Oliver Roick

How I Read

I want content delivered to my inbox so I built a tool for it

A few years ago, I almost laughed at a friend who offered an RSS feed on their website. Back then, I got most of my reading from Twitter. It was a time when people mostly tweeted about the things they built or the things they wrote. These times are gone, unfortunately.

How do I read these days?

I subscribed to a newspaper – a printed one – to stay up-to-date with current topics. The friendly neighbourhood mailman delivers it to my postbox once a week. I like getting a weekly summary of all the topics that were important; a static list that doesn’t grow, no-one is going to shout “READ THIS TOO” in my face.

On the Web, I want to read the same way; so I’m back to good old feeds. They come with more signal and less noise. That’s why I’m now offering an Atom Feed here too. I never particularly liked feed-reader applications, though. It’s just another thing on my computer that interrupts me when I don’t want to be interrupted. And I don’t need an app to follow the five to ten sources I want to read regularly.

On the other hand, unlike most people I know, I’m good with e-mail. Over the years I developed techniques to stay on top of my inbox. Getting new reads delivered to my inbox once a week would be perfect – just how I receive my paper once a week.

Over the last year or so, I built Nea. Every Monday at 8am, it checks all the blogs I follow, extracts previous week’s posts and sends me a neat list of links to my email. Technically speaking, it’s a series of Lambda functions that parse a list of feeds and then composes and sends an email. The Lambdas are coordinated using a Step Function, which is triggered every Monday by a scheduled Cloudwatch event. Because everything deploys automatically, curating the list of blogs I follow is as simple as editing the list using Github’s online editor.

Why go through all this effort instead of just checking your feed reader only once a week you say? I hear you, but most of the time I’m just not that disciplined. Also, it’s a lot of fun to build something just for yourself and precisely the way you want it to function.