(Note: This post originally appeared on my blogspot blog here. Datestamped footnotes with commentary may have been added for my own reflection and amusement.)
Over the past 10 years or so, my day to day life has been almost completely changed by the presence and evolution of the internet. I feel guilty for not reading as much as I used to, but really I read so much more- it’s just spread out over countless topics and discussions and articles on the internet. It’s a testament to the quality of Newsweek1 that I continue to subscribe to it despite being able to get almost all the news related and hell, anything related information I need from a computer.
Now, of course it’s obvious my web habits have changed over the past 10 or so years, everyone’s have I would imagine. Email, instant messaging, discussion forums, and now social networking have all shaped and changed the content I view on the internet. Now over the past 6 months or so and escalating recently I’ve finally jumped on the bandwagon of feed syndication (through RSS, and Atom, although the specific protocol isn’t really the main idea here). While this hasn’t changed the way I use the internet in the same way things on that previous list did, it has streamlined the way I absorb content remarkably. I’m already having trouble imagining using the internet without my feed reader.2
Any time I find an interesting or funny article on a site or a blog, I immediately look for the feed to add. If they post infrequently, I don’t have to remember to keep checking back. If it was one gem in a sea of crap, then I just remove the feed.
While the main use for this is syndication of articles, it’s great for other things like web comics I enjoy, and keeping up to date on craigslist listings (I keep track of the musical instruments) and almost any other items of interest you can think of. I even have a feed that syndicated content on the frontpage of digg.com so I can browse over it and not miss interesting stuff that hits the front page, but the feed just gives me the link itself so I don’t have to mess with all the mob mentality and general idiocy that goes on with sites like Digg.3
Between social bookmarking sites, discussion forums, social networks, and my subscribed feeds, surfing the web is virtually dead for me. I don’t have to go surfing, the ocean of the internet is pumped through a pipe right to me, and through those other social gathering places I can continually find new and interesting things to discuss, laugh at or just read and think about. My only concern is that eventually I’ll build up too many feeds and not have time to blow through them all. As long as I still take time to focus on singular things like individual books and et cetera I don’t think it’s too big of a problem.
For those of you who havent heard of or looked into using feeds, or have and are just lazy like I was, I recommend using an online feed reader. Personally I use google reader4 but I’m sure there are plenty of other options out there. There are also some great local readers, but I like having all my feed subscriptions available from wherever I am if I choose.
Also, the personalized google homepage5 allows you to add whatever feeds you want and arrange them how you like along with all sorts of other widgets for checking email, keeping track of notes, etc. I love it.
It’ll be interesting to see what the next great phenomenon is that comes along and changes the way we use the internet6, but I’m certainly happy to have the current experience streamlined a bit more in the meantime.
It couldn't have been too long after this that Newsweek became an awful, awful magazine. Unfortunately the Atlantic looks to be following a similar path. (08/2013)↩
I still subscribe to a lot of feeds, but in the era of the Google Reader shutdown, I have unsubscribed from a lot of the sites that produce tons of posts a day. I'm also just on the internet a lot less during the day and couldn't keep up with that if I wanted to. (08/2013)↩
All of that idiocy moved to Reddit. (08/2013)↩
RIP. Although it really died when they removed the old social component to try and force people to use Google+. (08/2013)↩
Also Dead. Well before Google Reader. (08/2013)↩