With the constant stream of information coming from every device we touch, it’s understandable that our brains are always hungry for more.
And in a generation fueled by FOMO, it can be extremely difficult to keep it satisfied. Luckily, the Internet is run by humans who are always looking for and creating more efficient ways to consume information. To spare you the prolonged, frustrating task of searching for the method(s) that fit you best, I’ve developed a curated list of some of the best technologies and tools I use, or have used, to explore the web. Here’s to hoping that I can help you discover and consume information more efficiently.
RSS and RSS Readers
An RSS reader is an application that uses RSS feeds from the sources of your choice to pull in only the main content and combine it all in one place. It provides you with the most relevant, up to date information from your favorite websites to consume whenever you want. It’s a time saver for readers, and an easy way for bloggers to syndicate and distribute their content.
Due to the popularity of RSS among users of the Interwebs, there are so many readers out there that it’s hard to keep track. But, with the exception of a few unique features here and slightly different layouts there, they all basically do the same thing — read RSS.
If this is the first time you’re hearing of RSS, you should probably do a bit of research and figure out how to include it in your life, because you need it. You’ll thank me later. If you’re familiar, carry on.
The better RSS readers that I’ve used include:
My personal favorite: Digg Reader.
Why? Because it’s simple, user friendly, and it’s integrated with Digg. They curate some of the best content on the web, so I get updates from my favorite sites and discover new information, all in one place. They also have an app that syncs between your phone and the web so you have all that content on the go.
Podcasts and Podcatchers
Podcast technology is not as widely known as you’d think. Though it’s been around since late 2004, it’s actually still a rising technology and has only begun to gain popularity in the last few years. They’re essentially pre-recorded audio shows that you can access on the web or on your phone through a podcatcher application. A podcatcher is similar to the RSS reader in the sense that it allows you to subscribe to the podcasts of your choice and updates with new episodes as they are released.
I discovered the wonders of podcasts just this year. Now that’s all I listen to — in the car to work, at work, on break, on my way home from work, at home. They provide me with a wealth of information through engaging conversation and vary in topic, from humor to science, and politics to technology. Podcasts are a great way to keep your mind stimulated and making connections at all times of the day. That’s what makes them so great.
There are a few podcatchers I’ve tried on Android:
Though I haven’t had experience with the iOS podcatchers, I did a little research for you Apple users and came up with a few suggestions, aside from the built in iTunes podcatcher:
My personal favorite: Pocket Casts.
Why? It boasts an eye catching design along with light performance, and it’s dead simple to use. It has some features to make listening easier like playback speed and volume boost, but nothing too complicated. I love that it syncs between all my devices (which is surprisingly difficult to find in an Android podcatcher) and has the option of a web application as well.
This one’s a staple for everyone. Social media facilitates the sharing between friends and connections, so you get a curated feed of information relevant among your own social circle. I don’t think I need to dive much deeper than that.
The social media platforms I browse every day include (I don’t need to link these for you guys, right?):
My personal favorite: Facebook.
Why? That’s where my connections curate the most interesting and worthwhile content in my social sphere. It’s where I have the most real life connections with people (family and friends) who are genuinely interested in the same content as I am. And I have the ability to follow companies, public figures, magazines, etc. that post content that I am interested in. Twitter is a close second though.
I also use an app called Nuzzel to browse my feeds on Facebook and Twitter. It’s an easier way to discover what all your friends are talking about on Facebook and Twitter without being overwhelmed or missing anything. It keeps track of the most shared content on your feed, and notifies you when more a set amount of people have shared it. You can view news you may have missed in the last few days without scrolling into the past. It’s a nice little utility for staying up on what your friends are talking about.
Curated Content Services
These services are great tools for consuming the web, mainly because I don’t have to do the work of searching the web for the most relevant, interesting content. It’s all done for me behind the scenes by either an algorithm, a team of humans, or a combination of the two. These services keep you up to date on current events and trending information, as well as intrigue you with content you never would have known existed. Trust me, with sites like StumbleUpon, you’re always bound to discover something new and obscure.
The curated services I use include:
*R.I.P. Circa News — on June 24th, 2015, it was put on indefinite hiatus. Let’s take a moment to honor their efforts to revolutionize the way we read news. Farewell Circa. You served your readers well.
My personal favorite: Digg/Digg[TV].
Why? Like I said before, I just really like Digg. Especially after their comeback. They curate some of the most thought provoking content on the web. They have a great balance of longform articles, witty reads, and entertaining videos that keep me digging for hours.
These services have quickly become a personal staple of mine. I’m a huge culprit of surfing the web just to surf, which means I come across a lot of content I’m unable to consume at the time, so I need a place to store them for later. Preferably one that syncs across all devices, because who knows where I’ll be when I have the time. Bookmarking services make this possible.
I know, bookmarks in chrome sync across devices and Safari has a synced reading list. But general bookmarking is not as robust as I would like it to be. Bookmarking services have a lot more to offer than just saving something for later — distraction free reading environments, offline access, link organization, and social features to name a few.
Here are some of the best read-it-later services I’ve used aka “the big three”:
My personal favorite: Pocket.
Why? Pocket just fits my needs better than the other two. It’s designed fluidly, provides a beautiful distraction free reading environment, and I can organize it all through tags. I like to have everything in one place, and the fact that the content syncs across all my devices (including my desktop at work) and is accessible offline makes the experience even better. As a great companion product, it’s an essential service to consuming the web the way I do.
Web communities are a culmination of the Internet — large digital congregations of internetphiles discussing anything and everything you can imagine, and then some. They are, by far, the most all encompassing source for content. The ability to actively engage with millions of users from around the world is what sets these resources apart from others. Interacting with these communities and their inhabitants can be very rewarding, yet very intimidating at the same time. But, what kind of millennial would I be if I wasn’t a part of a web community?
Here are a few communities I regularly lurk and contribute to:
My personal favorite(s): Reddit and Medium.
Why? Reddit really lives up to its reputation as “the front page of the internet.” Though it can be a bit rough at times, it’s an amazing place for opinions, discussion, enlightening insights, and of course witty, humorous commentary on the most talked about topics on the internet. I can easily spend a few hours delving into conversations on r/IAmA and r/todayilearned, learning a dozen new things.
Though it’s a new community, Medium’s philosophy, high ratio of quality content, readers and writes who actually care, and the diversity of interesting perspectives, put it up there on my list of go to sources. Plus it’s a great way to get my writing out there.
Think of the Internet as a vast, digital refrigerator chock-full of food for thought, and these tools are your utensils. Bon appétit.
This article was featured in Adventures in Consumer Technology.