I’m a data junkie. Something about this MASSIVE amount of information in a database, or on the Internet, that can be tweaked, sorted, filtered, and presented in any format possible is just cool for me. Making the data relevant, or easier to process and comprehend in some form or another, seems to be what I like to do best. I’m not sure why, its just the way I’m made. If I ever get a chance to go back and get my masters degree, it would be in data management.
That said, this has transferred into my “digital life” that well. I have two primary e-mail accounts, a Facebook account, and a Twitter account. I’m not that avid in Facebook/Twitter, but drop me an e-mail and I usually respond pretty fast (call me old school). In addition, I have 85 news feeds that I keep up with, ranging from .Net specific feeds, to general programming feeds, to some geek life stuff and even a handful of theology related sites. Of course I try to keep an active read on any of my friends that are blogging, just to see what runs through their minds.
Before the “Web 2.0 Revolution” this consisted of having several applications open: Thunderbird for E-mail, an RSS reader of sorts (I kind of varied), and a web browser open with a tab or 3 considering if I was updating my status and checking my G-mail. Having this amount of resources open can start to crunch away at your build time if a lot is processing at once or your box is getting a little old. On top of this, one of my e-mail accounts was only available through POP access, so any messages downloaded remained there, which required me to forward them back to myself if I wanted to view it again at home.
Here’s how my routine typically works. In the morning, if time allots, and the girls are running amok elsewhere, I’ll do some e-mail checking, and maybe try and peek at one of my news feeds that don’t have a lot of entries in them, like my friend’s blog posts. When I get into work, after some initial checking and putting out any fires that may have occurred, I’ll spend a solid hour just browsing through all the coding and technology related blog items, pulling out ones I find interesting or applicable, and give them a good read. I should note that I don’t read every single entry, otherwise I’d be out of work. However, I find spending a good hour immersing myself in my trade, picking up some new tricks, learning some emerging trends, and following up on some classic software craftsmanship goes a lot way to further myself as a programmer. From there I’ll periodically check into the feeds for anything that peaks my interest, but often enough I’ll open up the link and save it in the browser tab or add it to delicious for later. I’ll also spend a bit of time reading up on the theology links,
since they take some brain power to process as well.
How to you keep dibs on this kind of mayhem? The option for me was to work smarter, not faster, and there are some great apps out there on the web to leverage your needs into a single (or maybe even just two) web based applications that you can access anywhere. I tend to be somewhat finicky in my tastes though. I’ve been going through three main “aggregators” for a year or so now, and each one comes up with some new updates that lures me back into their camp. However, they all seem to miss some little feature that starts to disenchant me from them and jump ship. Then I get disenchanted again, and the other version looks really appealing.
That said, I realized that I had a pretty good experience with all three to put a review of them out there to see what you may be missing (or not) by going down a particular route. To that extent, I’ll be reviewing (in no particular order) the following online aggregator, social news reader, homepage portal, whatever you want to call it:
Netvibes: Netvibes lists itself on its welcome screen as “a free web service that brings together your favorite media sources and online services.” It will aggregate your feeds and provide widgets to your popular services, such as Twitter/Facebook. Of note is their new Wasabi version, which features a new and smarter RSS reader, which I will be focusing on in the review.
Streamy: Streamy lists itself to “discover and share with friends everywhere. … The best stories on the web are here. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and more.”
Threadsy/Feedly: This last comparison is a combination of services. Threadsy is still in beta, but lists itself as “the first truly integrated communications client. see your email, social networks, and twitter in one place.” I’ve had a beta of this account for a while now. Threadsy currently (and may never) handle RSS feeds. To meet those needs, I’m using Feedly, which “organizes your favorite sites into a fun, magazine-like start page. based on Google Reader and Twitter.”
You’ll notice that none of these services are the “power” apps that do everything you would expect with a dedicated client. However, this is the part of working smarter, and not harder. I consider myself a power user, but more in the sense that I need to aggregate all of this into a single resource, and be able to do most of the tasks affiliated with them.
So that’s the path I’m looking to head down this week, and I hope it proves informative to you. But to kick things off, let’s do a simple poll. What “aggregators” are you using in the list above, or are you using something completely different? Its a wild Internet jungle out there, and I haven’t been able to explore it all yet.