] [2010-07-07 20:32:56] Leons Petrazickis

A simple first step would be to unsubscribe from the noisiest feeds. Google Reader provides this information for you. Go to the Trends menu item and look at the list of the most frequently updated feeds. If you can unsubcribe from these, your inbox load should be reduced.

Is there redundancy in your feeds? You don't need to subscribe to both BBC and CNN, for example.

I usually read with Google Reader set to "list mode" and "new items". This lets me click on the headlines I care about and then mark the folder as read when I'm done for the reward of an empty inbox.

Those are great recommendations! - Shane
+1 for redundancy . See if you can merge feeds with similar stories through a yahoo pipe - phwd
[+8] [2010-07-07 20:28:30] Michael

My process:

  • Typically, I add a site to Google Reader if I think the content is interesting.
  • I usually setup a few tags which help to organize the content types. "Edu, Important, etc"
  • Every couple of months, I will review to see which one I continuously come back to and which don't get touched for weeks. I use another tag "Demoted" which identifies these blogs. (Sometimes it's nice to have a little extra reading material before completely committing to removing the site from my RSS reader.)
  • On my next cleanup, if there are still blogs which I haven't touched, i'll usually empty the "demoted" tag and repeat the process again.
  • I am constantly adding sites which seem interesting. (even if they might not be in the end)
  • I also use the "Trends" feature (Under the "Home" dropdown menu) in Google Reader to help me identify the informative sites and weed out the unnecessary fodder.

[+6] [2010-07-07 21:11:20] Col

I used to have a folder per feed subject, i.e. development, finance, humour etc. I found the sheer number of reading and information overwhelming.

Now I have 3 folders -

  • Favourites (updates I want to read no matter what, kept as small as possible)
  • Primary (updates that I really value and try to clear on a daily basis
  • Secondary (everything else)

It's surprising how little I check on what is in secondary, even updates that I thought I really valued!

It's a simple system, works well for me.

This is very similar to what I do — I have Favorites, River, and Flood. I read virtually all items in Favorites, and rarely mark all as read; some in River, and sometimes mark all as read; and only a few in Flood, which I mark all as read any time. This approach has worked wonderfully for me, I'm super-happy with it. It's made a read difference in how I read. - Avi Flax
[+4] [2010-07-07 20:30:43] akira

Just drop irrelevant stuff. Set a goal of getting below 100 or 50 or 10 subscriptions and then drop the rest. To retag anything and trying to manage around the problem does not solve the problem.

+1 - agree! If you are finding ways to not read a feed, just unsubscribe. - tomjedrz
[+4] [2010-07-07 21:47:55] joyjit

I rely on the "tag" feature of Google Reader -- you can have multiple associated with each subscription.

  1. Add an appropriate tag(s) to each subscriptoon, e.g: "science", "news". This step is actually optional. If you skip this step, things will work just fine. However, if you go through this step, it makes life easier later on, to locate your subscription in case you want to start following it again.

  2. Add a tag called "daily" (The exact name of the tag is not important) to only those subscriptions that you want to follow ON A REGULAR BASIS.

  3. In Google Reader "Settings", under "General", Set up "Start Page: daily"

Now, each time you visit Google Reader, it will, by default, show you all subscriptions only with the daily tag. As you read all the blogs which have the "daily" tag, they will get marked as read.

If you decide you no longer want to read something on a regular basis, simply remove the "daily" tag from the subscription. You can do the reverse too.

I have hundreds of subscriptions that I follow this way, and it has worked out very well.

Hope this helps.

[+3] [2010-07-07 21:26:08] grm

There is a service called Postrank and it's exactly what you are looking for.

It's an addon to Firefox that will give each RSS item a rating based on social engagement.

"Our platform tracks where and how users engage, and what they pay attention to — in real-time. PostRank™ social engagement data measures actual user activity, the most accurate indicator of the relevance and influence of a site, story, or author."


"Use PostRank with FireFox and Google Reader to score, filter and track performance of any RSS feed. Reclaim your time, boost your productivity, and stay on top of the news."

