There have been a couple of things I’ve wanted to do for ages now that I simply haven’t had the time to get around to. They involve tearing myself away from the antiquated single user RSS reader and browser bookmarking that I use.
RSS and Atom are excellent, truly a triumph of the useful. I have a large number of RSS feeds I love to read, all saved in Sage, the Firefox add-on RSS reader The problem is that I have Firefox installations on 5 computers, and I’m now using my iPhone more and more for reading. If I read some of those feeds on my machine at work, or add a new one, that information isn’t replicated to the other devices I also use. Similarly with the bookmarks, no central store, so they’re duplicated all over the place, and if I add a new bookmark on one machine, but would like to look at it somewhere else, I’m stuck trying to remember the page and Googling it.
I know this stuff isn’t new, online bookmark services and news aggregators have been around for ages. However, these two aspects of my computer use have been deeply ingrained for so long that changing them would be quite a time consuming task. There are literally hundreds of such services to choose from, with feature sets, compatibility, security and general ease of use to be considered before jumping into one.
I primarily spend time on a computer at work, and when at work, I need to spend the majority of my time programming, and actually working. Reading about online bookmark and RSS aggregator sites, actually choosing one, signing up, testing it out, installing plugins, migrating my existing data into it all takes time I can’t spend at work. When I get home, having spent all day on a computer, the last thing I want to do is spend more time at a keyboard. At the weekends, there are also plenty of things to do that don’t involve computers, and rarely do I type on Saturday or Sunday, unless it’s to work!
So, there’s my dilema! Luckily though, today (Saturday) I happen to find myself with a desire to update my computer using experience with some modern online based tools, and the time to actually do it. There’s even time to write on this blog.
I took a bit of time to wonder if I wanted to actually use a site that shared my bookmarks with everyone else, or look for a ‘roll you own‘ solution using my own hosted server (longsteve.com) and probably some WordPress addon or custom PHP code. The benefit would be that I maintained control of my own bookmark data, and that I didn’t have to care about anyone else seeing my bookmarks unless I unwittingly exposed them in some way. Then I thought, I don’t really care about other people seeing my bookmarks, or at least the vast majority of them. All the sites I looked at allowed me to set a private flag on any bookmarks I created. It then becomes a matter of how much trust I want to place in the site I choose to give all my bookmarks too. Since lots of other companies already have more data on me than I care to think about, I think my bookmarks are really nothing to worry about!
Since Delicious were pretty much the pioneers in this area, and Ma.gnolia went down some time ago, I think the choice was already made for me. So far things look good. The site is easy to use, there are iPhone apps that allow me access to the bookmark data, and the Firefox plugin keeps all the bookmarks in sync between different computers, exactly what I need.
I’ve already enjoyed reading on digital devices, especially my Nokia E90 with it’s awesome internal 800 pixel wide screen, for some time now. Web pages and e-books are great. I was skeptical about the iPhone for a while, with it’s lower resolution, but the screen is so bright and clear that reading on it is a joy. My 3GS is so fast that it seems pointless waiting for a PC to boot up, or even my laptop to wake up from sleeping if I want to read something on the web. More so than bookmarking, having a decent iPhone/mobile experience for an online RSS reader was important, and Google Reader fits the bill. It’s great on the iPhone and the desktop experience isn’t that far from Sage. Again, my only concern is the sharing of my personal preferences with a large corporation like Google. They’re not getting any money out of me directly, and although they try and tempt me with adverts, AdBlock sees most of those off, so what’s in it for Google? Of course, it’s information about me they are getting, and every day, I willingly give them more and more of it. One day, Google will buy Nectar and O2, and then they will know more about me than even I or my wife do. The UK government don’t need to use ISP data to keep tabs on people, they just need to get cosy with Google.
Although I occasionally use GMail, I’m not giving up The Bat! and my own POP3 hosting account just yet!