How to control your impulse reading

by on April 28, 2010 at 7:06 am in Education, Web/Tech | Permalink

Scott Golder reports:

Even after a merciless purge, my Google Reader still has over 90 feeds in it, which generates several hundreds of things to read every day. After a quick skimming and culling, there’s at least a dozen or two dozen articles or long blog posts a day I’d like to read. Combine that with the things my Twitter followees post (a higher signal/noise ratio than the RSS feeds) and it’s more than I can responsibly spend time on.

Today I thought of a nifty hack to control my “impulse reading” – things that I read on a whim during a bout of web surfing. It adapts a popular trick from personal finance to control impulse spending, which is to wait 30 days before making a purchase.

When I encounter an article I’d like to read, I open it in a new tab in Firefox and leave it there. Right now I have about a dozen tabs open. Some of them have been there for days. Invariably, when I make my way back through them, I read maybe 1/3 of them. Most of them just don’t seem as interesting anymore.

Here is Scott's blog.  Scott also sometimes blogs at Permutations, which covers mathematical sociology.

1 Andrew April 28, 2010 at 7:17 am

I do the same thing by way of being too lazy to close tabs. The interwebz is a series of tubes that pump distraction directly into my office.

For example, will this be interesting by the time I have time to watch it?

2 Michael April 28, 2010 at 7:55 am

Hmm, I get a stiff neck and worried feeling just thinking about this guy’s problem. The solution is a filing system. Take a quick look. If possibly useful or unusually interesting hit ‘save page as’. Choose the folder you’ve set aside for this purpose. A box comes up with a great button over to the right called ‘create new folder’. My main 2010 internet ‘research’ folder currently has 154 folders and 1395 files.

These sub-folders offer a fascinating historical map of your interests over time, and a generally comfortable feeling. I use them a surprising amount, and don’t have trouble finding what I want even years later. But mainly it’s there just in case. It takes me a day, week, month, or year for my mind to process the level of interest or need I have for these articles & posts.

I’m only waiting for Google Documents to allow me to save folders rather than just files on their cloud.

3 nyongesa April 28, 2010 at 7:59 am

Is this a joke Tyler, for you are positively complicit in sapping my time, daily, and sometimes quite frivolously, as your more whimsical links can leave me fuming at the bottom of the comments section of some blog arguing with clearly paranoid people….and the timing of this post…I mean waiting 30 days to read about the Goldman hearings, or Republican filibuster threat of one of the most important legislation of our time, or Gasp!, GREECE… It is a joke right!!!!

4 Matt April 28, 2010 at 8:08 am

If he’s using Google Reader, he should just use the “starred items” feature. You can also use it to save an article to read later, and avoid reading crap

5 DumbAgent April 28, 2010 at 8:41 am

I’m also too much of a neatfreak to keep all those tabs open. I haven’t tried the starred option for Reader yet though. I’m just afraid I’ll end up with 100+ starred articles and no idea where to begin.

Of course I could put them in my bookmarks tab, on evernote, save as HTMLS on my desktop (too much clutter with that one) or any other variety of options. TC should conduct a study as to which works best.

6 kidnebraska April 28, 2010 at 9:28 am

Evidently Scott doesn’t believe in free disposal—it’s called “mark all as read”.

7 JC April 28, 2010 at 10:46 am

Here is my system:

1) Review Google Reader on my Iphone and “Star” the articles I want to review later. For some reason, I have the abilty to go through Reader on the Iphone then on the computer.

2) Periodically (usually once a day for me), open the tabs of the Starred articles. If the website takes less then a few minutes to consume, I consume right there and close the tab. If it takes more then a few minutes, I send it to Instapaper. Note: sometimes there are sites (mostly videos or interactive sites) where Instapaper is suboptimal, I put the tab in to a seperate folder to review later.

3) Once a week (usually on weekends), I go through Instapaper articles or my seperate folder to review the longer sites.

Though process wise this seems cumbersomes, I find this to work well in rationalizing articles and make sure I don’t miss much in terms of sites that interest me.

8 Aaron April 28, 2010 at 11:51 am

Seconding Read it Later. I always throw stuff I don’t have time to read in there and come back to it when I have free time – over lunch or while watching TV at home or what have you. It also has a nice bit of javascript for Google Reader so you can automatically add interesting items to the queue.

Lastly, make sure your feeds are well organized into the critical vs. the cruft. Merlin Mann feels your pain over at the now-infrequently-updated

Anyway…back to work…

9 Chris T April 28, 2010 at 12:00 pm

One of the problems with ADHD, the internet is like crack.

10 Robert Nagle April 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I’ve been using my ipad for my RSS reading (with NewsRack) instead of my PC or laptop. By the way, I like to separate my RSS categories into long reads and short reads. Marginal Revolution is trickier because it is a lot of short reads linking to longer stuff (plus the fact that it has a fair number of good comments).

11 JLK1 April 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I tend to let my reader fill up, then I plow through feeds in batches, mostly skimming and skipping a decent number of posts.

Generally the RSS reader is an effective way to avoid doing actual work. Google Reader is not about reading blogs?

12 luke April 28, 2010 at 10:56 pm

why is leveraging for a home better than renting and leveraging in stocks?

stocks are less risky in the long is taken to mean that over ten year spans the s&p has lost money. is this correct?

13 r4 nintendo ds April 29, 2010 at 1:42 am

You can use ‘starred items’ if you are using Google reader in which you can save the article for reading it later.Also you can use of RSS reader.

14 Tristan Hambling April 29, 2010 at 3:31 am

This is how i do it. I use a double approach.

First i tear through 400+ feeds reading headlines only. eg.. in last 30 days you read 66,044 items, shared 1,169 items…. (which reduces the volume down by about 60to1 cull).

Then take the rss of the above shared items and feeding it into a 2nd reader account(+ also outing to ff/twitter ( & blog once a day (

At which point i then actually read articles and output again only those real highlights about 8-10 articles per day, to my main real account.

15 Larry April 29, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Amazon wish lists serve this time-shifting/filtering purpose for my book-buying impulse.

16 Johan May 5, 2010 at 10:03 am

Users of Read it Later should try our the premium version called Digest:

It automatically sorts articles in categories. Freakin awesome imho

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