As I mentioned before, I’ve started tagging my saved items in Google Reader. I did this partly because of a general worry about the saved items getting out of control, but also because there were three specific categories of saved items that I was afraid were getting buried: items that I wanted to read but didn’t have enough time/focus to read right then, items that I’d commented on and wanted to read others’ comments on later, and items that I wanted to blog about in the future. I had another ten or so categories that I came up with, but I didn’t seriously expect to get through the items in them: their purpose was to make it clear that I had 60 or 80 or whatever videos saved up to watch, that I was clearly accumulating more faster than I was watching them, and I should just delete them now.

The three short-term tags have served their purpose quite well; I’m definitely glad I took up tagging for that reason alone. What was unexpected, however, was an unexpected benefit I’ve gotten from the other categories. (Or at least an unexpected side effect – it’s not clear that my spending more time web surfing should be categorized as a benefit.) Namely: when I was finished reading through my normal feeds and didn’t feel like doing something else, I started going through my saved video items. (Because that was the tag that I was accumulating the most new stuff at the time.) And what I found was that it actually wasn’t hard to go through the videos faster than I was accumulating them.

When I see a blog post with a video, my mind had been thinking “that will put a dent in my blog reading time”. And it is true that watching a video takes longer than reading a normal blog post. But it doesn’t take that much longer: most of the time, I stop watching after 30 seconds or so, and most of the rest of the time it takes less than 5 minutes to watch the whole thing. (And curses to people who embed videos in a way that doesn’t show how long they are.) So it’s not that hard to go through 10 or 15 or 20 of them in half an hour; after doing that a few times, most of the category is cleared out.

It’s not completely cleared out: there are still 23 items, typically ones that will take a while to watch but that, I suspect, are worth it. Of those 23 items, however, a grand total of one of them is newer than my blog post announcing the advent of these queues. So I’m managing to keep the queues quite well under control.

Or at least that queue: if I’m concentrating on clearing out videos, that probably means that other queues are building up? To some extent, that was the case, so next I turned myself to the queue of flash games. Which, fortunately, hasn’t been building up at a fast pace recently – Game | Life hasn’t been writing about flash games very often recently – but there were still a lot that had built up. (Incidentally, if you’re looking for a flash game to play, check out the Game | Life logo!)

Flash games are potentially a worse problem than videos – most of the time, you know how long a video will take, but who knows how long it will take to evaluate a flash game? It turns out, however, that the answer is “not very long”: in most cases, it only takes a minute of play time for me to decide that I have something better to do. So now the queue is down to 15 games, of which only 2 are relatively new entries to the queue. (Most of the stragglers are adventure games.)

The flash games queue was actually rather disappointing: I enjoyed watching many of my saved videos, but I didn’t enjoy playing almost any of the saved games. I would like to think that there are good flash games out there that I’m missing, games that are equal in quality (if not duration or production values) to good commercial games, but I’m just not seeing it: there is currently only one flash game author whom I particularly like. (I should blog more about his games one of these days.)

So: two long queues attempted, two successes. Next, I turned to the category “many-links”, of blog posts referring to lots of other pages. The same story as before: yes, it takes longer to read such a post as a normal blog post. (To be specific, if such a post has N links, it takes about N times as long!) But it’s not an unmanageable amount of time, or anything: I’m still going through this category, so I have 43 items saved, but none of them are new, and I see no reason why I shouldn’t be able to get this category down to 0 items without too much work.

This is the one place where I’m using multiple tags. Say that, for example, I think the second link in one of these posts is worth blogging about. When that happens, I’ll replace the “many-links” tag by the “blog” tag. But that’s not good enough – it might take a month for me to have enough bloggable items saved up to make a post, and by then I’ll have forgotten which one I wanted to blog about. I could add a more specific tag, but that will screw up tag completion and such. What I’ve decided to do is to tag the post with both “blog” and a number (e.g. “blog, 2”), where that number is the number of the link that I want to blog about.

I still have a ways to go (I currently have a total of 194 tagged items, while ideally I’d reach a steady state of under 10), but the contours seem clear by now: once I break things into categories, the saved items start dwindling. I’m actually curious if the categories themselves matter: would I have the same effect if the tags I used were just the days of the week? Not entirely clear: maybe I learn something about how to efficiently process video posts by focusing on them for a little while, but maybe not. It may well be the case that some of the tags will prove resistant to this process: in particular, I’m worried about the “long” tag. I doubt it, though: my bet is that I’ll be down to 50 items in another couple of months, and will be down to 10 items in half a year.

Incidentally, Google has fixed one of the UI flaws that I whined about before: they now do tag completion based on the start of the tag, instead of completing from the middle of the tag. But they still insist on defaulting to showing me unread tagged items, which continues to make no sense to me.

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