Informed gaming is better gaming. Such is the premise of the current series of articles (see Introduction, Part 1, Part 2) which aims at showing how to better discover and organize online gaming content..
I don’t know about you, but registering my subscriptions in Inoreader has mostly resulted in the number of unread items climbing like the national debt counter. Something needed to be done. In the latter part of this series, we explore a few tricks that can help you keep all this content under control and, of course, manage to read it.
Making Use of the Folders
Inoreader’s folders are quite flexible. They can even become unwieldy if we’re not careful.
Only you can devise the organization method that best suits you. But understanding the features offered by the folders will no doubt help you choose.
First the folders let you know which of their content is being read, and when.
The number of unread articles. This is the number that will be displayed to the right of each folder name (and each subscription), if you so choose. That counter will keep you informed of how many new articles have arrived in each folder. And it can also be very useful for fine-tuning your filters and rules. And clicking on it can mark all the items in the folder as read at once.
Your reading statistics. Right-clicking on a folder will offer you to View Folder Information, that is a graph comparing the articles read to those received, over the last month, on weekdays or time of day.
Actions and Settings
Some of Inoreader’s actions and settings can be applied on a per-folder basis. Which is another good criterion to use for building a solid folder structure.
Views. Every display setting selected for a particular folder will remain associated to it. So each folder can use one of the five views available in Inoreader.
The benefits of these display modes vary depending on the type of content. For example, the featured image makes the Map or Magazine views more suited to lists of articles about games, allowing them to be identified more quickly. On the other hand, forums or subreddits discussion threads are easier to scan using the Compact view. Also note that the way articles are marked as read can vary depending on the view, which offers even more flexibility in reader behavior.
Sort order. It is handy to be able to have different folders sorted differently. Your Kickstarter news or updates folder will show the latest articles first. But you will most likely want to follow forum discussion threads in chronological order.
Rules. Rules might be the greatest feature of Inoreader for me. I’ll come back to them in a bit. For now just know that they can be applied separately to each folder.
Sharing. Inoreader doesn’t stop at collecting content — it also offers many ways of sharing it. Each folder can become a bundle that can be made accessible to other Inoreader users, to your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ followers as well as your blog’s readers (the wargame bundle is here). It is also possible to export the content of each folder in a file readable by other aggregators and, of course, to publish it using its own RSS feed (since Inoreader will generate as many RSS feeds as you’ll need).
But the first utility of folders is obviously to help organize your subscriptions into broad categories.
Sources. Keeping an eye on all your BoardGameGeek subscriptions, Kickstarter projects, discussion threads, Reddit, Medium or Twitter content will be easier if you keep each of those sources in its own folder.
Content type. Likewise, subscriptions to videos, podcasts, or images will be easier to browse and manage when grouped together.
Content category. A kind of thematic grouping can also be a good idea. A folder for game reviews, another for news or publishers feeds will help you stay on top of things.
Such basic organization will be helpful. But it may fall short with helping you read all these articles on a daily basis. To avoid missing too many articles, or turning daily reading into a drudgery, you might need a little more forethought.
Organizing by Frequency
I’m always experimenting with different ways Inoreader can help me read more easily. And folders can play a big role here. Since the same subscription can belong to any number of folders, you can try all kinds of methods without messing with your core folder structure.
The system I’m using now has been holding its own over the last several months. It is based on frequency. Frequency of publication, frequency of reading. It is the simplest and the surest method I’ve found so far to guarantee that I read everything that I find of interest, without missing major news, but also without wasting time over poor or redundant content.
The method relies on a simple procedure, and 5 special folders.
First I roughly group subscriptions according to their publication frequency and the priority I give them. The most active — and the more relevant — subscriptions go together, down to the least active that I will only want to check occasionally.
Then I make sure to browse each of these folders at a set frequency. Scanning a folder looks a bit like this:
- I scroll down the list of unread articles (they get marked as read automatically).
- I open in a new tab articles I want to read, and read most of them right away.
- I mark the ones I will read later as favorites (using the star).
- If one of those articles really stands out and deserves to be kept, I archive it with one click in Evernote (yes, Inoreader gets along very well with Evernote, among others).
Here are the 5 folders I use; they have been working pretty well so far.
Daily. This folder contains the more active feeds (publishing at least once a day), and of higher priority (I don’t want to miss a single article). I manage to scan this folder, well, daily.
Weekly. Here go feeds of interest, a bit less active, and that I don’t need to read right away. I empty this folder in one week, often over the week-end.
Monthly. Some feeds in this folder can still be substantial, but publishing even less frequently. But most of the articles come from minor or secondary sources and can be less interesting. Even if they can accumulate in large numbers, they’re shorter to scan and emptying this folder in a month is not difficult.
Rarely. Welcomes the feeds that don’t fit in the other folders, but that I still want to follow, for some reason. There can be blogs that have been inactive for quite a while, and subscriptions that I keep just in case. I clear this folder periodically.
Of course, since I organize subscriptions by publishing frequency, I first need to know what their frequency is. Therefore I use a 5th folder:
Probation. This is kind of my inbox for feeds. When I stumble upon a new blog or a new YouTube channel, the subscription usually goes into Probation, where I keep it under observation until I know what to do with it and which folder is best suited for it.
Anyway, by now you get the idea. Like the basins of a fountain, when I’m done reading one level, I go to the next one. It works well.
But what happens when, having taken the time to build a sound folder structure, you still get too many articles to manage? Time to think about filtering.
The safest method to limit the proliferation of unwanted content is filtering at the source. Inoreader offers you two ways to filter the content of your subscriptions.
