Tagging Scheme For Organizing Feeds In Google Reader

I’m a big fan of Google Reader.

Reader is the primary tool I use to read blogs, and is one of my default Firefox home pages.

(Digression: did you know you can have more than one homepage load automatically when you open a new browser? In FFox, go to Tools > Options > Main > Home Page and enter multiple urls separated by pipes. Neat trick.)

As you start following more and more feeds, however, things can get a bit jumbled. Here’s the scheme I’ve been using to organize my feeds in Reader using tags.

I use tags to organize feeds, versus tagging individual posts, as I don’t have the time or interest to tag what I read. I’m looking forward to the day Google integrates search with Reader, which would make post tagging irrelevant for me anyway.

I rely heavily on the “gold star” feature to tag noteworthy posts. (Question: does anyone out there know how far back Google stores Reader’s gold tags? Do gold tags age off?)

For organizing, I have four tags (categories) which start with dashes: -always, -often, -seldom, and -usedto.

Because these start with dashes, they alpha sort to the top of the left nav tag list in reader. They also alpha sort correctly by descending importance.

I’m pretty strict about what gets into the -always category, and read 95% of the posts in -always feeds. For -often feeds, I probably read 75% the headlines and 30% the posts. For -seldom feeds, I skim about 10% of the headlines and probably read 1% of the posts. And when a feed no longer interests me, I move it to -usedto rather than delete it. Google Reader makes it a snap to recharacterize feeds as my interests change.

Next, I have four tags starting with underscores: _news, _searches, _us, and _volumelow. These four alpha sort below the four dashed tags.

I use _news to follow national, local, and trade news. I think of _news as a river of information flowing by. I make no attempt “stay on top” of this category; I dip into it when I want to see what is happening, like skimming headlines at a newsstand. I use _searches to keep track of RSS search results, like those produced by Google Blog Search and Google News. This is an easy way to track mentions of your company, yourself, and your competition. I use _us for feeds related to our company, like our own blog (to make sure it is rendering OK) and our FeedBurner fetch status feed. Finally, I use _volume_low for blogs I like which post infrequently, so I can easily keep an eye on when they update. Often, underscore feeds don’t get a dashed category, but sometimes they do.

Beyond these 8, I use 12 more topical tags customized for my interests: biz, blogging, code, competition, conferences, design, fun, home, marketing, search, tech, and tips.

Most of these are pretty self-explanatory. Search is for SEM and SEO blogs, while _searches is for RSS output from search results, and could be on any topic. Home is blogs related to home, family, and regional news. These topical tags alpha sort below the underscores.

I follow about 80 feeds using this system, not counting -usedto feeds.

Here are a few sample categorizations to show how the tags help organize things

* Search Engine Land SearchCap: search , _news
* Inside AdWords: search, -always
* Joel on Software: code, -often ,_volume_low
* Xarb: code, -often
* DMNews: _news
* Closings: Albemarle County Public School Inclement Weather: -always, _searches, _volume_low
* The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs: fun ,-usedto

I find this system simple to maintain, and helps keep blog reading efficient and easy.

google reader tagging

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  • Alan Rimm-Kaufman
    Alan Rimm-Kaufman founded the Rimm-Kaufman Group...
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    1. [...] Tagging Scheme For Organizing Feeds In Google Reader [...]

    2. [...] to multiple folders. These folders help sort and sift through all your feeds. I’m using a folder sorting system originally described by Alan Rimm-Kaufman to help organize things and make sure I see the news [...]