Group Interview: What’s in Your Newsfeed Reader?

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The era of computers and digital technologies made information overload a common issue. According to statistics, today it takes a day to generate the amount of information that fifty years ago would have taken a year to be produced.

The problem of handling information flow is especially urgent for those working in the field of the Web and media. Here the pressure is probably the heaviest and it takes a lot of effort and savvy to be well-informed rather than overwhelmed by information.

So is it possible to turn an impetuous stream of information to a quiet yet refreshing channel? To find it out we interviewed 20 respected and successful designers, developers, writers and speakers working in the field of the Web construction. If you were ever curious to know what industry professionals prefer to read on a daily basis, what resources they read longest of all and how they organize their information flow, you can find the answers in this post.

Moreover, the interview comes with a nice bonus — we asked the designers to share their RSS feed files, which you can download and import into your RSS reader. With this you may get to know what the design community read and compile your own comprehensive list of useful resources.

Below you can see the list of participants. We thank all of them for finding time to make a contribution into this interview.

1. What RSS reader do you use? Are there any other tools you use to grab news feeds (Twitter, Facebook etc)?

Chris Spooner: I’ve always been a Google Reader user for my RSS collection, although my use of it has drastically declined over the past year or so. It has now become a ‘once every couple of months’ job rather than the daily check it used to be. The RSS reader has definitely been replaced by Twitter, and in some cases Facebook. I also enjoy the general news roundup posts published on a handful of design blogs. These are great for picking out the best topics from the past week or month.

Nick La: I don’t use RSS reader. I spend most of my time online, so I’m pretty up-to-date to the blogs that I follow.

Brad Colbow: I use Google reader primarily for feeds, I find myself just skimming it for content instead of actually reading from it on a regular basis anymore. I stay up to date by seeing what my friends on Twitter are linking to.

A friend introduced me to a service called Instapaper24 and as I come across good blog posts during the day I use a bookmarklet to save the articles to Instapaper to read later. Most evenings I read trough the stories I saved up over the coarse of the day on my iPad using their app.

Another fantastic iPad app is Flipboard25. It pulls in your Twitter or Facebook feed and creates a magazine around the content your followers link to. Since I started using that I haven’t been saving articles to Instapaper as much.

Speider Schneider: My articles on Smashing take up part of my time. Responding to comments takes a little more time. Stumbling from repost link to repost link to see where my work appears takes a little more time. Within that I get to see some great blogs. I’m disappointed to say I see more that have a title and are nothing but RSS feeds from Smashing and other sources. If I get bored, I go to StumbleUpon and just keep clicking.

My connections on Facebook also supply a great deal of links to interesting material and sources.

With the exception of Smashing, which was a regular stop for me even before I joined the team, I can’t say I was impressed with any source, really. I’m actually saddened by some of the standard design community publications that have slipped so far down the evolutionary scale, I expect to see globs of primordial ooze trailing them. It speaks of a bigger problem with the content itself. Many sources that create original content, just seem to be heavy-handed with not wanting to offend anyone and so everything gets watered down. I can’t imagine one of those sites using my “Creative vs. The Marketing Team” article…or them enjoying the 900,000 reposts it had within the first 24 hours. Who dares wins!

Jacob Gube: I use Google Reader as my RSS feed reader. To keep up with social network feeds such as Twitter and Facebook, I use Hootsuite.

I don’t use any other tool, however, I want to share a cool feature that Google Reader has that I rely on to find more RSS feeds to subscribe to — and it’s the “More like this…” feature. When you hover over an RSS feed and click on the downward-pointing arrow, it shows you a contextual menu where you’ll find this option. Using this feature allows you to discover some feeds you might also like based on your existing feeds.

Jacob Cass: I used to use Google Reader however I haven’t used a RSS reader for about a year now… I use Twitter for my source of news.

