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Active Consumption of Articles on the Web

Posted at — Mar 13, 2021

I find that the more time I spend on the internet, the less I actually productively consume.

What does that mean? I’ve never been much of a reader; my parents would maintain that any grade school course that involved extra reading would pose a challenge. On the other hand, I’ve always been an active participant in discussion boards and other online communities. Some of the best threads contained multiple longer form rants on a particular subject.

The obvious distinction between a novel required for schoolwork and a post on a discussion board is the content; clearly the subjects and tech discussion boards are of greater interest.

But these days, I have the universal challenges of busy people: a lack of idle time, and contiguous attention span to dedicate. The result of which is that I skim content and barely get the gist. By the time I’ve closed the browser tab, I’ve lost the point of the article.

And so the solution to that is to store bookmarks of interest for a later time. I use Google Keep as a common place to drop links for articles that I’m interested reading at some arbitrary time in the future. Bookmarking in this way allowed me to pick from a curated source of things that I’ve parsed from sources (Hackers News, Twitter) and revisit them when I have either time or attention span.

For the most part I’m quite satisfied with this approach. The content is mostly relevant and I’m generally not running into scenarios where I’m flooded with content of interest from my existing sources. With that said, the content on hacker news is varied; there’s a large amount of things in the feed that don’t really interest me at all.

In 2021, I’ve decided return to the RSS feed. I started moving back to this idea after realizing that a blog I had bookmarked in my browser had started blogging daily, and that I had started establishing a habit of pulling up the page once a day to check for the latest musings. After a few weeks, I had a few more personal websites to the list. After a short time, RSS seemed like the natural choice.

RSS had seen a resurgence in recent months as an easy to combat the influence of social media providers on the news we read, and it’s hardly a new idea in my workflow. I’ve used Feedly for this in the past, and despite plenty of open source options available for self-hosting, the hosted service’s free tier strikes the right balance between usability and minimalism. I’ll likely evaluate some self-hosted options in the future, just to see how they work.

It’ll take some adjustment, but I think a benefit of switching back to an RSS-focused approach is that I should try to reduce time where I absent mindedly land on Hacker News and start parsing titles. It may have an impact on discovering new bloggers, but I’ll certainly save idle time scrolling the page.

I guess we’ll have to find out!