Brent Simmons, the developer of the NetNewsWire RSS reader, is questioning his decision to put an unread count next to each feed, reasoning that it encourages people to be too obsessive about reading every item:
Instead of a dozen bookmarks, people had a hundred feeds. Or two hundred. Or two thousand.
And there was a tyranny behind keeping track of unread items and showing an unread count. People reacted in different ways, but many people felt like they always had to go through everything.
Including me. To this day.
I did not know this was going to happen. That was not the idea: it was a side effect of reasonable (at the time) choices.
I like seeing these counts on feeds where I need to read all items that are posted, but that's only a small percentage of the 100-120 feeds I follow. It would be nice to turn that off for others I read more casually.
Feedly presents unread counts on each feed and folder of feeds. There's a Mark As Read button to clear a count, but when you click it, the confirmation dialog acts like it's an extremely consequential decision: "Are you sure you want to mark this entire source as read? This operation cannot be undone."
I've posed a question on the RSS-Public mailing list: Do you think feed readers should count unread items?