Paul Boag: Google Reader is my RSS reader of choice. However, I rarely use the web app itself. Instead I use a number of tools that integrate with it. In particular I love Reeder for the iPhone and iPad as these are the platforms I consume most of my RSS on.I also love Google Reader because it works well with third party services like Delicious and Instapaper.

Finally I also use an iPad app called FlipBoard that pulls in links from both Twitter and Facebook and presents them in a magazine format. This is an ideal way of consuming additional information not in my feeds.

Stuart Thursby: I use Gruml (Mac) which is linked to my Google Reader account. Google Reader has an absolutely horrendous interface to my eyes, but I like its cloud-based strength since I use multiple computers. So, on each of my computers (work + home) I have Gruml to provide the pleasant viewing experience of my Google Reader feeds.
We all use Twitter and Facebook on occasion, that goes without saying!

Lee Munroe: I use NetNewsWire for the Mac. I’ll generally keep it ticking over in the background but have to admit I only ever get around to checking it maybe twice a week now, so there’s usually a couple hundred articles to scan through.I also keep an eye on Twitter. Usually the better articles will make some noise and stand out from the crowd.

Shay Howe: My RSS reader of choice is Google Reader. Admittedly, it is nothing breathtaking but for me it works really well. I use Google apps a fair amount and Google Reader fits right in with the rest of them. I also like being able to use the same RSS reader on my computer as well as on my phone.

Sneh Roy: Twitter is my number one tool for sourcing interesting design links and articles. It is current, real time, highly customized and genuine with the ability to connect to the person sharing the news. I am barely subscribed to any news feeds, because I really like to search, source and read on the go on a daily basis depending on what my current state of design mode is. I do use Google Reader and RSS Owl intermittently as well.

Grace Smith: I use Google Reader as an SSB using Fluid, as it’s cloud based and means I can browse through my subscriptions from anywhere. However over the past few months I’ve increasingly been using Twitter as my main source of links, news and resources.

Piervincenzo Madeo: Google Reader, absolutely. Maybe it’s just a habit, but I can’t live without it. News from the world, sport news and, obviously, tech updates and web design and developement related articles. Moreover, I use an app for my HTC Android-based phone to read my RSS feed from Google Reader.

Francisco Inchauste: I don’t actually read anything specific online or in print on a daily basis. I’ve found out that so many of the resources are regurgitating the same content. I’ve found my time is better spent getting experience working or doing research and writing for my own blog. In reality Twitter has become my RSS reader. I also use Yammer at work where colleagues share a lot of good information. I think this keeps me fresh, rather than thinking too closely to the rest of the design world.

Inayaili de Leon: I use Google Reader. I also use Tumblr a lot, and read the odd links that friends post on Twitter.

Jerome Gravel-Niquet: I use Google Reader for pretty much all my information acquisition. I still visit some sites that present information in a way better viewed with their interface (such as Forrst, Dribbble and HackerNews). I barely use Facebook at all so I don’t use any tool for it. As for Twitter, I use it a lot. For my personal Twitter account I use my own app (Ostrich), but for @ostrichapp I need something much more powerful to stay aware of what’s being told about my brand and get engaged in conversations with those people. I use monkeyFly26 to modify twitter.com27 to look something like that: http://cl.ly/20KL28

Paul Neave: I no longer read RSS feeds, but when I do I use the reader that comes with Mac Mail. I mostly use Twitter now as it has supplanted the need for RSS in most cases as it’s much more vibrant, immediate and social than RSS.

Kat Neville: I use Google Reader. I click through from a few links on Twitter too, but I don’t spend more than 30 min a day reading blogs. I used to spend a lot longer, but then I found I was reading about other people doing cool stuff instead of doing that myself!

Relly Annet-Baker: Google Reader, or Reeder on my iPhone. I grab a lot of feeds from Twitter too, using Flipboard for the iPad.

2. What blogs and news resources do you follow longest of all? Any sites you became disappointed with and excluded from the update list?

