Organising Google Reader

I’ve finally found a way to manage the vast amount of RSS feeds I read on a daily basis: some are for work in order to keep up with developments in the IT industry, others are of merely personal interest. After trying many, many different feed readers, I’ve settled on Google Reader because I can use it at any of the numerous computer I encounter at home, at work and place in between.

(If you don’t know what RSS is, I reckon it’s time to stop banging rocks together in your cave-lair and drag yourself into the real world.)

The problem with using Google Reader (or any RSS feed reader) is how to arrange your feeds so that you can see the posts which are important to you and gather the rest for reading when you have more time. How do you make sure you read the gems and leave the vase swaths of rubbish until you have time.

As far as I can see there are three basic organisational strategies. You can organise by:

  • Subject; eg: fencing, astronomy, technology, comics, etc.
  • Priority; eg: must read, read occasionally, read only when I have time, etc
  • Type; eg: a blog, a web site update noticiation, a podcast, etc

However, given that most feed readers only allow a single folder structure, should you organise your feeds by subject, you lose the ability to group them by priority or feed type. This is where Google Reader comes into it’s own.

Google Reader FoldersGoogle Reader, too, has folders but they’re really just glorified tags which means you can assign a feed to multiple folders. Yay. Here’s how I do it.

First, I organise by priority. This is encoded in the _Major, _Minor, _Other and _Lifehacker folders. The priority order is feeds in _Major I must read every day down to those in the _Lifehacker folder (because of the RSS spam it generates) I can simply mark as read if I don’t have time or couldn’t be bothered reading them. The underscore at the start of the folder name is simply to ensure that these folders appear first in the alphabetical list of folders.

Next, I organise by the purpose or type of the RSS feed. These are the folders in brackets ([…]). If I’m lacking time for reading, I can easily mark as read all the feeds which simply notify me of updates to web sites and concentrate on those which give me real content.

Finally, and for me least useful in the everyday, is the categorisation by subject. This is the rest of the folders, some 20 odd more folders. The folder structure seemed incomplete without a subject category but I can’t say I’m ever actually used any of these folders.