Hi, my name’s Gregg, and I’m a Google Reader addict

How do I know I have a problem?

When I opened Google Reader this evening, it said that “Since October 15, 2009 you have read a total of 300,000+ items.” 300,000!!!!!!

I was introduced to Google Reader about five years ago. It’s what’s known as a feed reader. It allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds from websites and blogs so that every time a website publishes new content, it shows up in your feed reader. It’s a way more efficient way to get new content from websites since it is delivered to you instead of you having to check the website regularly. If you set it up properly, it’s like having your own personal newspaper where you get only the news that matters to you.

However, you need to be careful, because it can become an addiction. Once you realize how many websites have RSS feeds, you feel the urge to start subscribing to all of them. At my peak, I was subscribed to over 100 feeds and was getting up to 500 new articles, per day!

Now, Google Reader does have some tools to help you sift through articles quickly, like using the ‘j’ key or the space bar to quickly skip articles, or just marking certain feeds, or all of your articles, as read. But even just skimming through 500 articles takes a lot of time, and it’s stressful. It’s like working at the post office, no matter how many articles you clear, you know that more are on the way. Plus, I never liked marking lots of articles read because it made me feel like I would miss something.

After a while, I recognized I had a problem and was spending too much time with Google Reader, I decided it was time to cut back. I started culling unnecessary feeds and got my daily article count down to about 350 a couple of years ago. Then at the beginning of 2012, I felt more cuts were needed and got my daily count down to 200, which I’ve found is about the upper limit of what I can manage on a daily basis. If the number gets too far about 200, I find it takes too much time and effort to sort through.

Here is a snapshot of my reading trends from a few days ago. It shows that the average article count is about 200, although there are days where it can spike to 300. These usually indicate a special event, in this case the Consumer Electronics Show. I guess that’s the price of following tech blogs like Gizmodo, Mashable and GigaOM.

Google Reader Trends

It felt good over the last year to get my addiction under control, but I still have more to do. I’d like to cut more this year and get the daily article count to between 125 and 150.

It’s a balance. While I like reading lots of different feeds, there comes a time when you have to cut down to the ones that really matter, and I’ve reached that point.

In the end, I wonder if my experience follows most Google Reader users. Sign up, subscribe to a few feeds, discover how awesome it is, then subscribe to way too many feeds, and finally realize how overwhelming it is and start the gradual process of cutting back.

Either way, it feels good to manage the addiction. I’m just hoping I don’t fall off the wagon….