Jan Cavan: For design news I have Smashing Magazine, Spoon Graphics Blog, Six Revisions, etc. on my reader. I also have news sites like The New York Times and Yahoo! News and a few celebrity news sites like TMZ, lol.

Chris Spooner: I have stacks of design blogs in my feed reader that I’ve been following since 2006-2007. Many of them have been since the sites first started, or at least during their early days. These include the big name sites of Smashing Magazine, Abduzeedo and PSDTuts. The only sites I can remember removing from my feed lists were those that have been sold, stopped updating or faded out in some way.

Nick La: Smashing Magazine and Techcrunch. I used to be a big fan of CSS Beauty as well. It is disappointing that they haven’t been updated for a while.

Brad Colbow: I started using RSS to keep up with my friends blogs, I’ve been reading those for years. I’ve unsubscribed from a lot of blogs that have really long posts or have long inspiration list posts. I don’t mind seeing long posts or inspiration lists on the web, I just don’t want to skim through them in my RSS reader.

Speider Schneider: I’ve always been a fan of tips and tricks for Adobe programs. I can’t say there’s one source I love as there are so many.

Returning to my disappointment rant, Great sources lose their…”UMPH!”, usually when the editor-in-chief leaves. I’ve seen too many come and go. Smashing, for one, is trying different approaches, hence, my opinionated rants and the showcases and other articles you’ll only find on other blogs that receive the Smashing RSS feed.

I wonder what has caused so many great publications of the past to fall on such…boredom? HOW magazine online became a boring, crap navigation pile of misinformation and superior attitude based on past success…very past. I only check back there when I need a laugh or to induce vomiting. Other blogs, even some terrific minor ones just get abandoned one day. I mourn them and forget which menu holds the link.

Jacob Gube: There’s too many to mention, off the top of my head: Smashing Magazine, Coding Horror, and Ajaxian. I’m sort of disappointed with Ajaxian, since it used to be regularly updated and I relied on them for JS, Ajax, and front-end dev news. Now, since the original founders stepped down from editorial duties, they don’t seem to publish as much stuff. I’d say, with Dzone and Hacker News picking up the slack, Ajaxian may soon be excluded from my RSS feed, unfortunately.

Jacob Cass: I use the Twitter Lists function to follow different topics and streams of information. For this reason, I can be selective on what I read/look at.

Paul Boag: I have always followed Zeldman.com and Alistapart. Sitepoint is another long standing feed. However, beyond that, feeds have come and gone over the years.

One feed I have dumped is Techcrunch. I really have no time for that blog anymore. I find the whole thing very ‘valley’ centric and Mike Arrington’s ego gets in the way of any serious journalism.

Stuart Thursby: The blogs I prefer forego the roundups and link-baiting that’s endemic throughout the online design community in favour of in-depth analysis or the presentation of high-quality, unique creative work. Blogs like the Under Consideration network, Design Observer, Grids, Graphic-ExchanGE, ISO50, Lovely Package & The Dieline, the Design Cubicle, Drawar, Dave Trott’s Blog, Retinart, Creative Review and others are on the top of my list. I do follow some of the more “mainstream” blogs such as Smashing and Abduzeedo, but not many.

Lee Munroe: A List Apart and Smashing Magazine have always been on my list. Generally good quality posts come from these guys (even the list posts from SM ;-) )

I stay subscribed to Mashable and TechCrunch as they usually break the big tech news first although I only find maybe 5% of their posts relevant or interesting to me.

Can’t think of any I’ve removed from the list recently, apart from those blogs that have become inactive.

Shay Howe: I have been reading A List Apart for what seems like an eternity, which is great. Their content always stays fresh and relevant. For inspiration I have been browsing Surfstation for a few years now. Not all of their post are directly related to web design but the outside prospective can spark some great creativity. Another one of the long standing blogs I continually read is the 37 Signals blog Signal vs. Noise. Their work ethic and insights have proven to be really helpful and always provide a good quick read.

