Seeing What’s Out There

Published 20 years, 1 month past

A relatively recent addition to the XFN What’s Out There? page is the XFN Dumper favelet, which lists all the XFN-enabled links in a page along with their XFN values.  I decided that I wanted a different presentation and a little more information, so I hacked up ben‘s XFN Dumper v0.2 and came up with XFN Dumper v0.21, which is currently in beta due to its problems running in both kinds of Internet Explorer.  If you’d like to try it out anyway, you can find it on my new XFN Tools page.  Once it exits beta I’ll move it over to the GMPG site.

I’ve spent the last two weeks (minus repair time, of course) running NetNewsWire Lite, and I’ve discovered that it’s addictive in exactly the wrong way: hard to give up, even though I really want to do so.  This is no reflection on the program itself, which is excellent.  The problem I have is with the fundamental experience.

Allow me to explain.  In order to visit all my favorite weblogs/journals/whatever, I had a collection of home page URLs in a group in my favorites toolbar.  That way I could open it up and go straight to a site, or else command-click on the folder to open them all up in tabs.  The whole group would open up, each site to its own tab, and then I could close each tab as I read what was new, or else determined that there wasn’t anything new since the last time I dropped by.

Now, of course, I have an RSS aggregator that tells me when something new has appeared on a site.  Thanks to NetNewsWire, I’ve become much more efficient about keeping up with all the weblogs I read.  I’m also losing touch with the sites themselves, and by extension, with the people behind those sites.

What I’ve come to realize is that half the fun of visiting all those sites was seeing them, in enjoying the design and experience that each author went to the effort of creating—the personality of each site, if you will.  Sure, I’ve seen The Daily Report a zillion times; who hasn’t?  I still got a bit of an emotional boost from dropping by and feeling the orange, even if Jeffrey hadn’t written anything new.  The same goes for mezzoblue, and stopdesign, and all the others.  Maybe it’s the same impulse that makes me play a record I’ve always liked, or re-read a favorite book for the twentieth time.  It doesn’t matter.  Part of my connection to the people behind the sites seems to be bound up in actually going there.  Using an aggregator interrupts that; it lessens the sense of connection.  It distances me from the people I like and respect.

And yet, thanks to that same aggregator, I can keep up with all those weblogs and half again as many news feeds in one tidy package.  The latest Slashdot Science and Apple news, xlab OS X, the W3C, and more feeds come pouring in.  I don’t have any connection with those sites, so that doesn’t bother me; in the case of Slashdot, I actually prefer getting the feeds because it means I can visit the referenced sites without subjecting myself to the comments.

The obvious solution is to strike a balance:  to use the aggregator for news, and go back to my tab group to read personal sites.  I’m going to give it a whirl, although the raw efficiency of the aggregator is so compelling that I feel a deep reluctance to unsubscribe from the personal-site feeds.

That’s what I mean by the experience being addictive in exactly the wrong way.

I suspect that what I may do is keep all the feeds, but when any personal site is updated, I’ll go visit them all by command-clicking the bookmark group.  That way I’ll catch up with the folks who have something new for me to read, and at the same time visit everyone else—just to say, if only to myself, “You’re still there, and I’m still dropping by to see you, and that’s how it’s supposed to work.”

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