Extreme skim-reading and how to do it

shuffle.jpegDo you get frustrated with the time it takes to skim-read RSS feeds? Or do you just get over it?

I'm now using [tag]Google Reader[/tag], and finding it convenient. It means I have one less bit of software to handle, and it has various clever tricks.

The Google Reader Blog includes a video in which [tag]Robert Scobie[/tag] explains how he zips through 1200 blog entries every day in no time flat. Even after cutting his subscriptions down to 600 feeds, he linked to 24,000 sites within 4 months of starting his blog, Scobleizer.

Scobie's analysis of extreme skim-reading is fascinating. At first glance he recognises "good" content (i.e. content he personally values). He doesn't need to think about it. He just registers certain points unconsciously.

He compares this first glance with the way we see a table. We know it's a table. We don't have to think, Four legs, flat surface, made of wood: that is a table. You know it's a table: one glance tells you so. When Robert Scobie glances at a blog entry, here's what he notices -- in a split second.

  • Photos? He likes them. His eye slows down.
  • Headlines? Keyword dense, with keywords his audience cares about? Good. Slow down.
  • Links? Plenty? That's good; means writer has done some homework.
  • Dramatically fresh news or opinion? Good. Slow down.
  • Writer? Someone he respects? Good. Slow down.

I reckon we are all doing the same thing. We're just doing it more slowly, no doubt, and without such self-awareness.

For blog writers, this has huge implications. Readers decide whether our content is worth reading in a nano-second. We knew it. Now we need to mend our ways.

Doing the Google Reader shuffle (video)
Google Reader for the latest on your chosen blogs
Scobleizer, Robert Scobie's blog


Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine

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