As for any blogs I have become disappointed with I can not pin point anyone in particular. What I became disappointed with and try to leave off my RSS feeds are all of the blogs who publish post every day including list and gallery post. I completely understand a good list or gallery post from time to time as they do have their place. However, when all you do is roll out these post with the hopes of just obtaining traffic to sell advertising I become disappointed. I prefer to spend my time reading well-thought-out and insightful articles.

Sneh Roy: I follow Drawar, Mashable,Vector Tuts Plus, Smashing Magazine, Spyre Studios, Tech Crunch, Six Revisions and A List Apart and have been following for a while.

Grace Smith: I’ve been reading A List Apart probably the longest, although I remember reading Design Is Kinky even back when I was at University. I try to prune my RSS subscriptions every few months and remove feeds which either no longer interest me or those which aren’t updated on a regular basis. Though I wouldn’t want to single out any particular sites.

Piervincenzo Madeo: Well, I started to follow design community about two years ago and the first blog/magazine was Smashing Magazine; currently it is still on my update list. If I have to think a ‘top 5′ I’d say: Smashing Magazine, A List Apart, Nettuts+, Psdtuts+ and UX Magazine.

Sites I became disappointed with? They aren’t so many, but I’d like not to spell their names, maybe the reasons for my removing them from my list are more interesting:

  • too many list articles (in my opinion lists are useful and easy to read, but they must have a sense);
  • degradation of the quality;
  • change of the main topics;
  • strange promises, such as “How to became a WP theme developers in one day” or “How to build your custom online store in one minute;” I don’t say it’s impossible… I just want to say that it doesn’t sound professional for those who are looking for quality information;
  • that blog is dead;
  • too many articles per day;
  • one article in the last two months.

Dammit! I’ve just made a list…

Francisco Inchauste: There are a few good blogs that I try to visit like Retinart29, 816430, and Drawar31 that have good thinking and discussion on there. I used to follow other sites regularly, but most of them have faded out of existence. I think that due to the massive amount of content out there people are more apt to search for the most popular articles, just to keep up with what others are talking about.

Inayaili de Leon: I can’t remember honestly. I’ve been following Brand New for a while; I gave up on Ad Age, Boing Boing and Kottke a few years ago — I had a hard time keeping up, that was the main reason. I keep adding, deleting and then going back to adding feeds all the time…

Jerome Gravel-Niquet: I’ve been following A List Apart for years now, it’s probably one of the oldest out there still publishing quality articles. I have over 150 feeds in my reader, sometimes I clean it up by removing the stale ones that don’t post anymore. Sometimes when the author of a blog changes his usual subjects to something else that don’t interest me at all, I do get disappointed and remove it from my Reader without a second look. Purging old feeds and bad information is crucial to reading your news efficiently.

Paul Neave: I read the tech blog sites like TechCrunch, Engadget and Mashable. BBC News is my longest running news source. Daring Fireball is good for Apple-related news, if you can stand John Gruber’s obnoxious tone! But again, Twitter is probably my main source of news.

Kat Neville: I used to follow a lot of blogs, but my favourites now are Seth Godin, Signal vs Noise, 52 Weeks of UX, Smashing Magazine, Think Vitamin, Badass of the Week, and Ultimate Goat Fansite.

Relly Annet-Baker: I actually read mostly gaming sites (or crafting sites) or friends blogs, so 1up, Kotaku, the Escapist for news. I love Wonderlandblog too. I cull blogs from my Reader quite often. Sometimes I’ll read design sponge or retro to go for a bit, for inspiration, and then when I’m done I’ll take them off again. I also read blogs where the writing is really fabulous no matter the subject – being a writer, I find this feeds my brain.

3. They say, print media is dead. What about you, do you read any offline newspapers/magazines?

Jan Cavan: I don’t think so. It’s certainly become a less popular medium than it was before but I don’t think it’s dead per se. I still read a newspaper every morning and I still read magazines too.

