πŸ“‘ The Green Fire Hose

Last week I deleted my RSS-reader account. For a good dozen years, RSS has been my main news source online. From Google Reader, to The Old Reader, to FeedBin, to Inoreader (and a lost attempt at trying to understand what the hell Feedly was trying to do somewhere in-between), it's been a bit of a nomadic trip in the last few years. In the end, I still got rid of it.

It's not the news itself that proved to be the problem, although it certainly played its part. In the early days of Google Reader, it proved to be the best way to keep track of dozens of blogs coherently. The main news sites had 'well-known' news bites, while the blogs tended to dive underneath the current and dig up these new and novel pearls of wisdom, joy, and strangeness.

In short, a feed-reader gave you a Facebook-wall, without the negatives. Google Reader did have a share function and this made exchanging new blogs and titbits from outside of your direct circle a lot more fun. I wasn't searching for the stuff I already knew or already aligned with; I was searching for the other side.

Then came the algorithms and everything turned bland.

The Machine

Facebook and Twitter arguably took over the function of feed-reader and I know some people that actively used both as such. In a way it was great. But the main issue was that articles didn't just need to be interesting any more; they needed to 'scale' as well. Every article had to attract eyeballs, as more eyeballs meant more page views, meant more advertisements, meant more money.

There's nothing wrong with trying to earn some money, but visiting a random site these days from any type of links, usually spells out interstitial advertisement, auto-play video, newsletter subscribe-takeover, in-between advertisements, in-between article-advertisements, and - finally - auto-scrolling into a new article before you even reach the end of the article. Somewhere in there, stuck like strands of toffee in the cogs of a giant money-making machine, are the words you were actually kind-of promised. With a bit of luck, they reach a total of three two-sentence paragraphs and don't debunk their own headline instantly. And let's not look at the back-end of the machine, where all kinds of spying tools try to discern what you are doing on this site, on the your device, with your life.

It usually doesn't even matter if you've paid for it or not. Though the machine tends to look a bit prettier if you did.

Custom feed

So a feed-reader, on the surface, still looks like a good idea. Remove the cruft, just get the words. But fewer and fewer feeds are adding their articles wholesale, requiring a 'risky click' back to the machine.

Worse, in the battle for eyeballs, everybody just starts to write the same stuff. What is mentioned on one site or blog, echoes and reverberates into the next. Sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes a week, sometimes mere minutes.

With everyone so openly vying for your eyeballs, it does get rather crazy and similar at the same time, and my feeds started to reflect that. Blogs with great articles suddenly squeezed an advertorial into the feed. Some feeds added advertisements into the feed's article, making it unclear whether or not these were illustrations or not.

In the end, the feed-reader became a sort of self-picked advertisement fire hose. Maybe it was green, instead of red. Yet, it still had the same urgency and attention demands of yet another inbox. There's a number of unread articles in there. You can see the list. Gotta read them all.

Bookmarking like an animal

The endgame of this is me crawling back to the bookmarks functionality of my browser like it's the early noughts. Visiting some often, others not, sometimes being surprised there are that many articles created in week, sometimes adding yet another rule to uBlock Origin, mostly using the reader view of Firefox.

It's been a good dozen years, but there are simply too many advertisements and too many inboxes to build your own custom one to be enslaved to.

I need to actively pull the information, not aim the fire hose directly at my eyes and flip the lever, just because I made it look green instead of red.

There will probably be a culling of bookmarks somewhere down the line.