News junkies, rejoice: a
better way to gather information
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
May 15-21, 2007; issue 916
High Tech Office column
admit it: I’m a news junkie. I try to keep on top of technology
stories, but I also like to stay on top of local, national and
international news. I scan a lot of headlines and read whatever piques
my interest. Print can be better than online because it’s more likely
to expose me to something interesting that I didn’t know I would find
Instead of randomly surfing the Internet, I make
use of a tool called RSS: Really Simple Syndication. Lots of web pages,
ranging from news publications to reviews and blogs, feature discrete
little icons either featuring stylized radio waves or the letters RSS
or XML. These pages allow readers to subscribe to them using RSS
RSS reader software then periodically checks in and
displays a synopsis of what’s new. As with a print publication, it’s
easy to quickly scan these headlines, stopping to read the full
articles whenever you like. And you can subscribe to as many different
news sites as you like, quickly getting as much news (and from as many
points of view) as you can stand.
Accessing RSS feeds originally
required special software. Dozens are available, many for free, but
none became massively popular. More recently, Mozilla Firefox, Apple
Safari and Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 and other web browsers added
built-in RSS capabilities. Surf to a website that offers RSS
subscriptions and the little icon appears in the address bar letting
you create a favourite or bookmark for the latest headlines.
never quite worked for me. I found having to check a dozen or more
individual favourites for each of my preferred news sites awkward. I
might as well just go to the various publications’ home pages. And I
might use several different computers: home and work, laptop and
desktop, Windows and Mac and Linux, Internet café on holiday. And I
would have to recreate my RSS subscriptions for each different one.
Move to a new computer and get the same headlines all over again.
Recently, I found a better way. Bloglines
(www.bloglines.com) does for subscribing and reading news feeds what
webmail services do for e-mail: it makes your news feeds available on
any computer that’s connected to the Internet using any web browser.
And as with webmail, it’s always in sync, letting you pick up where you
left off no matter where you access it.
You’ll need an account
with Bloglines, which is easy: give them an e-mail address and password
(hint: don’t use the same password you use to access your e-mail), then
validate using their confirmation e-mail message. Next, as with any RSS
reader, you need to subscribe to some news sources. Bloglines offers
some quick picks to get you started, based on its most popular news
sources, but also based on interests that you indicate.
you’re signed up for some news sources, Bloglines’ feeds page lists
your subscriptions in a frame on the left; click on one of those
“feeds” to see the latest headlines on the right. Click on a headline
for the full article in a new tab or new browser window. But you don’t
have to limit yourself to Bloglines’ choices. If that little RSS icon
shows up on any web page, you can manually add its address to your
Bloglines feeds list. Firefox users have it easier. Clicking on the
little RSS icon now gives you a choice to subscribe to the news feed
using Firefox’s default live bookmarks feature or to add it
automatically to your Bloglines list, ready to get updated hourly.
I’m happy: with Bloglines I can now get my fix of news wherever I go.