From Google Reader to MyAlltop

Posted by Swaroop C H on March 28, 2009 Filed under: lifehack, self-improvement, tech

About six months ago, I had stopped reading all RSS feeds because I wasn't managing my information input well. Over the past few months I was slowly creeping back into the same RSS habit and I didn't like it.

The biggest problem for me was seeing that unread count number*. It was intimidating and I quickly started procrastinating reading the articles, which was ironic, because we mostly read RSS feeds to procrastinate from doing real work ;-)

I thought to myself: "There must be a way to list all my favorite blogs and websites, I can add them and forget about it. Whenever I want to get updated, I just visit the page and read all the latest, and then go away again. There is no need to keep memory of how much I read and how much I did not read."

I started looking at My Yahoo! to list the websites I follow. It allows to add RSS feeds and will show you the latest 5 posts from that RSS feed. But then, MyAlltop came along and solved it more elegantly for me:

  • MyAllTop is easy to scan, i.e., read because of the newspaper-style 3 columns of blocks, compared to My Yahoo!'s big horizontal blocks (maybe there's a way to get the layout of your liking, but I couldn't find it).
  • When you mouseover a link in Alltop/MyAlltop, it will show a few paragraphs from the article which makes it easy to discern whether the title is misleading or if the article is really interesting.
  • The Alltop directory is very useful (which reminds me of the origins of Yahoo! - a directory of websites) in finding the best blogs on a particular topic, which is a harder problem than I imagined. I don't know if Google Reader's "bundles" had solved this problem, but I definitely find this a good resource.
  • I used to regularly visit to read the latest news but used to get annoyed by irrelevant-to-me blocks. Now I can just add the ones that I'm interested in to MyAlltop page.

In the end, I've switched from Google Reader to and I'm finding it far more fun to read this way. This is also useful if you ever wondered what blogs I read, it's all in one page.

If you have any other "How to control your information input" tips, please comment.

* And if you wondered that I must be nuts to get bogged down by the unread count number, let me tell you that I'm not nuts, I'm actually a Inbox Zero freak. I tend to reach inbox zero on email every week regularly. If only I could say the same about my todo list...

Update on June 13, 2009: I wanted to try a new idea - to randomly see the list of feeds every time, so I ditched MyAllTop and wrote a small html file that uses Google AJAX Feeds API to display the feeds list. Let's see how this experiment goes.


srid says:

does it keep track of unread/read items? this is the benefit of feed reader - one does not have to 'scan' through the information dump in order to discover new items.

Swaroop says:

@Srid It does not have an unread count, that was the "feature" I was looking for. The point is that I do not want to be thorough about reading feeds, I just like to dip in occasionally to see what's happening and then quickly get out.

Umang says:

Interesting. Just hiding the unread count can make a lot of difference to how we perceive inboxes, feedreaders, etc.

Sridhar Iyer says:

well.. I'm not a big fan of this one. This so so much unorganized. I wouldn't want my all my feeds to be scattered around like that. My RSS feeds are classified into ezines, friends, blogs, finance, photography, comics, non-tech and tech feeds .. I've implicitly attached a priority to each of those and depending on the time and interest I read those or mark them as all read even if I haven't read them.

If you don't want the count, there are tons of ways to avoid that: take a pick. have got some good reviews.

Swaroop says:

@Umang Yep. But then again, statistics are important when the topic is important (i.e. priority) and vice-versa.

@Sridhar Duh, should've searched for that. I agree this solves the unread count problem. However, the "newspaper-style 3 columns" is easier to read than the GReader UI where I have to click on each subscription to see what are the latest stories, it is not possible to "scan" GReader.

Vishal says:

I had written a simple application for a customizable Alltop like feed reader some time back: Allows you to categorize feeds by tags too.

Swaroop says:

@Vishal Nice! It is very close to what I was looking for.


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