Uberblogger Robert Scoble is truly one-of-a-kind. For those who don’t know, he became famous as a technical evangelist at Microsoft and quickly became their most outspoken and influential blogger. He now interviews people like Bill Gates, and the worldwide media reports on his every move. One of his most mindboggling skills is information management. He currently reads 622 RSS feeds a day — it used to be 1,400 feeds a day!
How the hell does he do it?
I dropped by the Podtech offices and hung out with Robert to find out. How does he avoid overload and process so much information? In this exclusive 11-minute interview, we answer quite a few burning questions I’ve wanted to ask since first meeting Robert:
Which RSS reader does he use and why?
How does he configure it to save time?
What are simple keyboard shortcuts anyone can use?
How does he find and pick feeds?
How can you catch his eye with your posts?
How does he use RSS feeds for building relationships?
How does he use sites like Techmeme/DIGG vs. niche blogs?
One thing impresses me about Robert more than all of his credentials: he smiles more than almost anyone I know. All the time! There is much to be learned from the Scobleizer. The ending of the interview — Robert’s last line — is also not to be missed.
My apologies for the hyperactive camera work, but the whole thing was quite impromptu, and I’m no Spielberg. Just close your eyes and listen if I make you seasick.
[UPDATE: Sorry, but the below video has been removed. Not sure why. Apologies!]
Stay tuned for part II, coming in the next week, which will answer the question: How does Robert Scoble read and organize e-mail? From speeding up Outlook’s performance to reverse spam filtering, it’s all covered. In the meantime, for a solid overview of how I cut e-mail time by about 90%, see my new manifesto at Seth Godin’s ChangeThis.
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
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132 Replies to “How Scoble Reads 622 RSS Feeds Each Morning”
This seems totally ANTITHETICAL to the low-information diet. It appears this dude is devouring information in the same manner in which a person might try drinking from a fire hose.
Tim’s approach is MUCH better.
It is pretty overwhelming to even imagine! That said, there a few things that make Robert quite different from most of us: 1) It is his job to aggregate, filter, and interpret tons of news. His inbox is thus his workspace, whereas it is used by most people (my former self included) to avoid doing work; 2) He enjoys being an early adopter (if not the earliest), connecting the dots before anyone else, and otherwise being on the information cutting edge. He really loves the constant connectivity! Just check out how many Twitter friends he has. It’s mind-blowing.
There is no need for most people to consume as much information as Robert does. It would be just as you said, like drinking from a fire hydrant. His techniques and coping mechanisms, however, are ultra-refined and perfect for average Joe and Jane.
Me personally? I know this will seem like sacrilege, but I don’t even currently use an RSS reader! It still helps me to know how he thinks about filtering information, though. As you’ll see in Part II, the philosophies and principles can be applied all over the place.
Thanks for contributing to the conversation!
A good set of questions! It’s interesting to hear how Robert does manage all his feeds. He seems to have a very similar approach to them as I do, however I tend to go through a series of culling of my feeds at regular intervals. The funny thing is that I removed Roberts blog from my feeds list because his personal interests are very different to mine, but I do have a number of the same blogs on my feed list as he has on his link bloog. (Sorry Robert… I do pop over there from time to time if I see someone linking to you though!)
Good choice of video host too! I quite like Viddler because if the ability to tag the data. We use it for the Girl Geek Dinners videos.
I wonder what would happen with Robert if we disconnected him from the internet for a few weeks… 😉 I did it for a week not so long ago and it was an interesting experience, but it was hard work catching up with all the e-mails and everything afterwards.
If you ever happen to pop to London and fancy talking at one of our events then do let me know. We’d love to have you talk.
It’s good to know that I process information much the same way.
The video was helpful in how he processed the information.
I suspect you have a cunning plan…
Good interview, Tim. I met Robert at SXSWi this year (but I was trapped at work when you were making your presentation – Aargh!) and found him to be just as nice as you say. For a while I resisted subscribing to his Google Reader links postings, but now I find that scanning them is a great way for me to sail through a lot of interesting/job-related tech stuff that I might miss otherwise.
