Feed Deduplication


My feed reader should be my only feed.

One of the places in which I’m trying to improve my productivity is by shrinking the number of applications I use, actively searching for the bare minimum necessary to use or consume something. One big way I’ve been thinking about this is in terms of feeds. Right now, I have three major feeds: email [1], calendar, and RSS/Atom/JSON Feeds [2]. As I prepare slowly but surely to migrate my life to the Emacs ecosystem so that I can manage most everything important to me in one app [3], I have begun to realize that I have far too many feeds that aren’t email. Some I have yet to take care of include: - phone and desktop notifications [4] - Discord [5] - Fritter, a Twitter alternative frontend I use [6] - my podcast app [7]

I’ve also realized that I get a lot of emails that should be in my feed reader, like new album alerts from Bandcamp which makes it harder to parse more urgent emails and reach inbox zero. This article summarizes some of my efforts to "deduplicate" the feeds and keep everything in one place.

YouTube Subscriptions No More

It took a few attempts and some encouragement from an awesome animation, but I have finally completely migrated away from YouTube’s subscription system.

An empty YouTube subscriptions feed. The page is empty except for a "Latest" header and some buttons.
Figure 1. Peace at last. It’s a bit weird that YouTube no longer show the "go subscribe to some channels" screen any more, but whatever; I would hate the nag anyways.

The reason this took so long was because it was entirely manual. I would navigate to the site’s "manage subscriptions" page, and for each subscription I had, determine if the subscription was worth migrating over to my feed reader with RSS, and then unsubscribe. This would have been a lot easier if YouTube still supported OPML exports, but having to look at everyone’s pages helped me to discover some blogs, Tumblrs, and Newgrounds profiles. :)

I am still getting used to not opening up m.youtube.com on my phone subconsciously [8] instead of checking Feedly, but I’m sure I’ll get better at this over time, especially with some help from uBlock Origin.

I eventually hope to complete the transition by taking YouTube podcasts out of my feed reader and into my podcast client along with and keeping up community posts in my feed reader; both will be accomplished with RSS.

Newsletters No More

I subscribed to a lot of newsletters (mostly from Buttondown and Substack), to keep up with cool programmers and their thought processes. However, I had a hard time putting emails aside to read later while prioritizing work and school matters. In some cases, I was following something with both a newsletter and an RSS feed, which was quite pointless. Luckily, you can subscribe to any Substack and most Buttonwon newsletters with RSS, so I’ve been migrating as the emails come. [9] There are a few newsletters which I’m trying to engineer solutions to [10], but the most likely solution will be relying on one of those email-to-RSS tools.

GitHub Releases No More

A blog post I read a while back I have since lost a reference to (do you see why I need Org?) made a fair case for keeping up with software you use. I then began making a habit of following software releases on GitHub using their "Watching" feature. However, they dumped all of these updates into my email, which made my inbox more exhausting to comb through. Luckily, GitHub exposes Atom feeds for software releeases, and so after referencing Stack Overflow and doing a little bit of REPLing, I ran the following script on https://github.com/watching:

customWatches = Array.from(document.querySelectorAll('main div.notifications-list > div:last-child li a'))
console.log(customWatches.map(a => new URL("./releases.atom", a.href + "/").toString()).join("\n"))

to extract all of the feeds and I needed. I then manually added them to Feedly, tagging them under "Open Source," and unfollowed all the repos on GitHub.

For some projects I was watching, like OpenGloves and bun.sh, it was actually better to follow RSS feeds on more active platforms (Steam and their site, respectively), while I unfollowed others entirely because they either had made no releases or had no signs of updating (no, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I just want to cut down on clutter in my feed reader). [11]

Reevaluating Worth

One thing that’s clear about many of these places is that it is easy for one to lose track of how much stuff they’re following, usually to their detriment. By having to make eye contact with everything I’m following for some things the first time in years, I am deciding if it is still worth my time and energy to keep up with. With my feed reader, I can more easily tell if stuff from a source is overwhelming me.

The climb towards a more productive Kyle continues…

1. A personal inbox and a school inbox.
2. I currently use Feedly as my RSS reader
3. Emacs out of the box comes with the excellent email and feed reader Gnus; I plan to migrate to it.
4. Many push notifications are rendered repetitive by email and RSS or are just advertising; I have disabled these. I need to think about how I am going to handle stuff from messaging apps.
5. I use it to follow a semi-publically published comic and the work of a scanlation group.
6. Because of changes the site’s made to its backend in the Age of Musk, you actually can’t get a reverse chronological feed in the app anymore; instead, one must click through to each profile they’re interested in that way. As you may guess, my usage of Fritter has dropped dramatically. I orginally followed Twitter on RSS using my own solution, migrated to Fritter, and now seemily will need to renege on that.
7. I use Google Podcasts for its convienent position seeking and silence trimming. Feedly lacks explicit podcast support, so I haven’t exported all my RSS feeds just yet. There seem to be some solutions for Emacs with integrate with existing feed reader modes, but none seem optimized for how I listen to podcasts. More research is required on this front.
8. This is part of an ongoing effort to create a more healthy relationship with YT, part of which was disabling the YouTube app on my Android phone.
9. That’s one big issue with email newsletters and updates; unlike a feed reader, there is no centralized list of all the things you’re following. Another annoying thing is that there isn’t a standardized way of unsubscribing; everyone does it differently, with some making it nigh impossible.
10. I should just email some people. :P
11. Note to self: I should do the same for all apps I download from F-Droid and Google Play; I’ve already followed some with RSS.