How are you using the web?
A lot has changed on the web, even in the last year. This is a summary of how I use the web – sounds like a strange thing to write about, but, this ‘thing’ comes with no instruction book and some people I’ve spoken to are wondering how to use it all. The other reason, is that it’s interesting to understand how others are using various tools available to them.
This diagram attempts to show how I see the various aspects of the web working together.
Few websites these days are plain old static sites, so many sites are now built on a content management system (CMS), publishing blogs, wikis, podcasts etc. This is still the core of the web, people creating content.
As to my blog, this blog may have waned in recent times, my MathsClass blog has taken off. A more focused topic has allowed that site to reach a target audience. As a teacher, I think it’s important to share what I’m doing – given I learn so much from other teacher’s sharing.
RSS has become ubiquitous, i.e. most sites that have regularly updated content have an RSS feed. But, RSS has not become mainstream in it’s ease of use though – browsers have tried, I don’t think they’ve solved the problem yet though.
RSS is how I, predominantly, read/surf the web. Google Reader tells me I have 288 subscriptions. I’m subscribed to blogs and other sites for a variety of topics: teaching (my profession), tech news, people I know, interesting people I don’t know, web design.
Most mornings I read the latest whilst eating my breakfast. For interesting items I don’t have time for right now, I’ll star the item to read later. If I think it will be something I don’t get to for a while, I add it to my Read It Later list.
A lot has been said of Twitter replacing RSS, but I think this is the wrong way to approach keeping up with content. There are a couple of problems with using Twitter in lieu of RSS and a feed reader:
- Twitter is real-time, if you’re not looking you’ll miss something.
- Why subscribe to a web-site’s Twitter stream simply to be told they have a new post? Using RSS, you not only know they have a new post, but you can read it straight away.
- If you’re just relying on Twitter contacts to feed you new bits to read, where do you think they are getting these links from?
I don’t bookmark in my browser, haven’t for years. My bookmarks are all on Delicious where they are accessible from anywhere and I can add to them from anywhere.
The added bonus is Delicious networks. I keep track of a number of people’s bookmarks (people in my “network”)
Twitter is the real-time conversation that I think we expected the internet to deliver amongst our existing contacts. Instead, Twitter has connected us with people all over, in real-time, talking about all sorts of things.
But, Twitter, is not the entirety of the web. It doesn’t replace RSS and bookmarks. I think a lot of Twitter users may have forgotten (or not met) some of these tools and their usefulness. Being a conversation, I find that you should expect to drop in and out of Twitter. You will miss a lot. Here’s my ways not to use Twitter:
- Pumping links onto Twitter is just bad form. I’m not talking the occassional link, that’s good, but it’s obvious if you’re reading the archives of someones blog and you’re linking to their old articles. Looking at my Twitter stream now, and someone has just posted a raw link, no context given, to an article from April last year.
- I see a lot of people “discovering” something that a couple of well chosen RSS feed subscriptions would have alerted them to a week ago. If it’s tech, you’re subscribed to TechCrunch right? If you’re a teacher you’re subscribed to Free Technology for Teachers and Welcome to NCS-Tech!. If Apple is your interest, then The Unofficial Apple Weblog or ars technica. Whatever your interest, you have to be following a few of the key web-sites at least.
- Asking Twitter for a link to something that should be in your bookmarks. Similarly, asking Twitter to find something that a quick Google search would reveal.
That’s how I use the web. How are you using these various tools? Do they have their own place like they do for me, or do you use them more in a mix? Have you done away with RSS or blog reading? Do you still not give a hoot about Twitter?