Web News Wranglers

Illustration: P.J. Loughran
Technology advances quickly, but information grows at an even faster clip. The torrents of blog posts and news feeds on today's Internet hold way too much data to keep up with if you just browse the Web normally. Fortunately, help is here in the form of sites that filter the news for you with ever-increasing efficiency, and improved news readers that let you subscribe to news feeds and sort through them like e-mail.

For example, sites such as Digg rely on Web 2.0 techniques to turn users into editors. Other approaches include sites that mine the linking structures of top blogs to provide a front-page-news view of the Internet's conversations, and personalized news-recommendation engines that monitor your reading habits to bring you more-focused news.

What is the best news-management approach for you? We'll examine a number of sites, Web apps, and programs that can help you sort through the best news and commentary on the Net.

First, though, a little background: Almost all of these tools depend on RSS (for Really Simple Syndication) feeds--specially formatted XML files that sites use to quickly publish and exchange bare-bones information about new articles, blog posts, or other updates.

They're often identified on a Web site by a small, orange 'XML' button. (You can right-click the button or link, and then copy the link location.) Once you add that feed into a news reader, the software will periodically check it for new stories. Good news readers let you read through sites in half the time that you would take using a browser. Plus, if you're getting spam on one feed, you can just unsubscribe.

Of course, while feed readers can help you plow through stories quickly, they create a new temptation: Once you realize you've read your news in half the time, it's easy to subscribe to more and more feeds until you're spending as much time reading news as you did before.

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