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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

Surfing the web without a blogroll / newsreader

posted: Sep 10, 2003 7:12:09 PM

For a couple weeks (since I started working again), I have been doing most of my web browsing away from my computer at home, and both being away and also going back and forth between work and home has totally changed my view of the web and especially of blogs.

At home, I had my RSS newsreader set up and had a routine that lead me to read, I would guess, about 50-75 different websites a day. Without RSS, and also without my own blogroll handy, I feel "lost" on the web—especially in the blogosphere.

So, practically, I plan to get myself setup at work with a RSS newsreader. And, until then, I can go to many of my favorite sites, and use their blogrolls to find my way to other sites I like to read regularly.

But, I just think it is interesting having this opportunity to observe, by their absence, how much RSS / newsreaders, blogs, and blogrolls have changed my web browsing habits.

Based on this experience, I can see why some people don't think blogs are significant, because blogs link to each other a lot more than non-blogs link to blogs. So, if you aren't already into reading blogs, and, in particular, if you don't have a tool like a newsreader to make it easy to "remember" blogs you want to look at more later, it is a lot harder to explore a lot of sites / blogs each day.

One thing I am doing, that I haven't done regularly in years, is thinking of things ahead of time that I want to try to find the next time I am online. For example, I will be on the train to work in the morning (I take the J-Chruch, FYI), and I will think about something—say who was playing at The Fillmore last night where, outside of which, I saw hundreds of people on the street? Then, on a break at work, I track it down—voila.

So, without a lot of blogs to read every day, I am more open now to trying a trivial pursuit here or there. And, for example with BoingBoing, I am clicking through nearly all of the links.

It is interesting here at work too, because there are no RSS feeds within the company yet. And, my job is basically all about figuring out how to give people in the company access to information something like along the lines of what one gets from using RSS and a newsreader.

So, the company has intranets, email newsletters, web-based reports and applications, emails, etc., and everyone seems to be looking for something in the middle, between passive and active (or push and pull) mechanisms of access to the information.

I have a critique I have been planning to write, about the notion of a "subscription" in RSS. But, in working on that, I have to say that I concluded that the RSS / newsreader combination is signficantly brilliant and, in some ways, on par with the HTML / web browser combination.

In spite of how I might want to create something different than RSS (though totally inclusive of it) for subscriptions, without RSS in hand, it is hard to downplay what a huge impact it has on my ability to make fuller use of the web.

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