Chris Spooner: I don’t tend to do much offline reading at all. I don’t bother with newspapers and canceled magazine subscriptions I had last year simply because the issues were taking up too much space. Nowadays I’ll still read the odd magazine, but it tends to be when I’m jetting off on holiday or going on a trip away from home.

Nick La: I don’t think print media is dead. I believe the people who say print media is dead are still using print media.

Brad Colbow: They said the same thing about radio when television became popular in the 1950s. I still subscribe to my local newspaper though it’s been a while since I’ve subscribed to a traditional print magazine. I find myself reading a lot of magazines on the iPad, partly for work but I also really enjoy the content. I’m more interested in good writing and storytelling than the medium it’s delivered in.

Speider Schneider: If print media isn’t dead, it just has one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel. Technology has removed the need for paper on most publications.

A teacher of mine said there would always be print because people like to take books and magazines on the train or plane or read in bed. Well, obviously his students deserve our money back! The small readers give us a new digital world at our constant sides. Why use paper? Billboards are more effective for change and auto accidents with the new digital boards. Books are easily carried anywhere. Newspapers and magazines have created unbelievable UI to their sites. Print can’t keep up. Soon there will be too many damn trees clogging up the place.

Jacob Gube: I like print because nothing beats the feel of paper. Print layouts are also more visually appealing and unique to me. I don’t think print is dead; it’s just not as dominant as it was before the surge in popularity of web-based content. Magazines I read offline: Time, Wired, .NET, Computer Arts, Layers, BusinessWeek, to name a few.

Jacob Cass: Only books though I was subscribed to Computer Arts mag for several years, however, once my subscription finished I didn’t renew, simply as I didn’t have enough time to devour them any more.

Paul Boag: I don’t I am afraid. To me print is really dead. In fact even my books I now consume either on the Kindle app or as audiobooks.

Stuart Thursby: Well, I work at Applied Arts, which for those who aren’t familiar with it, is Canada’s national magazine devoted to the creative community, similar to Communication Arts or Creative Review. So I’m a bit biased.

I firmly believe in the power of print to provide a deeper impact than anything the web can hope to produce. Each media has its strengths, and when I’m looking for more rapid-fire flashes of inspiration or thought or news, there’s no better place than the web. But when I’m designing something, I turn to my ever-growing collection of books, magazines and annuals first before supplementing it with things I’ve saved from the web into various “inspiration” folders.

Lee Munroe: I still read .NET magazine, there are usually a few good articles in there. And I recently purchased Mr Stock’s new magazine 8 Faces which looks great. That would be it, magazine wise, although I still buy books and find myself with a bookshelf of about 20 unread books.

Shay Howe: Magazine and newspaper sales are down, no doubt about that. To say that print is dead is taking it too far. Some print publications are thriving. A few examples from our industry being the new A Book Apart series as well as Elliot Jay Stocks new magazine 8 Faces. I personally read quite a few books, most recently HTML5 for Web Designers, and also have a subscription to .Net magazine.

Sneh Roy: Au Contraire, I actually think there is a huge print media market out there that online fanatics totally miss. I read IDN Magazine32 religiously along with Computer Arts Projects33. I am also a fan of Desktop Magazine34. I believe “online” is great but doesn’t compare to the charm of a printed product that you can experience on more than one two sensory levels. As a medium, it is absolute because when you are looking at a design book, compendium or magazine; the experience is grounding. You are not distracted by the 20 other “Windows/Tabs/Screens” open and drawing you away from looking at the design closely. Having said that, I read all my news online.

Grace Smith: I don’t think print media is dead at all, it’s just been forced to adapt, as peoples’ reading habits have changed over recent years. Offline I read The Independent newspaper and .Net and Computer Arts magazines.

Piervincenzo Madeo: Yes, of course, sure, absolutely… I love printed magazines, printed newspapers, printed books, printed blogs… doh! Ok, maybe printed blog no, but I suppose you understand that, in my opinion, life is not only digital. I need to touch things, so print media is still working in my little world.

