Nudging My Way Out Of The Intellectual Mosh Pit

As part of my ongoing effort to improve my cost/benefit ratio on social media, I’m nudging myself away from intellectual mosh pit platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and towards blog posts, articles, videos essays, etc. Really longform consumption (e.g. books) remains about the same, my limitations on that are mostly my insistence on fact-checking nonfiction and very narrow tastes in fiction, this post is about changing what I reach for when I’m bored in a line. Towards that goal I have made a few changes, which I list here roughly in ascending order of how much effort they were:

  • Put all of my screens in greyscale. If you only try one thing on this list, make it this one. It takes five seconds to test once you have instructions, and the relief for me was immediate and has lasted days so far. Every time I have to turn color on to look at graphs I resent it. 
  • Discovered the existence of Focus Mode for android, which allows you to use the internet but disables notifications.
    • All of the Focus Mode instructions require several clicks into a deep menu. You can access it more easily by enabling the relevant fast-access card, using the instructions for older Android phones above. 
  • Moved all my short-OODA-loop apps off my phone home in favor of long-OODA-loop apps.
    • The newly defavored apps include obvious candidates like Twitter, but also all messaging apps and Chrome itself.
    • The new stars include my article aggregator, as well as very long-form content like Kindle, Audible, and PodCatcher.
    • The home screen continues to hold non-content-consumption apps I want to access quickly, like Maps, Calendar, etc. 
  • Resumed use of a read-it-later tool, which lets me save cool articles I see on social media to be consumed when I’m in a better head space (I can’t switch between reading microblogs and regular blogs quickly – different headspace ).
  • Switched to an RSS reader that lets me read things out of order without marking earlier articles as Read.
  • Combined my RSS feeds, email newsletters, and saved articles in a single service (that lets me read in any order) so I can choose from all my essay-length options at once. This was a stupid amount of effort and yak shaving and it’s not pretty but I got it working. Most of this post will be about that.

How to Combine All Article-Length Content

The following instructions work with both Inoreader and Feedly. I eventually chose Inoreader but it was a close call and your mileage may vary.

  1. Import your existing RSS feeds to Inoreader.
    1. Feedly instructions.
  2. You have two options for saving arbitrary content to your new aggregator. 
    1. Inoreader has a built-in feature to do this with a Chrome plugin, but there’s no way to see saved articles and RSS articles in the same list. So if that’s important for you…
    2. Sign up for Pocket, the leading read-it-later app, and configure Pocket to put your saved articles on an RSS Feed, then add that RSS feed to Inoreader per normal.
      1. Install the save to Pocket extension in your browser to make it easy to add to the feed as you come across things you want to read at some point (note: not available for Android, so I have to manually copy the URL and open the Pocket app).
        1. All articles in the saved-to-Pocket feed will show in Inoreader as having the same author (“my content feed”) and they won’t have the body of the article, only the title and header image. I really care about having all of my articles in the exact same place, but if you don’t, just using save-to-Inoreader will save you several steps.
  3. You also have two options for newsletters.
    1. Set up forwarding using Inoreader’s built-in system.
      1. This is a Pro feature, so it’s $6/month. 
        1. Feedly version ($12/month)
      2. You will either need to set up a new email for every subscription (which Inoreader supports, although you’ll need to upgrade past 20 subscriptions) or they will all be listed as having the same author.
    2. Or use a newsletter-to-RSS conversion tool like kill-the-newsletter.com, and add the resulting RSS feed to Feedly. Unless substack lets you configure separate emails for each subscription this will still require you to set up forwarding.

Tada! With a mere 20 minutes of work and a small monthly fee you have a system that combines all of your article-length-content in one place. Inoreader and Feedly both support Youtube channels and podcasts as well, although I haven’t tested those out.

Rejected Options

Pocket

Pocket bafflingly doesn’t support RSS input. You can hack it with IFTTT or Zapier, but each RSS feed counts as its own applet so you reach the $10/month plan very quickly. This is slightly cheaper than the Feedly pro plan but more than Inoreader, plus paying Inoreader gets rid of ads.

Pocket allows you to forward individual emails to it, but because Gmail requires forwarding address confirmation you can’t automate forwarding to pocket from Gmail. You could fix this with a newsletter-to-RSS converter and then IFTTT/Zapier, but that’s a lot of work.

Feedly

I originally settled on Feedly before making one final sweep and choosing Inoreader instead. The driving concern was that Feedly required me to be on tier 3 ($12) rather than Inoreader’s tier 2 ($6). Inoreader’s browser plugin was also better, letting you subscribe while on a blog’s homepage, where Feedly requires you to not only go to its own page to add feeds, but track down the actual feed URL rather than figuring it out from the blog’s homepage URL (which is surprisingly hard because RSS is out of favor and most readers can guess, so the RSS feed is rarely displayed prominently).

I do like the Feedly Android app a little more; Inoreader has not adjusted to Pixel’s lack of a back button and eats the replacement gesture, but I liked the webapp more so stuck with Inoreader. 

Feedly Pro+ (required to get newsletter forwarding) boasts an AI assistant I assume is terrible. Inoreader has easily accessible filters and prioritization rules that I haven’t tested. Between the two of these I predict I get more value out of Inoreader, but I could be wrong.

Lastly, Feedly promised me a trial and immediately charged me for an annual subscription, so they can die in a fire. 

Everyone Else

This is a spreadsheet where I went through every read-it-later service I could find, looking for RSS native support. None of them had it. It is possible there is another RSS reader with better bookmarking or newsletter support, but I am exhausted and Inoreader is working so I stopped looking.

5 thoughts on “Nudging My Way Out Of The Intellectual Mosh Pit”

  1. For several years, the “Chrome” app on my Android home page has been a saved page, rather than the default app. Specifically, the page is https://www.google.com/search?q=%22+%22&oq=%22+%22 – a search for ” “. This gives me an empty search results page, and therefore doesn’t have the FUCKING news feed, while retaining all the ease of use in quickly searching for things. If the news feed is the primary short-OODA-loop culprit, this presents a solution.

  2. Feedly has a very annoying “feature” where it marks any post older than some duration (about a month I think) as “read”, regardless of if you actually read it. I hate this passionately but I’ve been too lazy to find a replacement yet.

    Is Inoreader in fact able to remember what you read more than a few weeks? If so, I think they just got a new client.

  3. ooh nice, I should give newsletter->rss a new attempt with this, I gave up last time I tried. Sounds like perhaps it might be easier with ProtonMail and Palabre 🤞

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