Also, I like how you make the point that, for Robert, a constant high dose of information is what juices him up. For me, one of the takeaways from your book is that each of us should *reflect* on our own *appropriate* levels of work, information, etc. For folks wired like Robert, those levels may be high; for many of us, they’ll be much lower. But there’s no single definition that works for everybody – we each have to find it for ourselves.
Anyway, keep up the good work!
May I recommend BlogBridge as my preferred RSS reader for such masses of feeds.
I know he’s using Google Reader’s “share” button to add items to his link blog, but I wish you would’ve discussed how he organizes the ideas he gets when he sees an interesting post. How’s he logging his ideas? What (if any) cool hacks is he using to start posting and linking based on what he’s read. That sort of thing.
The first part of the interview (imprinting, etc.) was really interesting though. Glad you did it.
enjoyed the video… interesting to see someone in the process of processing all that information, but get a wide angle lens on that camera for up close shots…
Mastering the Low-Information Diet
After reading Timâ€™s book I just started this week my new low-information diet cold turkey. I set up a virtual newsstand with the new feature, iGoogle (itâ€™s now my start up page). I have set up a quick summary page of RSS feeds, del.icio.us feeds and newspaper feeds. I can browse the headlines in less than 30 seconds. iGoogle makes it real easy to setup and do. If I want to read it later, I just del.icio.us it and read it on my â€œfree day.â€?
I’d love to view this (and I’m enjoying the site as a whole – great articles!), but unfortunately
a) the site’s laggy as hell for me, and the video’s stopping every 10 seconds.
b) The viewer that Viddler uses seems not to cache the video once it’s downloaded, so I can’t do my normal YouTube “fix” of letting the video run through once, jerkily, in the background, and then playing it once it’s fully downloaded. If I try that with Viddler, it just starts buffering again from the point I rewind to – and so I can’t watch the video at all without it stuttering.
I know you can’t do anything about a), which may well be my local connection anyway. But b) is a bit of a problem…
Sorry my first post’s a complaint, but the video looks really interesting!
I personally really like this kind of content. Although you don’t blog that much every week, mixing in a video like this spices your posts up a lot.
Hmm… realizing where current technology is leading to (I never thought about videos or multimedia on the web a lot) I just can’t help but smile 🙂 What world of possibilities we live in!
For me things like PopUrls are the best solution. I’ve even considered doing a PopUrls clone solely for personal use with the feeds I like. It’s perfect because I can log on, click on a few interesting things, and log off.
I find RSS feeds to be overwhelming as well. My job isn’t to blog like Scoble. By the time everything else is done even an hour digging through feeds is a pain. I don’t mind missing a few little things here and there, so with a PopUrls-esque solution I’m only seeing the last 20 bits of any feed and it doesn’t pile up in an RSS inbox. Just having that little reminder that there’s hundreds of unread items makes me feel buried, and 95% of it is destined for deletion anyway.
I actually read much the same way. I’ve always been able to scan fairly quickly so that definitely helps. I too use Google Reader although it would be nice if out the box, the window dressing consumes less real estate (I know about the various plugins) and if there was a nice way to split personal and work feeds.
So the read sequence is as follows (using GReader and Firefox):
1. Open GReader.
2. Scan through articles using ‘j’ or ‘k’.
3. Interesting articles get opened in a seperate tab via ‘v’
4. Things I want to keep track of get the star. This can happen either as I scan the article (‘s’)and already know it’s a keeper or I’ll leave the article unread (‘m’) if it’s a maybe and go back to star the article if I decide to after reading it in its entirety.
This lets me minimize the amount of time taken to read and I average 100-400 articles a day this way (calculated via trends).
