A Structure and Strategy for Subscribing to RSS Feeds

At the most recent KM Chicago meeting a familiar subject came up during our discussion – what KM blogs do you follow?  What feed aggregator do you recommend?  Given that I hear this question frequently, and I think that I have a pretty good system going, I thought I would share some of my own tips and tricks for following many blogs.

It’s not all or nothing

One of the biggest excuses I hear for not subscribing to RSS feeds, or even for using Twitter is the idea that, “I can’t read all of that information.” – but really, no one can, and you’re not supposed to read it all!  Just like you don’t avoid a buffet because you can’t eat it all, you shouldn’t avoid following many sources because you can’t read them all. So, how do you manage the glut of information out there?

Folder structure is key

I use Google Reader as my feed aggregator – not because it’s the best one out there, but because it’s easy to use, and integrates will all of my other Google services.  Any aggregator should work with the approach I describe.

My approach for following a number of blogs is totally dependent on my use of a tiered folder structure.  For demonstration purposes, lets say I follow 100 KM blogs.  15 of those are probably ones that I find really insightful, another 30 or so I enjoy reading on a pretty regular basis, and the rest I tend to read when I can.  So in Google Reader, I have three folders set up that reflect this:

  • KM1
  • KM2
  • KM3
When I go to read my feeds, I’ll read everything in KM1 – this allows me to read all of my favorites.  If I have time, I’ll see what is in KM2, and then maybe even KM3 if I get the chance.  But, generally, I have to say I never get to that third level down.  Then why bother following them at all?  I’ll get to that in a minute.  But first, how do I decided which blogs get added to which folder?

Finding blogs, rating blogs

Now that you have a structure ready to go, you need to find good KM blogs to fill them with.  Normally this is where I would point you to my repository of KM sources, but as I recently mentioned, my web server had a hiccup and I lost all of my information.  I’ll get this rebuilt, but in the meantime check out Stan Garfield’s listing of KM Blogs – it’s comprehensive and is a great source to being with.

Now, I know it’s a lot, but trust me, subscribe to all of the feeds listed.  Then, start reading through them when you get the opportunity.  Fairly quickly you’ll get a sense of the blogs you really like, the ones that are good, and the others that just might not be crucial reading for you.  Once you do, start assigning each feed to a folder.  It won’t take long to get the basic structure in place.  You’ll continue to adjust the settings over time, but I’ve had this setup going since about 2006 and it has been very sustainable for me.  I don’t read everything, but I don’t have to.  I used to be concerned I would be missing something interesting in the KM3 folder that I would rarely get to, but the odds are if it’s something that is really interesting, it would eventually be covered by one of the blogs in my KM1 or KM2 folders.

So like you may have asked earlier – why bother subscribing to the other blogs at all then?

Personalized KM searches

The value in subscribing to a number of feeds does not always lie in discovering something new and interesting, but often it is in the ability to query this information for a specific reason later on.  As I mentioned, I’ve been using the setup since 2006 and have subscribed to a number of KM blogs – most of which I don’t actually read on a regular basis.  But when doing research on something KM related, I’m more likely to begin my query here than going to Google.

A real life example I can share is when I recently began to do research into expertise location tools, techniques, and examples.  Rather than going to Google, where I would get a mix of good information, outdated information and ads, I used the search functionality within Google Reader.  Here, the benefits of subscribing to a number of KM sources is very helpful:

  • It allows for a focused search from sources I already trust and am familiar with
  • Adopting a tiered folder structure allows me to essentially sort my results by trustworthiness and familiarity
  • Being populated with just KM blogs automatically weeds out a number of irrelevant hits I would have received doing a standard search on Google
  • If I have questions about the material presented, it is easy to reach out and ask for more details because I’m usually familiar with the author by having followed them for a period of time
In this case I was able to find a number of good examples and case studies – many of which came from the KM3 folder.  So although I rarely read the feeds in this folder, they is a great deal of value that comes from subscribing to them.

In summary

  • Find a folder structure that works for you
  • Subscribe to as many feeds as you can, sort and cull the list over time
  • Read what you can, query the rest when you need it

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