Some Internet Recycling
By Philip Baczewski, executive director, University IT
I recently ran across an essay by Steve Rousseau, an editor at the internet aggregator site, digg.com entitled, "Remember Bookmarks?". His primary point is that most people's internet use is driven by following feeds on Facebook, Twitter, or other services which leads to a lack of internal control over internet viewing. He states, "We can't leave our consumption habits up to algorithms developed by profit-seeking companies that claim to know us better than we know ourselves. The feeds are destroying us. But buried within your web browser lies a solution. That solution is the bookmark."
Bookmarks are a way to bring intentionality to your internet use. Rather than letting feeds provide you with links to visit, you can save the locations of some of your favorite information sources and visit them on a periodic basis. This may help avoid being the product of the internet rather than the consumer of it. The more you participate in the Google/Facebook/Twitter infrastructures, the more you are potenitally subject to tracknig and manipulation. Someone has even provided a details set of instructions for quitting Google to better guard your online privacy.
Something Old ...
Way back in 2002, my topic for this column was My Secret Web Sites, which was my approach to keeping up with the changes in information technology that were coming at a increasingly fast pace. So, I will recycle that theme in the service of promoting the bookmark approach discussed above. Having a few "go-to" sites can provide you more control over your browsing experience, since you can actively choose which posts to read rather than having to ignore something that pops into a feed. Plus, sites will prove themselves to be useful, or not useful, after consistent visits over time.
People still ask me how I keep up with all the technology stuff. Either my strategy is effective and timeless, or I'm just not adapting to the new way of doing things. However, having been on the internet since before it was the internet, perhaps my experience counts for something. So, as in 2002, I will share some of my secret sites only known to me and millions of other people.
Interestingly enough, Slashdot is the only site on my 2002 list that remains on my list today. It still provides a mix of technology and science news presented in a rather unflashy old-style interface. Slashdot, still titled News for Nerds, stuff that matters, hasn't changed too much since Commander Taco gave up the reins, which keeps it a useful source of sometimes arcane technology information.
digg.com is an internet aggregation site that is a bit more modern than Slashdot and includes a matrix of items with a photo along with a headline and synopsis of a story, video, or web site. Digg is similar to reddit which bills itself as The Frontpage of the Internet. Digg is titled, What the Internet is Talking About. I like digg because it presents a fixed amount of content that updates during the course of a day. This avoids being sucked into an endless feed of information while still reflecting what's current both in the news and in internet culture.
These two sites are very similar and provide links to stories on personal information technology (gadgets), some general news, and also entertainment news. Endgadget annoys me by being an internet black hole (they redirect you to their site so that your "back" button won't let you leave.) However, its interesting to see what stories show up on both sites as a measure of potential importance or impact.
There are a few other sites I regularly visit, but I'm not going to give up all of my secrets. In addition to these technology sites, I usually frequent my local newspaper page as well as a national news source. Unfortunately, newspaper sites increasingly are "paywalled"—that is they require a subscription to allow you to read the content after a certain amount of browsing. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing, since they are not consumed with drawing your eyeballs to advertising as the sole source of their income. I like to think that their less dependence upon internet ads, and the fact that they employ trained journalists, provides an extra bit of credibility to what they publish.
Perhaps you should try this bookmark approach to the internet experience. Of course, this does make information consumption a conscious activity that requires some dedicated time. Or, perhaps using the internet as a constant distraction machine works better for you. Wait, he tweeted what??