Marco Arment on RSS: You’re Doing it Wrong

marco arment lotus Marco Arment on RSS: Youre Doing it Wrong

Deep breaths now.

Instapaper creator Marco Arment has some very strong opinions on how people should consume the internet. Putting a bunch of high volume feeds into your RSS reader, for instance, is a rookie mistake that Mr. Arment considers downright destructive, although he admits, “Abuse is probably a more accurate term, then, but it sounds ridiculous to call such a trivial, first-world problem ‘RSS abuse.'”

The real purpose of RSS, writes Mr. Arment in a special Labor Day post called Sane RSS Usage, is to capture the rare but high-quality posts that come from sites which are infrequently updated. To follow breaking news you are better off just visiting the actual sites or relying on your social network.

I currently subscribe to 100 feeds. This morning, I woke up to 6 unread items: one each from 6 of my feeds. Granted, it’s a Sunday on a holiday weekend, so this is a pretty low-activity day. On high-activity days, I usually wake up to about 25 items.

I don’t use an RSS app on the desktop anymore: I just use the Google Reader site. I can check it whenever I want, but nothing’s in my Dock collecting red badges to distract me every few minutes.2

This setup works well. I can follow tons of low-traffic sites and keep my reading list more diverse than if I relied only on social links, but other people ensure that I never miss anything great on the high-volume sites.

Betabeat wonders what Mr. Arment would think of our Instapaper behavior, which typically involves saving dozens of long, fascinating articles each day to read, only to find we have time for maybe one or two. The next day another dozen articles push the first batch far enough down the list that we never see them again, and it’s anyone’s guess how many stories we’ll actually read from that second batch of saves. No doubt he would tell us, seated in the lotus pose, Macbook emitting a Zen-like hum, that it’s not what you Instapaper, but how you Instapaper, that counts.