From Google Reader to MyAlltop

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 india.alltop.com 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 my.alltop.com/swaroopch 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.