I use Google Reader to manage most of the sites that I regularly read. Today it occurred to me that it would be very useful to have some functionality whereby feeds in a common folder could be read in one aggregated display, a bit like how planetplanet works. I then learned that Google Reader does exactly that already: It's fairly obvious to use in the normal reader, a little bit more subtle in the mobile version (you must click the folder once to load it up in a new page, then click it again to see the aggregated contents).
That prompted me to try and tidy up my subscriptions and sort them in a way that took advantage of this feature. Deciding that the Google Reader interface was too primitive to properly organise all of my subscriptions (there are about 100 or so of them), I exported my subscriptions as OPML and imported them into liferea.
I then dutifully pruned the list and sorted the remainder into a heirarchy of folders. In most cases I categorised things according to their topic: e.g., "computing", "friends", etc.; with two important exceptions: feeds that I track for debugging purposes but don't actually read (such as my own weblog) I put in a folder "don't read". Feeds that I have decided I need to read every post to (and there are very few of those) I moved into a top-level folder called "essential".
I note that liferea 1.4.18 at least does not support the planet-style aggregation feature for folders that Google Reader does.
On re-importing to Google Reader, I discovered another facet of it's behaviour that I'd neglected to pay attention to: it does not support heirarchical folders. (How could I use this software for so long and not really understand how it works?) In fact, folders are more like tags, with feeds existing in multiple folders. To make matters even more confusing, there is an entirely separate notion of tags, which applies to items inside subscriptions.
Regarding the concept of an "essential" list. If you cut down your firehose consumption to just feeds which met the "essential" criteria, would you find yourself short on information, or just short on noise?
Sometimes I read a book that for one reason or another (perhaps just one: excellent writing?) I cannot put down. I utterly devour the book and finish it much more quickly than average. Wouldn't it be nice if other information could be consumed so vociforously?
When trying to read things such as academic papers or bid proposals, someone unused to them may find them very hard going. Someone with more practise might managed to "read" such a document much more quickly. Perhaps there is a point to all the firehose noise: maybe we need long immersion in the culture or context to train ourselves up so we can optimally consume the good stuff?