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Navigating the Blogosphere Via Yahoo

August 2006

I am not a hypocrite. Yes, I have written about blogs and RSS at least several times. But the truth is that I didn’t ever use them that much. Seems like if I promote something in this column, I ought to be a user, right? OK. So maybe a little hypocrisy.

Or maybe I was just waiting until the right time — and that time is now.

I love blogs.

I was reading a magazine (more hypocrisy? Jim is reading a print magazine?), and I saw mention of John Hawks’s blog. I wrote a post-it note (Gasp, didn’t use his pda?) to remind myself to check it out.

Who knows what it is in our genes that gives us an attraction to particular topics? In my case, that topic is . . .  paleoanthropology. (Gasp, not technology?) When I checked out his blog it was love at first site.

He surveys the scholarly articles that come out and posts about the latest and most interesting, Right now one of the big controversies is some fossils of three-foot-tall humans found on the island of Flores. He’s covered this in depth.

I’d checked in on some of the more famous blogs, Instapundit for conservatives, the Daily Kos for liberals, Gizmodo and Engadget for gadget lovers, Lessig Blog for those interested in intellectual property issues, and more. Sometimes I thought, I should check this out more often. But I never did.

But when you find a blog you love, there’s no choice. You can’t stop yourself going there.

Once you find one, typically in the left or right column there are links to similar blogs. John Hawks had links to several more blogs that also made something inside me shout YES! One is by Carl Zimmer, a science writer I like. Another is on anthropology and a third covers archaeology.

I’d discovered my own corner of the blogosphere. I added these sites to my Bookmarks Bar (called Favorites in Internet Explorer) and began checking them regularly.

But it got tedious going to these sites each day to see if something had been posted. Which is when I had a real “duh” moment. I’d written about RSS, had tried RSS, but like my experience with blogs, had never really used it.

So I said to myself: duh, you don’t need to check those sites every day. Just add them to an RSS reader.

Here’s how it works: Blogs typically have “RSS feeds,” which are short excerpts of each post. You use software, called a reader or aggregator, to automatically collect these excerpts. So, for example, I can add each of these sites to RSS software, and then ask the application to refresh all the news streams. It quickly checks the RSS feeds of all the sites that I’m following for new posts and typically returns a list of headlines and the first couple sentences from each item. Clicking an item of interest takes you to the post.

Then I remembered that I could add RSS feeds to my personalized Yahoo page. This was perfect. I already check my Yahoo page a couple times every day, so it’s ideal to have my RSS feeds there as well.

If you don’t yet have a personalized web page, you should. Good choices are Yahoo and Google.

My personalized page gives me everything I want all on one page: stock market quotes for stocks I own, news headlines in categories that interest me (Top Stories, Science, Technology, MacWorld, Tennis, and Sports), weather, scores for my favorite teams, Doonesbury, a TV schedule for specific channels that interest me, and now — my RSS feeds for the four blogs that I like.

Yahoo offers all this and hundreds of additional options for personalization, including podcasts (such as the NPR hourly news), movie trailers, white and yellow pages, and more, even topical news alerts.

All you do is sign up for a free Yahoo account, if you don’t already have one, and then you can easily create your page just by selecting the modules you want from the extensive, well categorized directory.

Blogs are among the offerings, but only one of my favorites is listed. If you want to add one that’s not listed, it’s easy to do. (However, I had trouble with this until I realized that Yahoo doesn’t recognize “feed://” as a valid URL and had to delete that portion of the address before it would work.)

You can use Technorati to find blogs and to see a list of the top 100.

One more time, a new world has opened to me on the Internet. I hope that you, too, find a blog that you love.

© 2006 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D

E-mail Jim Karpen