If you use RSS for anything then you probably know that Google terminated Google Reader yesterday. They tend to do this to services they no longer value (regardless of how much we value them). Google Reader dominated the RSS reader services for a number of years. Their service was so good that they crushed the competition. Heck, it's the only Google service that still use. But, the demise of Google Reader seems like it's both a good thing and a bad thing. It's good because it will allow for competition in this technology space. It's bad because all of us who were dependent on it for gathering news from around the internet must make some decisions. We either abandon the use of RSS altogether (which I'm sure some people will do), or we find an alternative. I've been looking for an alternative.
The reason why I'm not willing to abandon a good RSS service is because of what Google Reader provided me. I'm not keen on allowing any medium or technology consume too much of my time. I've seen the result and I don't like it. Forms of media like newspapers, radio, and television already consume too much time as it is. If you add the internet to your daily routine then it's easy to simply become a consumer of information with no time for actual meaningful work or contemplation. You can easily become a drain drinking in raw data that spirals down into the emptiness of a cluttered soul. Google Reader has always helped me avoid this relationship damaging phenomenon. Instead of spending time seeking out information on the web the information from sites I find important are served to me as they are posted. I can then enjoy them according to my own time schedule. I have a simple workflow to help manage the information I receive:
- I subscribe to a site's RSS feed thought Google Reader.
- Google Reader syncs these feeds to all my devices.
- I curate these feeds using Reeder passing interesting items to Instapaper.
- I then read them at a convenient time in Instapaper or with ReadQuick.
This simple workflow has allowed me to consume a lot of important information without spending a lot of time online. Instead of going out to the internet, I make the internet come to me. This method of consuming information from online sources has been very efficient. It allows me to spend very little time scanning websites. There's no getting lost down dark rabbit holes constructed of hyperlinks. In real world terms, I spend less time consuming information with this workflow than the average newspaper reader and the information I'm able to consume is broader and more up to date. This allows me more time for study, prayer, and actual human relationships. In fact, this manner of consuming information contributes to the richness of each of these more primary human activities. I can contemplate current events, bring them and the needs of those involved before God in prayers, and share this information and its significance with others. Not having this process would actually impoverish my contemplative life at this point.
However, the foundation of this process has been Google Reader.
I've spent the last month investigating alternatives to Google Reader's service. Fortunately, an acquaintance of mine, Josh Centers has written an exhaustive article at TidBITS on the different options currently available. If you've been wondering what to do now that Google Reader is dead this article is a great place to start.
The alternative to Google Reader that I've chose to use is Feed Wrangler. I think that it will best serve my purposes in the long run. I'm currently unsatisfied with the iOS applications. However, I know that they are in their infancy. Also, if they don't get better my favorite RSS reader Reeder has promised to soon add it as a supported service.
This transition from one RSS syncing service to another has caused me to think a lot about my own use of technology and the internet. I continue to be convinced that the life of holiness can be attained in the midst of technological immersion. However, it is essential that we take the time to discover applications and workflows that allow us to govern the internet instead of being governed by it. It's so easy to let this happen! Yet, through trail and error I feel that I've found a good balance in my online life.
Now, if there was only an app or workflow to get my offline life in order ...