By now we’ve all figured out that the internet is far too vast a sea of information for us to visit it all. With the rapid growth of content creation sites such as WordPress, YouTube, Tumblr and the social network giants Facebook and Twitter, we can drown in the sights, sounds and thoughts that flood the world wide web. There is the strength of a democratic voice (at least in some countries) but the downside is that discipline on the end-user’s part and filtering in some form is prerequisite for usefulness. No matter how much information passes by our retinas, without actually processing that information we have gained nothing. Some studies show we may even be losing something as we rewire neural pathways to be addicted to the “newnesss” of information as opposed to savoring the meaning of content.
Think of it this way; we can go to a bookstore and browse the full library of thoughts, stories, histories, philosophies and so forth. We can look at the cover designs, catch a few snippets of text without context, but we can never fool ourselves that standing in the bookstore means we have understood all the books. The only way to understand is to read and comprehend, and that is where I see Google Reader coming in to play.
Whilst trawling blogs can be occasionally fun, mostly it is just overwhelming. And like many people who have become accustomed to life online, I can find myself drifting endlessly in an ocean of opinion as I click from blog to blog, site to site, until my wife or children shake me out of my inter-coma and call me back to real life. I needed a way to curb the issue, and to filter the good content from the rest. Google Reader is an RSS feed aggregator – basically, it takes the authors I really like and builds my own personal bookstore. Now I don’t need to enter the entire internet world and run the risk of shipwreck on the shore of unnecessary news. Instead, I put all my favorite feeds into one place, manage the content from there and thus get the cream of the crop. Every morning I can check in with all my listed websites to see the new content.
The main dashboard offers either a list view or a extract view, giving me the option of compact data or a preview that helps me find the content I want at a glance. With the ability to sort feeds into folders, share content right from the web app and favorite items for later, it’s an invaluable tool for me, and with the creation of third party software that integrates with Google Reader, things just keep getting better.
For instance, if you’re a Mac user, you must check out the beta of Reeder for Mac, the desktop counterpart to arguably the best news feed reader on the iPhone and iPad.
Do yourself a huge favor and check out Google Reader today – it’s a free service from Google and it’ll save you a lot of time. Whilst you’re at it, why not add the Reflective Musings feed to your list?