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(If you already know RSS, here's my feed! If not, here's a 3-minute intro...)

What is RSS (Really Simple Syndication)?

Imagine an open version of Twitter or Facebook News Feed, with no psy-op ads, owned by no monopoly, manipulated by no algorithm, and all under your full control.

Imagine a version of the newsletter where you don't have to worry about them selling your email to scammers, labyrinth-like unsubscribe processes, or stuffing your inbox with ever more crap.

Now imagine this existed and was extremely popular 15 years ago. Then we got suckered by the shiny walled gardens.

Well, it's time to make like a tree and go back to the future, baby!

How does RSS work?

Unlike newsletters where give each publisher your email (and they may abuse that trust), RSS works on a "don't call me, I'll call you" policy.

An RSS feed is just a text file on a website. It's a bunch of posts – no tracking or "personalization" – like a printed newspaper:

Three newsvendors, holding newspapers reading 'truth', 'beauty', and 'clickbait'. The last vendor is a clown.

Then, whatever RSS reader app you use – you can use any app made by anyone – it'll call the websites for the feeds you specifically opted into, no more or less. The websites can't force it in the other direction.

A flying RSS logo takes 'truth' and 'beauty', and leaves the clown's clickbait.

Your app then shows you your posts in good ol' reverse chronological order. (Some apps let you add extra filters, but unlike social media algorithms, you control 'em.) Apps also make the posts prettier than raw text:

The RSS logo presents a dazzling scroll entitled, 'Truth & Beauty'.

Really Simple, indeed!

Cool, how do I get started?

My favorite RSS reader so far is Feedreader, because it has so few features. Minimalist, free, no ads or tracking, works on any desktop/mobile browser. (For other options, Feedly's the most popular. Also see this list of readers.)

To add a feed to your reader, you can usually just paste a link to a blog/website, and the reader automatically finds its RSS feed!

But what to subscribe to? Selfishly, might I recommend...

🕹 My New Projects – shtuff to help you learn & play.
(1 thing per few months, each thing takes <30 min to play)
paste link into reader: or direct feedreader link

I also find these feeds consistently life-enriching:

xkcd – a nerdy stick-figure comic.
(3 comics per week, each comic takes ~1 min to read)
link: or feedreader

⚛️ Quanta Magazine – math & science, explained accessibly with rigor.
(4 articles per week, each article ~10 min long)
link: or feedreader
(note: some math equations may not render correctly in RSS readers)

🥧 3Blue1Brown – math visualized with beauty and rigor.
(1 video per month, each video <30 min long)
link: or feedreader
(Yes, you can get YouTube updates via RSS! Feedreader opens videos in a new link, but others like Feedly can embed videos in the reader itself)

Finally, a warning:

There is one common trap with RSS, shared with email and social media. It's the hoarder instinct. No algorithm can save you from hoarding feeds "just in case", then being overwhelmed. The only cure is to ruthlessly Marie Kondo that crap, and if a feed's posts don't enrich your life at a consistent 90%-or-more hit rate, toss it to the crows.

Congratulations, you now know how to escape the attention-draining, empathy-killing, critical-thought-suffocating siren song of the shiny walled gardens' algorithms! And get your inbox less cluttered with newsletters!

Now, go forth, and read wisely. 💖