Three Web Sites That Make My Online Life A Lot Easier

I spend several hours every day reading / viewing and retransmitting Web content. For the longest time, that meant a lot of visits to a lot of places; it also meant some places got forgotten along the way, or not as fully appreciated as they should be.

That is, until I discovered Google Reader, The New York Times Skimmer and Ping.fm. The three of them make my online life a lot easier to manage. I’d like to explain what each of them is, and how I use them to streamline and crowdsource my daily Internet viewing.

Google Reader is an exceptionally powerful RSS feed reader. (For those who are new to the blog, an “RSS feed” is basically a way to transmit content from one Web site to several others; be it text, pictures, audio or video. Google Reader, and other RSS feed readers, are ways to combine several RSS feeds into one place.)

Reader provides most of the features you’d expect from an RSS reader, plus a lot more:

  • Feed aggregation (that is, you can read several feeds at once);
  • the ability to group feeds;
  • tagging of individual items;
  • a “like” feature, which helps Reader suggest other feeds you might like, based on the articles you like;
  • a “star” feature, that you can use to easily find items you want to revisit;
  • and by far the most valuable feature, a “share” button, that allows you to re-aggregate content — that is, it gives you another feed of the items you share, and presents it as an Atom feed, a static Web page attached to your Google profile, and a JavaScript widget you can easily add to a blog (check the upper left-hand corner for mine).

I currently subscribe to feeds from Slashdot, Lifehacker, The Daily WTF, Wired and a few NPR blogs / podcasts.

Another great thing about Google Reader is Play, which is basically a visual way to find new things on the Internet. Your Facebook friends will think you’re the cleverest person around, just because you repost things you find in Play.

I’m not analog about much, but prior to The New York Times Skimmer, I was very analog about newspapers. Basically, I found it far easier to browse the newspaper in printed form than digital.

I tried to go digital by subscribing to the Times’ RSS feeds in Reader, but those feeds simply overwhelmed all the other content. There were upward of two dozen news stories every hour, depending on the feeds selected.

The Times Skimmer basically acts like Reader, only specific to The New York Times and using summaries only; in turn, the stories are broken into typical newspaper sections.

This makes finding reliable, well-written news easy. (I find the Times is not nearly as liberal in its reporting as others make it out to be; provided you steer clear of the Opinion section, it’s not any different than most papers.)

Ping.fm allows me to update several social networking sites at once. Basically, it’s a way to transmit a tweet not only to Twitter, but also Facebook (including fan pages), MySpace, LinkedIn, Google Buzz, Blogger, WordPress.com and a whole host of other services.

You can group services into posting groups; and ping.fm has pre-grouped the services it supports by type (status / blogging / microblogging).

The ability to control where things get posted isn’t as extensive as I like — especially if I use their toolbar and / or the “Share” button built into Reader and the Google Toolbar. And there’s no API to leverage, which seems a significant oversight.

And the biggest drawback is that ping.fm is one-way. You can send stuff out on it, but you can’t read it back. I tried using TweetDeck for that purpose, but it’s too difficult to streamline the information coming in, and it takes up too much screen real estate. I figured out I could just as easily open a browser window with tabs set to Facebook, Twitter and Reader, and just tab back and forth through them.

That said, it’s a lot easier to use ping.fm than to try to build my own multiple-service status updater.

All links in this post on delicious: http://delicious.com/dougvdotcom/three-web-sites-that-make-my-online-life-a-lot-easier

2 thoughts on “Three Web Sites That Make My Online Life A Lot Easier

  1. Pingback: Using YOURLS And The Twitter API With Google Reader’s Custom SendTo Link – dougv.com « Doug Vanderweide

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