Francisco Inchauste: I don’t think print media is dead, it’s just evolving. These so-called old media sources are where we still get a majority of the information that we share on blogs and Twitter (Transparency: Where the Stuff on the Internet Comes From35). As for print, I read Wired on occasion.

Inayaili de Leon: Not many. I buy the odd fashion magazine; I’ll buy Wired if I’m particularly interested in the cover piece. Living in London, I get free newspapers and magazines everyday, and some of them are quite good.

Jerome Gravel-Niquet: They are indeed dead to me. I remember when I was something like 13 years old, I would sometime read a magazine about computers. Those times are long gone now. Having quality news delivered right to you is awesome. I do read paper books often, it’s less of an eye strain and sometimes holding a physical object (when it’s well made) is a great experience.

Paul Neave: I read most of my news online, like BBC News and Guardian, but I still prefer paper books for learning and generally reading more than a few paragraphs. I think the main problem with print is its relevance. Newspapers can’t compete with the immediacy of the web, where news is constantly updated. But print is still good for opinion and other type of content that is not news.

Kat Neville: Probably. I used to read lots of magazines, but I’d always feel guilty as I would read them once and never again. Sometimes I read The Guardian (in print), but besides that I’m an online girl..

Relly Annet-Baker: I read magazines not yet available digitally – but if there is a version for my iPad, I’ll read it there by preference. I don’t think print is dead by any means. People will always value and treasure books and vinyl records and maps. But for me to buy a physical copy of anything now with the intention of keeping it, it needs to be a special edition of some sort. My personal exception to this is video games – but then I can trade those in for others.

4. Could you take a challenge and share your RSS feed file with our readers?

Nick La: Here is the list of sites that I usually go to:

Brad Colbow:

Download file40

Speider Schneider: I don’t have one. Does that make me a digital rebel?

Jacob Gube: It would be too huge to share. So as an alternative, I compiled an OPML file with five random feeds I grabbed from a folder I call “A”– which contains about 20 RSS feeds that I read every day. I have my RSS feed reader organized into folders that would only make sense to me.

Just to give you an idea of how big my RSS feed collection is, I have 1000+ unread items, and I just checked everything about 10 hours ago. Mind you, I recently reset my RSS feed collection too!

Download file41

Jacob Cass: You can get my Twitter lists here: http://twitter.com/justcreative/lists42

Paul Boag: Of course. See attached.

Download file43

Lee Munroe: Attached. I’m sure there are lots of feeds I ‘should’ be subscribed to, but this keeps me busy enough :-)

Download file44

Shay Howe: Of course! Please let me know all of the good blogs I am missing out on.

Download file45

Sneh Roy: Sorry about this one. The one I have is probably from many months ago and not at all updated as I don’t really use my readers.

D96335287ff55cbbfda8cc087058482b in Behind The Scenes of Smashing Magazine: Interview With Our Writers

Grace Smith: Sure :)

Download file46

Piervincenzo Madeo: Sure. It’s clear that I’ve subscribed some italian RSS, but I’ll share only international RSS for you.

Download file47

Inayaili de Leon: I’m not sending over the opml file since my RSS is filled with things like travel deal feeds, events updates, clients blogs, etc., that are relevant at all — very boring stuff no-one wants to see :(

Jerome Gravel-Niquet: For sure. I’ve done it in the past, though I’ll have to make a few separate OPML or some people will hate me for adding 150 feeds to their feed reader.

Relly Annet-Baker: I actually think this would be a bit like sharing what would be in my diary! You might learn a little too much about me – and a little too much about my obsession for pretty paper and stickers! Rather than that, here are some sites worth reading for the writing:

Further Resources

What do YOU read?

Please share with us what online and offline resources you read on a daily basis. What tools do you use to manage your daily info stream? Join in the talk in comments!

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Julia May is a freelance writer now working with FlashMint, the top-class provider of Flash templates.

  1. 1

    Nice! This is awesome to find out from the fave designers, thanks for sharing!

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