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How I read the web

I’m currently interested in how to spend less time on social media platforms so as to be less exposed to ads, algorithms and general ill-effects. One approach I’m trialling is going back to the old school and using RSS to receive and aggregate updates from the people I follow, allowing me to read them in a central, noise-free place and not have to use social platform websites and apps.

I use the free, open source Mac and iOS app NetNewsWire on my MacBook. This is where I tend to add and organise my RSS feeds as it has a good UI, for example for arranging feeds into suitable folders.

If I want to read new items away from my Mac (on my phone, or on another computer), I use Feedbin – either the website or the iOS app. NewsNetWire and Feedbin sync pretty seemlessly so any organisation I’ve done in NetNewsWire is visible in Feedbin.

Feedbin is paid (I currently pay 5 USD per month). It has a slick UI and, since it’s a website accessible from anywhere, could be treated as your “central hub” for reading.

Feedbin also offers a few very interesting features.

  • You can use it to subscribe to email newsletters, because it provides you with an email address for that purpose. This means you can have your newsletters arrive into the same central place as your RSS feeds;
  • You can subscribe to Twitter accounts, and choose to filter tweets by only those with links or media attached (in theory the “more interesting” tweets);
  • there’s a “Send to Feedbin” bookmarklet that essentially provides a one-click “Read later” function for use when browsing the web. This is a really handy feature because sometimes when I’m browsing I want to mark an article as “read later” rather than bookmarking it on my website, because until I’ve read it I won’t know if it’s bookmark-worthy. Having this feature destresses online life a little by stopping me leaving lots of browser tabs open at articles I “need to read”! I previously used Instapaper (and their bookmarklet) for this function, but again, it makes sense for me to bring everything into one place (Feedbin);
  • You can “star” (i.e. save) items you’ve read but want to revisit, which is handy when browsing your “Unread” list on the move; and
  • You can “share” items to well-known services (Twitter, Facebook etc) but interestingly also to a “custom service” by providing a URL. I could see me using this in future to bookmark an article on my own website.

I’m also currently trialling RSS.app for its ability to let me type in an Instagram user profile URL then give me back an RSS feed URL which I can add into Feedbin, and that’s working well so far, too.

Note: many thanks to Chris Coyier whose post NetNewsWire and Feedbin pointed me toward these excellent RSS clients.

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