Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mama Bean's lenten deprivations have led to More Efficient Internets. Much rejoicing!

Seriously, RSS feeds are fricking genius! Why why why (ad infinitum) did it take me this long to figure it out? Computer programmers are very intelligent people, they know how to make our lives easier, we should listen to them. The blessed, blessed programmers created programs that will keep track of the sites you read, and tell you when they're updated, and provide a handy little viewing screen to preview whether said update is worth your precious (limited by Lent) internet resources. This is the invention of a Lifetime! (No, not the television channel.)

The programmers have not made an easy way to, say, import an existing set of Favourite'd sites and subscribe to them all at once. I had to manually enter each web jewel separately. But it was so worth it. Now, I just go to my reader (the Google one. I didn't research this choice, I used the one Papa Bean uses. Let me know if you have one you like better) and everything that's updated since I last looked is bolded. And it takes me to the permalinked page, instead of the homepage, so no more "clicking through" or "following the jump". I don't know why this feels like I'm saving enormous amounts of time, because I'm basically just saving clicks and tabs, but for some reason I feel like my entire World Wide Life has been streamlined.

And I'm gradually figuring out that I am not somehow missing things. I am learning to trust the reader. In fact, I can be less paranoid about it now than I was before, clicking past entries on or Evil Beet that I vaguely remembered, just to find an anchor post I was sure I'd read previously. So, you know, less irrational surfing, it's all good. I used to hop online two or three times a day, open every site on my Daily Visits list (which was massive) and click through each one, closing those that hadn't changed, just to find the few with new content. And sometimes, when I was done, I'd do it again, just to see if one of the unread sites had magically updated in the ten minutes since I'd checked last. This is the kind of obsessive browsing that prompted my Internet fast in the first place.

Problem number one, I am now able to follow even more sites than before. I've resubscribed to webcomics and blogs set on backburner for months or years because I just didn't feel I had the time. Problem, or maybe just revelation number two, RSS readers allow the analytical (such as myself) to very visually and accurately quantify total web use. I'm averaging 80+ updates a day on my current list of subscriptions, and that list will only get longer. It's too much. I am a tad anal retentive. Certainly linear and methodical. With poor impulse control, what you might call compulsive. So when I see 67 new items, I have to start at the bottom and open each one in turn. If I don't have time to read it, I leave that tab open until some magical free time arrives. If I must leave my computer, because it's 6 pm, or Bean is going to bed, or I'm going to work, or my husband wants to, like, talk to me... and I return to 84 items, I can't just start in the middle. Or scan for something truly interesting, and leave the remaining unread items under a couple of the unbolded chosen few. I have to go to the bottom, and work my way upward. It's ridiculous. And I have a set of twenty tabs already, of long text-y articles and posts that I just know I will want to read just as soon as I haveaminuteorfivehundred.

Okay, but I can overcome my compulsions oh sure. The point is that I have discovered a wonderful tool and I needed to write 900 words about it. Also, I'm considering switching browsers to Chrome. I am intrigued by these assurances that Chrome never crashes. Firefox certainly crashes far far less than IExplore, but my last computer had a serial crashing issue with Firefox that is hinting at reappearing with this computer, so I want to escape. I feel a little entrenched though, the way my Favourites are organized. I know this shouldn't be a problem with things like Delicious and Xmarks, but it is for me. Seth Godin has a term for it that I can't remember, this strategy that technology marketers use to create complexity that ensnares users and makes leaving difficult. Cell phone plans and features are a good example. It's sort of like captive loyalty. I don't like it, but I'm still too lazy about it to actually go download Chrome. But I'm thinking about it. It only took me three years to discover RSS...

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