Organizing My Web

One problem we have today is too much unstructured information. More information is usually better, but not if it is in a form that prevents us from finding it, evaluating it, and understanding it. A major source of information, and chaos, is the web. There’s just too much good stuff out there to keep track of, even if you are a specialist. If you happen to be an omnivore, you are in deep trouble. Over the years I have developed a methodology for structuring my web surfing. I am presenting it here because you might find it useful.

The idea is to tune your webbing to your time available and normal scan rate, and professional needs. Remember, you don’t have to read all the stuff you come across. You can always just glance at the headlines to see if there’s something there that will help you personally or professionally.

Both Firefox and Opera let me make ‘folders’ to hold sets of bookmarks, and to open everything in a folder at once into separate tabs. Here’s what my setup looks like:

1. I have a ‘morning papers’ folder with stuff I glance at every morning – local weather, Slate, BBC, Seattle PI

2. I have a set of ‘weekday’ folders – ‘Monday’, ‘Tuesday’, etc. I put stuff in there that I look at once a week – LinkedIn, FaceBook, plus all the tech sites I need to read to keep up, like Ars Technica and PC Mag. Each day has a set of different sites. Ars Technica is Monday, Wired News is Friday, etc. OK, yeah, I also stick cartoons like Foxtrot and Girl Genius in there also.

3. Everything else goes into the RSS feed. I have about a hundred feeds I track. Some of these (EurekaAlert) have lots of stuff every day. Others show up once a month. The RSS tool is organized like email – I see the subject line, and if I like I can get a preview of the document.

4. My morning routine goes like this:
a. scan Morning Papers, read what’s interesting.
b. scan whatever Weekday it is, copying bookmarks to Gnote for students and friends.
c. scan the RSS subjects, hitting delete as fast as I can. If something looks interesting, I skip it.
d. When I am done deleting, I go back and look at the previews for the ones I kept.
e. If I feel overwhelmed by the RSS stream, I delete everything and start over. Think of it as a river, and if something interesting floats by and you miss it, you miss it.

5. I also have a bunch of folders with sites I never go to unless I am looking for something specific. These range from the professional — ACM Online library — to the mundane — Spokane Transit schedules.

6. And finally, I monitor Twitter. After all, all the cool kids are moving off of RSS feeds to tweet-streams. So I have a number of Twitter accounts (mostly for class use), and in my main account I follow fewer than fifty streams. Some are for fun, like @TweetsOfOld, some are friends (hi @kurtkremer), and some are professional, like @moorejh. So far, the number of useful links I have from them has been nowhere near what I get from RSS. As time goes by I may get better organized. My tool for this, by the way, is Gwibber, a FOSS tool a little like TweetDeck.

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One Response to “Organizing My Web”

  1. Kurt Says:

    I would say that I am happy to have visited your blog and found many content of interest and instruction. You need more images though to profess interest in others. Why such a blank slate after one is found?

    Otherwise, nice model for organizing. I’ve been using chrome for awhile but the most recent version is an utter, complete pig at the RAM trough and I’m done with it for awhile. I used to use FF and it’s bookmark folders and think I’ll head back there. FF doesn’t get off the line fast but once the engine’s warmed up, it moves along at a fair clip.

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