17 Apr 2004

New feature: better links

A new feature on Long Head is the new super-accurate “Greg Links” list on the left. Except for the other langmead.info sites, these links are the sites I’m actually actively reading every day.

I keep up to date with almost all my favorite internet sites by subscribing to RSS feeds using the free service at BlogLines. RSS feeds are little XML files published by sites alongside the web pages with the actual content. As an example, here is a link to one of the many RSS feeds published by the BBC (covering, in this case, just their European news).

When RSS was invented, the feeds were meant to allow easy syndication into those little customizable boxes on portal pages like Netscape and Yahoo. But these days it’s also common to use them in aggregators like BlogLines, where they become similar to mailboxes, with changes to the xml file coming in like new emails. Of course, you don’t read the XML itself, rather the XML contains information like a headline, a link to the full story, and a brief summary. The headlines and summaries let you skip over everything that doesn’t interest you, and in that way it’s become my main tool for coping with information overload.

Circularly, RSS feeds and aggregators are the “other half” of the blog system itself: every blog engine (Blogger.com, Movable Type, Radio, etc.) publishes an RSS feed file that is kept in sync with the blog. Blogs then become just like news sites: new postings are gathered by aggregators and people can keep up with them that way. At the bottom of my left navbar you’ll see an image with a link to Long Head’s RSS feed.

Back to Greg Links. BlogLines supports a scheme where I put a little snippet of code in the Long Head home page to generate a list of exactly the sites whose feeds I currently subscribe to. When I add a new feed or stop subscribing to one, Long Head reflects those changes in real time.

I publish the links on Long Head to serve the same purpose as the rest of this site — as a diary of my thoughts and activities. If you want to know just about every single piece of informational input that goes into my head, then listen to NPR and read those web sites.