[+3] [2010-07-07 21:46:55] Greg Bray

While not specific to just Google Reader I suggest you check out Scott Hanselman's video about Information Overload and Managing the Flow [1]. It is about an hour long but has some great tips about managing email, social networks, websites, and RSS feeds. The sound sucks, but the information in the video is well worth it.


[+3] [2010-07-11 21:56:34] Peter Eisentraut

Personal suggestions:

  • Don't subscribe to too many things. You probably wouldn't subscribe to 50 paper newspapers and magazines either (even if they were free).
  • Use the Trends tool to find things that you don't read and get rid of it.
  • Don't subscribe to newspapers. Instead, go to the newspapers web site. They have people doing the layout that is supposed to help you navigate the information.
  • Don't subscribe to feeds that post too much (such as newspapers). 20 a day tops, maybe.
  • Resist the temptation to evade the problem with folders and tags.

When you have things down to a couple of hundred posts per day in total, process them as follows:

  1. Scan the All items view from top to bottom.
  2. If you find something interesting that you can read and process in 1 or 2 minutes, do it.
  3. If you find something interesting that is longer, star it.
  4. If you reach the end of the list, mark all as read.

Then read the starred items at your own leisure. Once a week, aggressively clear out the starred items you have saved from over a month ago or so. That is, unless you are dying to process them, mark them as done/unstar them.

Sometimes, you may want to keep an item marked not because you haven't read it yet, but because there is something in the post that you wanted to do something about. Maybe it mentioned a piece of software that you want to try out or a web site you want to visit. Don't keep these items as marked for reading. You will just keep coming back to them and discover that you have read them already. Instead, transfer appropriate notes to your to-do or action lists.

Most importantly: Don't be afraid to miss or delete something. These aren't personal mail messages. These posts don't own you. If the information is important, it will find you anyway.

This sounds like a good strategy, but I prefer to use stars to mark posts that might be worth referring to again in the future, so I send my links to read it later instead. One thing I recommend is that you separate out your high noise feeds from your low noise feeds. This ensures that you don't miss the posts you want to read among all the noise. It also means that if you are away for a while, you can just mark everything in the high noise feeds as noise. - Casebash
[+2] [2010-07-07 21:13:09] joshjs
  • Constantly evaluate the signal-to-noise ratio of your feeds. There are smart people out there curating blogs for pretty much any topic you can think of, and you probably don't need more than a few feeds on a particular topic.
  • Take advantage of the fact that your "folders" are really tags, so a feed can fall under more than one of them. Tag feeds by topic AND by priority. And by whatever other criteria might be helpful for you.
  • Don't be afraid of the "Mark All As Read" option.

[+2] [2010-07-07 21:40:29] Sohan

Typically I read link blogs. Have you tried one yet? For an example, if you are .Net or Ruby on Rails lover, you can try one of the followings:


You will see the best posts of the day without having to go through all the ones by yourself. Hope it helps.

[+2] [2010-07-07 22:24:58] Kurtosis

Train yourself to evaluate the signal:noise likelihood of any individual article, preferably based on the heading, or by the first paragraph or two if necessary.

Be disciplined enough to skip or stop reading articles that are noise and quickly move on to the next.

Learning speed reading helps, even you don't get to the point where you can read a page a second, the ability to read text in blocks instead of words or lines at a time speeds up the Read->Eval->Decide loop.

[+2] [2010-10-06 16:40:47] Dan Fabulich

Noisy feeds are sometimes interesting, so I drop all of my noisy feeds in a "noisy" folder, then view the entire folder at once, using Google Reader's "sort by magic" [1] setting. I just skim the top 10-30 of those headlines, then mark the entire folder as read.

Everything that's left is non-noisy stuff I really want to read.


[0] [2010-10-15 13:51:26] Kyralessa

Remember that you can search on things in Google Reader. I use this to eliminate subjects I'm not interested in.

If I want to skip, say, all articles having to do with Mongolia, I search for Mongolia, put the results in List view, and then quickly go through and mark as read all those items. (Usually the unread will be at the top since the search is most-recent-first.)

(1) I wish there was an easier way to search an individual RSS feed in Google Reader or a folder - the dropdown gets a bit arduous to scroll through if you have a lot of feeds... - Josh Newman