In the Behavior section of the Preferences, you can activate a global filter, which will attempt to eliminate as many duplicates as possible based on your criteria. For example, articles with the same URL and title can be filtered out.
But the best way to limit incoming content is to filter subscriptions individually. You just define the criteria using some of the many options available.
Let’s say that you want to follow the news coming from BoardGameGeek, but are not interested in miniatures or party games. Just set a filter that will discard any article whose content or title contains those terms, like so:
(Inoreader can inform you each time an article is removed that way.)
Cast a Wide Net
A good trick to find interesting, unusual board gaming content using filters: subscribe to all kinds of big, popular sites that are not board game related. Sites like Mashable, Listverse, Mental Floss, Slate, Huffington Post, Ignant or Business Insider — why not! And add a filter to each of them only allowing in articles containing terms like “board game”, “wargame”, etc. Such a filter can have criteria like “Title or content doesn’t match regular expression” followed by a regular expression such as:
/ board game / ig
The beauty of it all is that you only have to create such a filter once. Inoreader will then allow you to apply it to all the subscriptions you want to filter.
Those filtered subscriptions will return very few articles, but they are almost guaranteed to be surprising and informative.
Making Use of the Tags
Tags are mostly like folders, but applied to articles instead of entire subscriptions.
You can think of folders as the table of contents of your collection, and tags as its index. Just as folders, they are very useful to organize content by topic, and to execute tasks on specific groups of articles.
Since they are a lot like folders, let’s focus on three tags specific features:
- Every tag has its own email address;
- Tags get exported along with articles;
- Tags can be managed using rules.
Tags and Email
I have explained elsewhere how I subscribe to various newsletters using the email address that Inoreader assigns to every tag.
By using well-chosen tags, and having Inoreader subscribe to itself, you can also transform any email exchange, or your contributions to discussion forums, into a feed that you can read at your own pace.
In addition to having its own email address, in Inoreader every tag can have its own RSS feed.
So let’s say that I use the email address of a given tag to subscribe to newsletters — “Inbox”:
What I can do next is to go in Preferences and turn on the Export option for this tag. Inoreader will provide an URL for the feed, that I copy and paste in the subscription box. I then place the resulting subscription in my “Daily” folder:
All the newsletters I receive will, instead of crowding my email inbox, end up neatly organized and easily readable, among the regular feeds. I don’t miss a thing.
Tags and Exports
I have also mentioned how Inoreader is quite apt at receiving content from several platforms and services. Integrations allow this tool to get input from Facebook, Twitter, etc. But the same goes for output: Inoreader can export or archive your articles in many different apps, like Evernote, Dropbox, Pocket, OneNote or Instapaper.
I have been using Evernote for a few years now. And I regularly export content to it from Inoreader.
And I was happy to find that tags created in Inoreader are exported with the articles I send to Evernote. It allows me to reliably use the exact same tag structure in both applications.
Tags and Rules
As useful as tags can be, applying them over and over by hand will get fastidious. Their real strength in Inoreader is that they can get applied automatically, by rules you create to suit your needs.
The Rules of the Game
I consider the rule engine a top feature of Inoreader. Just like your email application, it offers this simple and efficient way of automatically dealing with incoming articles. Many actions are available, which can be combined with many different criteria.
You just define a few criteria, some actions to perform, and every incoming article will trigger the appropriate behavior, even other rules.
It becomes quite easy to apply a tag like, say Vital Lacerda to every article either written by him, or whose title or text contains his name or one of his game’s title, and then find them all neatly tucked in one place. Or still apply a tag called News to all articles coming from the News sections of BoardGameGeek and many other sites. Inoreader is also smart enough to identify articles containing videos, attachments, etc.
Automatically tagging articles coming from BGG forums is especially simple. Because somebody, somewhere, thought it through and used a strict pattern to name the forum feeds. The title, content type, topic and forum name are clearly separated using colons, so your rules can easily pick them up and use them for tagging and filing.
It is for example very easy to create a rule that will identify a forum post, about the rules of the game Pax Renaissance, and to tag it appropriately.
Find the Game You’re After
It is all very nice, but I am not always sitting in front of Inoreader, waiting for the next update of my subscriptions.
The following scenario happened too often. Browsing a feed in Inoreader, I learn that somebody is selling a game that is on my wishlist. Excellent condition, right price, and the seller is in my neighborhood… But the post dates from the previous day, and some other buyer got the deal.
Well, a simple rule got me rid of this problem.
It is triggered every time an article coming from the forum of a local group contains terms like “Sale” or “$”. This feed is monitored in real time. What happens next is that Inoreader sends the post to my personal email address, and I get notified right away. I owe a few nice acquisitions to that system.
What will appear obvious to anyone working with the Inoreader rule engine is that it has been carefully designed and is not an afterthought. It offers all the features of a robust, professional tool, such as:
- combining various criteria and operators;
- using regular expressions;
- copying one rule to another;
- enabling a rule to trigger another rule;
- deactivating rules without deleting them;
- executing any rule on existing articles.
End of Round
I am stopping here, but there would be a lot more to say about the goodies Inoreader offers to gamers:
- Contextual menus
- Search criteria
- Active searches
- Customizable feed update intervals
- Subscription to OPML lists
Just look them up, it is worth it.
I only hope that these few examples will convince you that Web feeds are not only alive and kicking, but an excellent way of staying current with what’s going on in the board game world. And that Inoreader is the tool of choice to get maximum value from this technology.
Do you already use a feed reader, or Inoreader? Care to share some tips with us?