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December 7, 2004

All right, you can stop hitting refresh now

Occasionally, diogenesclub.net will come up in polite conversation with a friend. They usually say something to the effect of, "Yeah, I used to check it, but you don't update it every day." To which I reply, "Well, you should subscribe to my rss feed." To which they reply with a blank stare. Explaining rss to someone unfamiliar with it is like explaining email to my grandfather. Even if you can get him to understand what it is, you still are going to have a job convincing him he should use it.

A note to my coworkers and anyone reading this in an rss reader, you can pretty much mark this is as read, I'm just going to be preaching to the choir here.

So rss. I won't bore you with the Webster's definition of it or what it stands for or anything, you can look that up yourself. But rss basically solves a big problem for people trying to waste time at work when their boss isn't looking: Sites like this one don't update every day. And it's an exercise in disappointment to come here and have that same old story about The Will Show staring you in the face all the time. In short, rss tells you when a site updates.

Rss didn't click with me for a long time. (So it tells me if a site updates, so what, I can figure that out by going to it.) That is, until Thunderbird, an email client, came with its own rss reader. It finally made sense. It's just like getting an email. I can give Thunderbird the address of a site, and it's like the site emails me every time it updates. It appears right next to my inbox, with the title of the article where the subject would be, and a brief summary below. You can then read the article, mark it is read, and it'll remember that you've read that article next time you look. (Keep in mind that you don't have to use Thunderbird to use rss, more on that later.)

But Will, you might be saying, your blog is the only blog I read. It's not worth the trouble for me.

First, I'd like to compliment you on your discriminating taste. Second, I'd wager nine out of ten of the sites you read, be it Salon, The New York Times, Slate, or BBC News publish rss feeds too. Often times, a quick google search can find a feed for sites that don't publish their own like Ain't it Cool News. So with your rss reader, you can browse the headlines of Times without having to look at ads trying to trick you into seeing that sucky new movie, Closer, and never have to browse the same headline twice.

So after I figured this all out, I installed rss readers on the three computers I use on a regular basis, and it was pretty sweet, until I realized that I could mark an article as read on one machine, and the other two machines would still think it was unread. Imagine marking every message in your inbox as read every time you check it. It blew. That's when I found out about Bloglines.

Hold on Will, I kind of followed you on the email comparison, but now I'm going to a web site to see if another web site is updated? That's stupid.

I know, I know it seems stupid. Here's why it's not:

First, it's one site instead of how ever many sites you read. Take a look at this guy's list, and it starts to make sense. Checking all of those sites for updates all the time would take more time than I'm usually trying to waste.
Second, regardless of what browser you're using, there's a bloglines notifier. The Firefox version is a little B that sits politely in the corner until there's an update, at which point it gets a little red dot that you can click on and go straight to see what sites have updated.

So, there you go, rss, na na. Most of the time I'm pretty indifferent to whether people are using technologies that I like (as a Mac and Linux user, it's a necessary defense mechanism). But there are only so many movies I can post and trivial things I can complain about, and I wouldn't want you all to forget about little ol' diogenesclub.net just because I'm a little slow on the draw sometimes.

Posted by Will at December 7, 2004 12:54 AM


Awesome, you read Salon!

Posted by: Sumana at December 7, 2004 4:16 AM

Wait, I shouldn't presume.

Posted by: Sumana at December 7, 2004 4:17 AM

this gets the rodney p. flanghorn "cool weblog article of the day" award. very nicely done. thanks for this.

Posted by: Rodney Flanghorn at December 7, 2004 1:36 PM

No, your presumption was right, Sumana. And congratulations, you're the first proof that there's someone other than my friends that I nag that read this blog. And Rodney, you are too kind.

Posted by: Will at December 7, 2004 7:21 PM

i'm still not convinced. nerd.

Posted by: grosz at December 8, 2004 6:24 PM

I didn't think you would be. Luddite.

Posted by: Will at December 8, 2004 6:29 PM

i curse you and your blasted industrial revolution. a pox upon you, your cotton gin and your printing press!

Posted by: grosz at December 8, 2004 7:15 PM

I found some interesting about subj, look at it. www.eddiereva.com

Posted by: eddireva at December 15, 2004 7:09 AM