Cleaning up after Byline
Published on August 30, 2009.
I use Google Reader as my feed aggregator. Most of the time I don’t read feeds sat at my computer, but rather on my iPhone using Byline.
As for the principles of Inbox Zero, I abhor dealing with feed items multiple times. But over the past couple of months I had noticed in myself a bad habit of marking items as unread after reading them because I wanted to deal with them in some other way. Of course, I never did get around to doing so because the items were not differentiated in any way from the rest of the unread, new items.
Once I noticed this behaviour, I started making a mental note whenever I marked something as unread again. It turns out, this happens for one of only a few reasons:
I want to read the article properly later, and I’m currently just scanning through my feeds to eliminate the chaff
I want to bookmark the page in some way, to save it for future reference
It’s something that requires a computer (a flash video, something I want to download, etc.)
Now, Byline does include the star, share and note features of Google Reader which I could use. Except that I wanted to have five different actions, not just three.
Thing is, three buttons does not mean that there are three states available to me, it means there are seven (eight if you count nothing) when you combine the buttons in various ways.
So what I did was mentally assign a greater meaning to each of the three states, rather than an action. By combining those, I achieved my required actions without needing to make myself a manual of which combination achieved what.
starring an item means “deal with this later”
sharing an item means “some other app will deal with this”
noting an item means bookmarking it (and the text of the note serves as description and tags for the bookmark)
So by combining these meanings, I get:
star and share means "post this to instapaper and I’ll read it there"
star and note means “bookmark this and flag it for review”
share and note means “bookmark this and publish it to a blog”
Taking that logic, I then wrote a perl script (that I call sweep, as it cleans up after me) to carry out those actions for me on any newly marked items.
Now I sort through my new feed items much more quickly and now regularly achieve Feed Zero.