Aggregated Diminishing Returns and a Feed Diet

    March 16, 2006

It’s easy to get sucked into things. You can sit down with a good book for a few minutes and before you know it, several hours and a few hundred pages have gone by.

It happens to all of us now and then.

My allocation of time spent reading RSS feeds and various blog or social web sites (Digg, Reddit, TailRank, Memeorandum, has always been a bit slippery. I’d simply read until I was done reading. I had to make sure all those folders and feeds were un-bolded before I was “done.” And every once in a while, the periodic update would run before I finished, and I’d end up with even more work to do. The horror!

I spent some time thinking hard about that use of my time yesterday and realized that it’s a classic example of diminishing returns. Since I almost always read that stuff in my own “priority order” I get the most bang for my time in the first 15 minutes or so. Beyond that, I’m panning for gold and it feels like the supply is dwindling. Another 10 minutes spent reading about the latest Dave Winer drama is hardly a good use of my time.

I remember reading about Robert Scoble’s reading habits a while ago. He’d spend 3-5 hours every day reading his 1,500+ feeds, also panning for gold. That seemed insane to me then (and still does). But I’ve been doing the same thing, albeit in a less extreme way.

So it’s time to change my habits–or at least form new ones. For the next two weeks I’m allocating 30 minutes per day to this reading, trolling, and mining effort. There’s no pre-set limit on how much time I’ll spend writing. The returns associated with writing appear to be quite different.

What will I do with that extra time?

I’ll spend the “work” time coding a new idea and battling the inbox. I’ll spend the “home” time studying for my upcoming FAA written test.

Someday someone will pull all this ranking, customization, personalization, recommendation, and other magic technology together and give me a great reason to throw out my RSS Aggregator once at for all. Until then, I’m going on a Feed Diet.

Jeremy Zawodny is the author of the popular Jeremy Zawodny’s blog. Jeremy is part of the Yahoo search team and frequently posts in the Yahoo! Search blog as well.

Visit Jeremy’s blog: Jeremy Zawodny’s blog.