A Day in the (2.0) life (Part 2)

This is Part 2 in a planned series of essays on living life online. Part 1 is here. The whole series is tagged mylifeonline for ease of access.

Reading the News

I read the news today, oh boy – John Lennon

In the previous article I showed you my Firefox start up page. In this article I’m going to drill down into my iGoogle portal concentrating on a typical news reading session. I will be showing you how I use my RSS feed aggregator to efficiently find out what’s new across a large number of subscribed-to blogs and other RSS feeds.

This picture shows my iGoogle news page in Firefox (click the image to enlarge to full size). I’ve highlighted the Google reader panel. You can see that today I have 72 new articles to read. I can read articles within the iGoogle window, but it’s usually more efficient to go to the Google reader web application which has more reading options. So I click on the Google Reader link to open the Google RSS Feed Reader.

The Google Reader web home page has three main areas. The main area(1) gives a selection of the unread items which is based on what Google Reader thinks are the topics that I’ll be most interested in. On the top left is a navigation panel (2) which gives me quick access to the home page, all news and items that I’ve chosen to mark as important (starred) or those which I’d like to share.

The third area (3) gives the traditional folder view of the RSS feeds that you’ll find in most RSS feed aggregators. Google Reader differs here in that folders represent tags and so you can conveniently place a single RSS feed in more than one folder. For example I have Alan Levine’s CogDogBlog categorized under people, education, teaching and web2.0 and I can access the feed from any of these top-level folders. Also, when I read it in web2.0, it becomes marked as read in all the other folders too.

How you use Google Reader to read your RSS feeds is a matter of taste. For example, you can read the news from the home page in which case, Google essentially decides which news items to show you. An alternative is to use the tagged folders to browse the news and home in on the topics of particular interest. For example, I often home into the daily Dilbert cartoon by going directly to the cartoons folder. However, for efficiency, I find it best to go directly to the All items link.

The All Items view gives a so called river of news view of all of my unread subscribed RSS feeds (here) arranged in chronological order (oldest first). In this view, you simply click on the first item and then use the space bar to move through item by item. As you do so, the items become marked as read. In this way you can efficiently catch up on a large number of RSS feeds without the need to use a mouse!

So far as I know, only Google Reader provides this time-saving feature, and hence it’s become my feed reader of choice.

This concludes Part 2! In the next article, I’ll show you how I try to be efficient in tagging items of interest.

Author: cpjobling

Senior lecturer, College of Engineering, Swansea University