Your time is not cheap! Maximize

Like any card carrying uber geek check 30-40 news sites everyday to stay on the cutting edge of news.  Sounds like a lot of time right?  It’s not really.  I go to one place and all the stories can be read (or headlines skimmed) in about 15 minutes a day.  Sounds like I have some sort of card counting Vegas scheme right?  Sadly I don’t.  I just use one of the simple tools that never really caught on in the mainstream, its call Really Simple Syndication or RSS for short.
The history of RSS lies in the companies wanting to keep employees and consumers updated on their latest news.  For the most part it hasn’t changed but it has become better. 
Most if not all websites, news sites, and blogs have a RSS feed associated with them.  The easiest thing to look for is this symbol.  This link will allow you to subscribe to this page and every time it posts a new story you will be updated.  Some RSS feeds can also contain attachments ranging from pictures, web pages, or even audio and video file.  The latter is known as Podcasting (future post).
How will you be updated? Good line of thought.  The answer is in a program or web application called a RSS aggregator.  It’s a program that takes all the RSS reeds from all the sites you want follow and brings them all together into one single spot.  You can skim headlines and read the stories you care about within the aggregator.  It’s a one stop personalized newspaper for you.
There are several really awesome aggregators out there.  They range from standalone aggregators, email programs, and online services.  I go over a couple that I have used and focus on the one that I use the most.
Standalone Aggregator
Just like everything else there is a class of programs specifically designs to deal with your RSS feeds.   There is a wide list of aggregators out there and Wikipedia has a great list and comparison here.  Most feature a built in browser, tagging, import/export, and a large heap of other features.  The down side of going with any stand alone program is that you have an extra program running on your computer and you have to go to your computer to check your feeds.  It’s a very old school way of doing things.  Needless to say it’s not my favorite way to go.
Email Clients
Most modern day email clients have an RSS reader built into them.  Outlook, Thunderbird, and Mail on Mac all have RSS Aggregators built into them.  With these programs whenever a site publishes an update you get an email for the post.  The email contains the whole post with in the RSS feed so there is no need to open a link to read the article.  It updates when your email updates so it will keep to on the bleeding edge as long as you have your email open.  As with the standalone programs you need to be at your computer to check your feeds, but it adds functionally to a program that you are already using, which I smile upon.
Online Aggregators
My Favorite, hands down, no questions asked.  It’s a nice stepping stone to cloud computing (More on this in a post to come).  With this type of service you can check your feeds anywhere you have access to the internet.  All the good online aggregators have mobile versions of their web pages or even mobile apps.  Again there are many, many, MANY, options out there.  Bloglines is popular choice, it’s easy to add feeds, they have a great mobile webpage for those on the go and it’s completely free.  The MSN network, Yahoo, MobileMe, and also have aggregators.
As some may now I’m a Google whore and I will now gush for a while about their RSS aggregator.  Google Reader is aggregator that I use.  If you have a Gmail account(which you really should) you already are signed up and can use it with no further typing.  Just go to the website and get started.  It feature a wealth of features including keyboard shortcuts, sharing to google buzz, and the ability to email articles to anyone (This feature also uses your Google contacts so all you have to do is type your contacts name and Google does the rest). 
Now you understand what feeds are and you have an aggregator to read them in.  The last step is to add the feeds of the site you want to watch into your aggregator.  Go to the site and look for can click this icon


or search (ctrl-F) for the term RSS. Once you have the address all you have to do is go to your aggregator and click add feed. Repeat for any other page you want. If you would like a page to start on you can use this link to subscribe to this blog.  Thanks!
That’s it.  You’re good to go.  Next time you want to check the news go to your aggregator and everything posted since the last time you checked will be there.

Socially networked

So I’ve come to a crossroads for my online identity. I have accounts with all the major sites, twitter, facebook, and buzz. I check them constantly I keep them updated with all the interesting things I find on the internet, random thoughts, and funny pictures I find. I do wonder whats the point of all this socialness? Sure looking at funny pictures will give people a laugh, but the majority of people that I know either don’t do all this social networking or check it so intermittently and don’t post feedback. So I’m stuck with several problems.

First, if I find a humorous morsel that I think a certain person would enjoy, I can post it to all three sites and hope beyond hopes that the person will see it or I can email them and deny the rest of my friends the opportunity to enjoy thee funny titbit that I found entertaining, they might like it. I suppose that I could do both, but thats a lot of work and a lot of redundancy.
Secondly, no everybody has as much time as do and are only members of one of these sites. So I have to keep constantly remember who is in which circle. I counter this by posting the same thing across all three networks, so the rare exception of overachiever gets to read my same posts several time. The poor saps.
Thirdly, I’d like to know if people like what I’m posting or if its just annoying. People are too polite to outright say my posts are annoying and block me before actually giving feedback. How am I suppose to grow when people do that?
Then each site has has its own quirks that I enjoy or despise with the fury of a thousand suns.
The largest of all the social networks. Its awesome to see most of my friends from both childhood and quasi-adulthood in one spot. Its the one feature that keeps me on facebook.
The flip side of that coin is that every other person THAT I HAVE EVER KNOW thinks that they can be my friend. Every single ex-girlfriend,every person that shared a high school with, and every other random person I have met since, have requested to be my friend. I click the handy ignore button only to see a new request days later like I didn’t see and ignore the first one. To all those people here is a quick aside.
I either wasn’t your friend or decided to stop being friends with you long ago. I know the difference between the ignore button and accept button. Stop it.
Then there are Games, quizzes, drinks, and various other filler that facebook allowed to bring their social network down to the Las Vegas side-alley it is.
I do like the threaded comment system and tagging of pictures. It allows a great social aspect to the site.
Hugely popular in the news but also the one that nobody seems to care about. I like this one because there is a huge list of quasi-celebrities, and services that I like to follow. Its easier to post on this that any other service. There are a plethora of channels to pass these posts to other sites eliminating the hassle of posting twice or three times. The ability to direct a post towards specific people, while not making the whole conversation private is nice.
I have a love/hate relationship with simplicity of the site. It means no games or virtual drink passing, but is also means that to follow a conversation between two people requires the cross referencing power of a CIA operations computer. Conversations between more than two are just impossible, which isn’t very social now is it? I dislike the fact I have to go offsite to see any media.
I’m neutral on the 140 character limits, with the exception that replies and links count towards that limit. URL Shorters are nice but why can’t I just use a little html code to make the link in line, like this.
The youngest of the sites and possible my favorite. Despite the privacy nightmare of its launch I have high hopes for this service. Threaded posts, in-line media, directed posting to individuals and groups, and the fact its in my FREAKIN’ email are just some of reason I’m excited.
It does require that people have a gmail account, i think you should also, which will give some people a reason to not use it. It also doesn’t have the ability to pass its posts onto other services like twitter does yet. It has a variety of ways to post to it but the easiest is still go to website and type in your post, which isn’t that hard just annoying for the mobile environment.
*shrug* Were you looking for one? I don’t have it. I’m just thinking out loud.