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Feed Reading, Three Ways (Part 2)

This is a series on how to read feeds more efficiently. (This is part two. Part one is here.)

To start, here are some initial questions to ask about any feed to which you're thinking of subscribing: "How important is this? Is this something I want to read every day? Is this website of sufficiently high importance and/or quality that I don't want to miss a single post?"

If you answer "Yes" to these questions, then the best way to read the feed is probably by email. (This is the first way of reading feeds that I'll discuss.) This might be counterintuitive (or even controversial). After all, isn't the purpose of feeds to provide a stream of information apart from the website itself and apart from your regular correspondence?

All true, but email remains the best way of ensuring that everything gets to you and nothing is lost. (And if you use gmail, forwarding feeds to email also ensure that all your feed content is forever archived and searchable).

However, reading feeds by email is also mixed blessing. If you aren't careful, feeds will clog up your inbox and you might become frustrated and not read them at all. Choose the feeds you read by email carefully.

My personal favorite service for converting RSS feeds to email is Feedburner -- it's fast, reliable, and the formatting is usually perfect. Certain websites, like BoingBoing, offer the option to subscribe by email through Feedburner on the main page. Other websites, like Tech Medicine, Kidney Notes, and The Efficient MD, also offer links to subscriptions by email. Most services like Feedburner offer the option to subscribe to the feed as a digest (one large, daily email of all posts) or as individualized emails. (I usually prefer the digest format.)

But what if the website doesn't offer the option to subscribe by email? Feedburner, as far as I know, doesn't allow you to subscribe by email unless the website allows it, but other services are available. Two popular services as Rssfwd and Feedblitz. After copying and pasting the feed's address, each website will then deliver the feeds to you by email. Rssfwd even offers a bookmark that you can place in your browser that allows you to automatically subscribe to the websites you visit. (I personally prefer Rssfwd to Feedblitz because the formatting on the iPhone is better.)

For medical news, two feeds that I subscribe to by email are Kevin, MD and The Wall Street Journal Health Blog. Non-medical sites that I subscribe to include Boing Boing and The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.
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About the Author


Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.