If your job is reading blogs, then it becomes easier to dedicate a morning to reading blogs. I find that Google Reader is just too darn slow for scanning headlines, and frankly if the headline doesn’t grab you, it proabaly wasn’t interesting. Besides, there are so many memes that are reblogged, that if you don’t catch it in one blog, another will surely have a grabber headline that gets you into the story. That said, there are so many things that are reblogged that you HAVE to scan headlines to get past it all. To process feeds quickly, scanning headlines is the way to go, not looking at bodies of articles.
I use a reader like MonkeyChow ( http://www.shokk.com/blog/articles/category/monkeychow/ ) on my own server (LAMP) so that I don’t have to rely on Google’s erratic feed updating. It also features search, a river of news view and allows you to reblog things into your own RSS feed and share your OPML for the whole bunch or a tagged group. You can also “star” stuff to bookmark it for later. Most options are use configurable to suit your taste. As for keyboard use for viewing the page, Page Up and Page Down work really well! I’m going through 200 feeds, but can cut through to the good stuff right away. A lot of it is feeds for software releases that I might need to update at home or on the work network and which do not update frequently. But some of them are prolific bloggers that spray content all day long.
Anyway, the old way of doing this stuff was through mailing lists, and just the portion of my feeds that involve keeping up to date with technology would be totally out of control if I were to continue with that. RSS is perfectly suited for the one-way broadcast that the web was become these days. Thank goodness for RSS in making my day more efficient.
I couldn’t help but notice Scoble has a copy of ‘Founders At Work’ by Jessica Livingston on his desk. That’s a cool book. I’m eating it up at the moment, and loving every minute.
Essential reading for anyone interested in the Silicon Valley startup culture.
I just finished reading your book yesterday. Well done, very inspiring and motivational. It’s given me some good idea’s for the time that lays ahead. Thanks for writing this, it was very positive reading your work. Keep the influence coming.
Beeler Van Orman
Seems like a sweet vid Tim but I just can’t watch it from down here in the 3rd world. I’ve been trying for the past week with no luck. The problem is that your video player won’t allow me to load the whole video and then watch it from the beginning – it has to stream. This means that with our TERRIBLE South African bandwidth, this vid only plays in 1 second sound bytes every 20 seconds or so… pretty unusable.
Do you perhaps have a line where i could download the video?
Dig your blog.
Oh and PS, I think I track more feeds than Robert and couldn’t do it without my custom FeedDemon config 😉
Tim — another great post — I really like your thinking. Could you possibly share the vendor that handles your calls from India/China? I want to start using someone like that and want to reach out to several vendor possibilities for quotes. Thanks and best of luck — keep up the creative ideas — they are great!
I’m really sorry for the lag with Viddler. Though I compressed the video to less than 100MB, it was over 10 minutes and couldn’t be uploaded to YouTube. If you have any other suggestions, my ears are wide open. I would use the impressive Stage 6 (stage6.divx.com), but I’m lazy and don’t want to convert to DivX format each time. Alternatives?
Jim, I would love to share the outsourcing teams that I use, but here’s the problem: they’d get overwhelmed and my work would suffer! Right now, my teams are mostly small (5-10), filtered and selected on Elance. Even GetFriday, which has done great work for me, is getting snowed under with work since their mentions in the book. The price of success! Be careful what you ask for 😉
The real question is why is he reading all those feeds?
You, the author of Winning By Intimidation and many others have said, “Don’t be an information junkie.”
So why encourage people to read 622 news feeds?
Jonah: YOU shouldn’t read 622 feeds. You should only read one. One that’s already been filtered to just the good stuff. I thought that was pretty well communicated by Tim and me.
I heard a recording of a call via Robin Robins regarding your new book and I thank you for challenging me to rethink the way I conduct my daily life. I have ordered your book tonight. I also have signed up for Google Reader and I want to thank you for this interview with Robert.
its to go through this page…..
How about publicizing a text transcript of the interview, for the benefit of the hearing impaired?
thanks for the interview, definitely some great takeaways there.
One thing of note: Id turn off the little popup comment feature on the videos. All it does is give the negative nellies a way to distract from your message. Leave that to VH-1:)
Can we have the transcript of the interview please?