We live in a connected age. Duh. There are TONS of websites that have interesting stuff, plus there is YouTube. You could spend ALL DAY just surfing the net and taking in tons of interesting things. And a TON of stuff you could care less about. How do you filter out the stuff and get back to doing something productive?
Enter RSS feeds. I bemoaned the closing of Google Reader a few months ago. What a HUGE time saver that Google service was. Anyhow, RSS is a way to get titles and short parts of stories from Websites. Google had been running the biggest free service for people to subscribe to RSS feeds, but shut it down. There have been a number of startups and existing services that have filled the void such as Feedly, Feedbin and NewsBlur. There are PLENTY of other services that do RSS, or you could do it yourself using a program on your computer. A service is nicer though as it will go out at intervals and check sites for you and keep track of what you read (be it on your iPhone, or iPad, or Mac, or whatever). Of the named services, I have used Feedly and NewsBlur. I am currently exclusively using NewsBlur.
Why NewsBlur? Because it has a history (i.e. it was alive years before Google Reader decided to close), is run by ONE person, and I’m 99.9% my information about what I subscribe to is NOT going to be sold to advertisers nor will I see Ads from NewsBlur. NewsBlur is also really fast. Feedly is everyone’s usual choice, but they are a BIG corporation now, and have venture money sponsoring them. At some point they will have to show a profit….so I’m a little “meh” about them. Though a lot of my favorite RSS reading programs work with Feedly (Reeder on Mac and iOS). I have found a great replacement with ReadKit on Mac. On iOS, I haven’t yet….still using the sucky free client that NewsBlur has.
Ok, so, once you decided on how you are going to get RSS feeds, now how do you gather feeds? Most sites offer a little RSS icon that you can click to get a feed. For example, say you want to monitor Musician’s Friend Stupid Deal Of the Day site. Down at the bottom is a STAY CONNECTED thing with some logos for RSS, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Click the RSS one, and then copy that into you RSS thing. Boom. Done.
Another example, say you wanted to keep up to date with “Best.Saxophone.Website.Ever.” (sorta dubious, but lets agree for the sake of argument). Load that page, and see sort of in the middle there? There is the RSS thing. Though NewsBlur, if you just give it http://www.bestsaxophonewebsiteever.com it figures it out (since other people are subscribed to it).
Another example? Sax for some reason you wanted to keep up to date with “http://forum.saxontheweb.net/”. You hope someday there will be a post there that actually makes sense and is worthwhile (it HAS happened before so….it might again). So you go to the website, and click the activity link, and stick that into you RSS (http://forum.saxontheweb.net/activity.php). Boom. Done.
Another? Here is a cool one. Say you have a BUNCH of YouTube subscriptions. But you SELDOM go to YouTube (Doctor said you can’t….part of your anti-addiction thing). What if someone posts a video that you’d totally be into? Well, you can put that into your RSS. How? Add this “http://gdata.youtube.com/feeds/base/users/MYUSERNAME/newsubscriptionvideos” and replace MYUSERNAME with whatever your YouTube username is. Boom. You can now see what YouTube videos are new for you WITHOUT having to load up YouTube.
There is a LOT more you can do too, like monitor Craigslist for things, follow “legit” news sites, etc. It is REALLY RARE to find a site that doesn’t support RSS feeds. So, give it a try.
Here are a few sites I have in my NewsBlur Music folder:
Ableton Live On Reddit
Saxophonics on Reddit
Sam Newsome’s Soprano Talk
The Bulletproof Musician
Just a handfull of the sites I follow (912 sites according to NewsBlur). Got any you follow? Post it!