Experiencing A Fever

I’ve done something tonight I’ve not done for a a while. I’ve sat at my desk with a glass of wine and read. I’ve read feeds. Some of which contained posts that stretched back a few weeks, others posts written today and I’ve come out the other side feeling like I’ve enjoyed a relaxed evening.

In a world where we get busier and busier, where more and more things are going on, times where we can just relax seem to be more and more precious. Those moment where you can focus on something and forget about all that’s going on around you, forget about the ToDo’s stacking up in Things, the emails needing to be read and those things that otherwise cause distractions. Of course I’m not talking about the times spent with people, those times are important and to be relished, in fact there’s nothing nicer than spending the evening sharing a pizza and a bottle of wine with my girlfriend. Those times are treasured & important and anything but a distraction.

Instead I’m talking about things that, at least for me, seem to come under a group banner called the internet. Yes, the internet is invaluable, in fact I use it for work and play, but it can get to a point where you feel like you are always clamouring to stay on top of things. Stay on top of the inbox, stay on top of the ever growing unread feed count whilst dipping in and out of the stream of consciousness otherwise known as Twitter.

It’s hard work.

Judging by the, lack of, frequency of posts on my blog in the last few months its been apparent I’ve been looking for away to not tone back on the amount of things I read on the web, but rather to implement some form of control. That control seems to have been to add a bit of distance between the constant barrage of the internet and me. I’ve begun reading books again, shock horror, and I’ve been enjoying it. Enjoying it in a way I’ve not been enjoying reading on the web for a while.

It’s been clear some habits had to change and the main issue lay with my feed reader. So much goes into it that if I don’t stay on top of it and achieve RSS ZERO everyday I soon lose enthusiasm for it, hit the mark all as read and start again. The trouble with this is I miss things.

I don’t like missing things, and I end up in the repeating process of aiming to achieve RSS ZERO everyday.

Some people may say it’s a little sad I felt the need to stay on top of my RSS feeds everyday, and I’d agree. But working in an industry that is constantly changing, evolving, growing and releasing new things everyday it’s difficult not to want to try and stay at the peak. Seeing the things others are creating helps me draw inspiration and develop new ways of thinking, something very important in the world of design. Rather than zeroing out I wanted a way of keeping my finger “on the pulse” whilst removing the pressure of it.

I often wanted my feed reader to tell me what’s going on, to give me the most important bits and then let me catch the rest when I’m ready. I’d flitted back and forth for a few months between NetNewsWire, Google Reader and NewsFire but nothing really differentiates one from the other. They all handle feeds in the same way and they all made me feel like I needed to achieve RSS ZERO.

Then almost exactly a month ago there was an interesting development. No not the release of a new version of the iPhone OS, but instead the unleashing on the internet of a Fever. Now it would be a little naive of me to claim that Fever has fixed things and allowed me to reclaim lots of time, no that has to come with a change of mindset, but it has helped.

Fever brings a new approach to RSS feeds and I’m not the only one who has noticed. Some enjoy the new aspect of community it brings, connections with readers are good things, but others like me enjoy the control it brings. I’ve enjoyed the last couple of weeks and noticed I’m less distracted when it comes to work. No longer am I opening NNW regularly to see what’s new and keep the unread count down. I’m popping into Fever for a quick break, read an article while I drink my coffee that it tells me I might be interested in and then back to work.

The overall feeling is one of being informed without feeling overwhelmed.

I can be updated on what’s happening without having to discover it for myself. It’s then up to me how much time I spend seeking out more information.

But How Does It Work?

After a little trepidation I’d purchased Fever and within minutes I had my RSS subscriptions imported. A little sifting allowed me to move some of the feeds which provide the odd interesting article into a section called Sparks which I also populated with some blogs I’d removed in a cull because the good to bad ratio was swinging the wrong way.

This left me with a bunch of feeds I knew I would like reading otherwise known as Kindling. Some of these were moved into a folder called favourites because as a general rule of thumb I enjoy reading every post and look forward to their pithy comments. This bit is usually my first port of call when I’ve got a bit more time on my hands, it works just like the “old skool” feed readers. I can go through feeds individually and sift through the articles selecting things to read.

Then there’s The Hot List, the gem that tells me what I might like, that keeps me up to date and lets me enjoy reading the Kindling. If a feed in my Kindling combines with some in my Sparks, the article gains a higher temperature and thus becomes more likely to be read. It’s a clever trick that works on the understanding that blog posts link to each other. It knows that the internet is a large community with many little ones inside, so it knows that when lots of blogs are linking to something then heck it must be good.

What’s The Out Come?

Well, for me at least, it makes for a more enjoyable and more relaxed reading experience. No longer is there the pressure to keep up to date by checking the feeds and looking at each one individually, now I can be kept up to date and all I have to do is visit the first page of Fever. A quick glance shows me all the headlines, I can pick one to read and then if I’m interested look at the list of blogs I’m subscribed to and see what they’ve got to say.

This is for me how feeds should behave. They’re there to tell you a site has been updated, so it makes sense for you’re feed reader to prioritise things for you. Now if only someone would do the same for my email…