MovableBlog: Instead of Feeling Overwhelmed by the Amount of Information That I Ought To Be Absorbing
December 22, 2004
At last, I feel like I am in control of my aggregator again. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information that I ought to be absorbing, instead of feeling scared to open my aggregator because the unread posts are gonna overtop any second and flood my poor little brain, I feel like I have a nice, tidy resource that I can dip into any time I want. Of course, much of this is an illusion, facilitated by a folder cunningly called 'blogs/tech/stuff' which contains pretty much everything that's currently uncategorised, but I can cope with that act of wilful self-deception.
I've been using NetNewsWire for about a month now, and the 2.0 release makes it a rather elegant and feature-rich, though still simple and easy-to-use, aggregator. The desktop aggregators I've tried on my now-lonely Windows XP box (though you'd think it would welcome the presence of its attractive cousin, the Powerbook G4), made me appreciate content aggregation from both a consumer and provider's point of view. I started on Syndirella, which had a neat screen-scraping feature for those sites that did not have RSS feeds. After active development ceased, I moved to to SharpReader. It has really neat features, like showing the relationships between individual entries aggregated by the software, but it was a memory hog when memory my older system was and still is at a premium. FeedDemon, and though my bank account may have squirmed under the pressure at the time, it was fully worth the purchase price. Development is active, and the 1.5 release, in beta at this writing, is zippy has a really great feature set. I recommend it without hesitation to Windows XP users.
The feature I most liked about FeedDemon, and that I like about NetNewsWire, is seeing the text from all the items ordered reverse-chronologically, be it from an individual feed, a group of feeds, or the list of items that are new. This is the way of displaying feed items that makes the most sense to me, and is the least email-like. The central idea of weblogs, or at least one of the central ideas, is that we were supposed to have web-based, linkable, fairly short (but size doesn't always matter), timely posts that fade into the archives. NNW gives me the option to view the full text of the entries sorted reverse-chronologically. (View » Layout » Combined View.) I'm liking more and more the idea of having one page to look at and letting the old stuff just fall away. This will matter most to people who value only the most recent information. Anything older than that will not be useful to them.
I'm not one of those people, however: I read personal weblogs more than I read technological weblogs, and if it's a few days old and well-written, I'll read, link to, and comment on what they've written. The value for me, then, is not when the information was produced but what that information is. A lot of people are like that. A lot of people also feel there is little value in historical information, because if they're only interested in commenting on what happened in the last day or so, then they'll just set their hundreds of posts that they missed to the "read" status and move on to the new stuff. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information that they ought to be absorbing, then, they could just let the new stuff wash over them as if the old information was never there.
Besides, isn't that what search engines are for?