12/1/06

Presence

Every few months or a year or so, I happen to share some of my thoughts on how to track information more efficiently. This time around, it has an individual-based slant to it. People we know directly or indirectly, vast numbers of them, have scattered bits of information about themselves and their realms of knowledge all over the internet.

I know some of you already know the intimate details about what I'm referring to... all the tech lingo, all the best practices, all the hot sites. But many of you don't, and many of you just think you know. I know I'm usually in the latter category.

So with all these bits of information, we usually encounter them as we make a crooked trail through cyberspace, clicking link to link, searching out friends as they pop into our heads, and sometimes managing a sloppy list of bookmarks in our web browser, which has only been around since you got your latest computer.

Nowadays, most blogs that people have can be plugged in to a special website or program that will gather them all up and watch them for you, alerting you when any person adds some information to their blog. All you have to do is copy and paste each person's blog address into this website/program which is called a newsreader. You may not see the benefit to this, if you enjoy the process of skimming through thew few blogs you have bookmarked or just remember off the top of your head. But the odds are good that far more people you personally know, have a blog with information about themselves that you'd be interested in. You just haven't thought it that important to keep track of them, because you just don't always remember to.

But you should try out a newsreader. They do take some effort... after you install/register with one, you have to actually track down your friends blogs and copy and paste their addresses into the "Add" or "Subscribe" feature in your newsreader. You can also search through the newsreader's list of recommended blogs that you might be interested in; most news websites are available in there, on all kinds of topics. Finally, you have to carefully monitor how much information you can manage. Just as I suggested that you are unaware of the sheer amount of information you can handle, since you haven't used a newsreader, there is the opposite risk once you start using one. You sign up for everything under the sun, since you've always wanted to be able to read the entire Wall Street Journal, the NY Times, BBC News, and Digg.com, every single day.

Some programs do this for you, but the stiffest competition is currently amongst the websites that do it for you. The bonus about these is that you can sign on to them from anyone's computer, and get your own list of news relevant to you. One last little note I want to make is about that list that you have maintained on the newsreader once you are all setup. Most newsreaders will allow you to "Export" your list, so that it's something similar to a bookmarks file, which you can save onto your computer, and then use the "Import" on another newsreader to fill it up with that same list. Why? Because they all do things just a little differently, and you might want to try a different one without restarting your list.

Here are a few of the more popular newsreaders that I can recommend for you to use:

Bloglines - One of the first ones, they keep making it better. A great add-on they have is "email subscriptions" allowing you to send your mailing lists to them instead of your personal email, for better organization.

Google Reader - This company has mastered the art of branding, ad-driven revenue, customer loyalty, and open-source friendliness. In the case of this particular product, they haven't added any text advertisements yet, but it's just as powerful as all the other newsreaders.

Rojo - Lightweight and simple, might be all ya need.