web wednesday

So, I’m thinking of writing a post each Wednesday highlighting a fun web app., informational blog, or great deal site. Today will be my first.

Google Reader has revolutionized my web use. I tried using it a few months ago with little success. I put the blogs I liked on there, but was overwhelmed with how they showed up, the lack of gadgets, and inability to comment. I have now discovered the problem was not with my reader, but with my understanding of how to use it. The best way to think about a “reader’s” purpose is to think of it as an organizational tool. It is to the web what TIVO is to t.v.

Imagine all the blogs and news resources you frequently “surf” to, now nicely organized within a filing system with an interface similar to your POP3 e-mail client. This is what a reader does. I have all the blogs I read, now listed by categories on the left hand side of my reader. Also filed is CNN news updates, ESPN news headlines, and a search feed for Bill Simmons (a search feed is necessary for non RSS enabled pages, this search feed will catch the new article when it comes out. Some sites have already adapted this, such as a site that does it for the Review Journal and Las Vegas Sun). Now instead of surfing around to see who has a new blog up, I simply check my reader, and there they are. To put it simply, instead of checking 15-20 different sites daily, you only check one.

If you want to get really advanced, and super organized, customize your google homepage to have your reader, your gmail account (if you don’t have one, I’ll invite you), and various other fun gadgets such as calendars or jokes of the day. This allows you to further organize your web use. As techies have been saying all over the blogosphere; google could be making the desktop very insignificant.

What is the benefit to this? Well, the organizational aspect has briefly been touched upon. Not to mention accessibility benefits. But for me the best aspect of the “reader” is that it limits my web use. Instead of spending too much time surfing the web, I get my desired content and avoid frivolous surfing. Like with my TIVO, if I limit myself to only watching shows I TIVO, I am effectively organizing the TV around my life instead of vise-versa like most people. Well, I have noticed that I have the same propensity to do that with the web. A read enables me to use the Web as a tool to serve my life, instead of being a tool who surfs the web instead of doing what he should.

In order for this to work you need to be exhaustive. Take a few hours and create a list of every site that you spend a good amount of time on, and find a way to get it on your reader. It took a while for to find a feed to get my Vegas newspaper fix, but it was there. Then, spend as much time as necessary filing all your feeds under as many categories as possible. Once again, the more exhaustive you are upfront, the easier it will make your web time later. Also, you will be overwhelmed at all the “new items” in your inbox. Since you frequent these sites often, just mark all as read. Chances are that if you do not do this, like myself, the reader will overwhelm you and prevent good use.