I tend to visit quite a few news sites and forums each day, so I stay up to date with the latest developments. However, I noticed that I’m spending increasingly more time just browsing through news sites, which is bad for the productivity as one gets easily distracted. I’ve been using news feeds in Firefox and Thunderbird so far, which require more or less manual update. This is even true for Thunderbird, which does check the feeds, but you still need to go into each feed and mark the stuff as read, so the “unread” counter remains useful. Otherwise, you end up with 20 feeds which contain 2000 unread posts, which is hardly useful.
Well, these days are over for me, as I’ve started using a proper feed aggregator (in my case, FeedReader, but I’m still looking for a .NET or Java alternative with full source code). It has pretty decent filtering, which allows me to skip the StackOverflow questions in my “today’s news” feed, and the “mark as read” functionality is right: In my aggregated feed, I read the headlines and interesting topics once in an hour, and then I mark them all as read, which just works ““ each post in each feed is marked as read, and I’m back to a unread-count of zero (or rather, no news items, as I filter out already read topics). Overall, it saves me quite some time per day, and I guess I’ll be checking the news less often in the future, as I can be pretty sure that I don’t miss something.