Cool Tools, Thing 24: Control the Info Flow with RSS & Feed Readers

I really, really, really wanted this tool to work out for me. The idea of having an easier way to organize and keep up with the overwhelming flow of information is so so appealing. Unfortunately, a lot of this experiment felt like an overwhelming bust but in the end, I did find some handy takeaways. Since I spent most of my time trying to work with Feedly and (although I did look into a few other platforms like Inoreader) I’ll focus the majority of my summary on those two platforms.

First up, Feedly:

As it turns out, I already had a Feedly account so once I remembered how to login, I was ready to start re-familiarizing myself with the platform.

The Good:

  • It was incredibly easy to add new websites and blogs to my Feedly account.
  • It was also very easy to delete websites and blogs I no longer wanted to follow.
  • It was a breeze to reorganize the feeds I followed into different categories.
  • Figuring out how to do all of the above was very intuitive and easy to figure out on my own.

The Bad:

  • This is purely a personal preference but, I don’t like the look of Feedly. I prefer something more “dashboard style” and Feedly doesn’t provide that.
  • If I don’t like how it looks, I’m far less likely to use it (as evidenced by that fact that I apparently made an account who know how long ago, based on the feeds I’d say grad school assignment, and didn’t even remember doing it until I checked out his tool-clearly, my usage didn’t last long after that initial setup).

Which brings us to

The Good:

  • LOVED the look of it! It had that dashboard style I prefer an reminded me of other platforms I like to use like Pinterest or my newly discovered love of Tweetdeck.
  • So many options! And not just for what to add to your dashboards-you can customize the whole look of it from the wall paper to what feed goes where. You can even set up separate pages to further customize your dashboard’s look and organization.
  • LOVED LOVED LOVED that it could import all my bookmarks and automatically gave them their own page. Sorting through all of them and figuring out what can be completely deleted, what should maybe be pinned to Pinterest and what should actually stay a bookmark (and where) was tedious and mind numbing and I never would have done it if hadn’t made it so easy to gather them all up into one place.

The Bad:

  • After sorting through the default feeds and customizing the ones I kept, I found it much more difficult (in some cases impossible) to add websites and blogs to the dashboard if they weren’t on’s predetermined lists. All the blogs I wanted to add aren’t secure websites so I couldn’t embedded them cleanly into feeds. But if I tried saving them as bookmarks instead, I couldn’t get the bookmarks to actually open to those bookmarked pages when I clicked on them.
  • So.Many.Options. I found it overwhelming trying to sort through all the possibilities.
  • Doesn’t play nice with Chrome at work. This must be a work ISP issue because I never noticed it at home but, when I would try to open it up at work I ran into two problems over and over again.
    • First, it wouldn’t actually be showing me any of my pages and feeds and when I would click on the account icon in the corner, it wouldn’t display any of my account information (despite being logged into my Google Chrome profile) but, it would still display an option for “logout of account”. So, I would have to logout and log back in every morning, even after already logging into chrome. That would have been annoying enough but there was more…
    • It kept defaulting to Spanish. So not only was I trying to logout so I could log back in, I had to do it with menu options that were always in Spanish.

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So…where does this leave me?

Regardless of what platform I was trying out, I noticed I had to wrestle with the same decision over and over again: what to add. Now I hear you saying, “Duh Serena. That’s the whole point of these things”. Maybe I over thought it but for me, it became almost a philosophical question. Like, do I stick with my current likes and interests and only add the feeds I’m actually checking every day manually, in essence do I stay who I actually am at this moment, or do I add feeds for things I wish I kept better tabs on, do I try to become more of the person I wish I was? And where is the line between helpfully aspirational and delusional?

So after going round and round with these sites and spending about a week longer on this tool than I liked, I decided that instead of focusing on the platforms, I first needed to think about the above questions. Ultimately, I decided it would be best to stick mostly with who I really am at this moment but pick one thing to aspire.

Sticking true to who I am at this time meant finding a time saving way to keep up with the new content on the blogs and websites I currently read (and spend too much time checking to see if they’ve loaded new content).  For me, that meant going with Feedly. It was the easiest one to set up and maintain of all the ones I played around with it and it’s available as an extension in the Google Chrome Store. Which meant I could keep this Chrome extension I found last summer called My Dogs.

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My Dogs is a dashboard extension that automatically loads each time you open a new tab. The background is always a different adorable dog photo complete with a fact about that dog breed or dogs in general. It also automatically includes a to-do list, the weather, the option to play relaxing music, your bookmarks, a search bar,  the time and, access to all your other Chrome apps (which now includes Feedly on my page-I even moved it all the way to the top so I don’t even have to scroll to see it and be reminded to check it).

Fo my one thing to aspire to I chose keeping up with the news and focusing on my goal of becoming more media literate so I can help my students do the same. I found I super cool website that will help me do just that, Newsmap.

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Newsmap is a great visual dashboard of the current news topics that lets you get a quick overview of the news. Stories are color coded by topic (national, world, sports, entertainment, tech, health, business) and further coded by brightness. The brighter the color the more breaking the news. When you hover over a story with your mouse a larger box pops up with more information and the option to click on it and go to that news outlets full article. You can also create an account and customize the way you see the newsmap (caveat: I have yet to successfully set up an account. Both at work and at home when I try to setup an account the little loading wheel just keeps whirling but nothing ever happens…). I added Newsmap to my bookmarks bar and have been trying to add checking it to my morning routine, right before checking my email when I get to work (temptation bundling again!).

While it’s not the slick looking mega dashboard of resources I envisioned when I started this tool, I’d say I’m still in a better place than I was before I started looking into my options. Not all improvements need to be grand and splashy to have an impact and I think these little tweaks will definitely have an impact on me and how I use my time.