Kill Your RSS Reader
And use my amazing system for browsing the Web.
My system is similar, though I give my folders friendlier names. In the "8 a.m." folder, I put the sites I check first thing in the morning: Techmeme, Google News, Drudge, the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Digg, and others that round up the day's news. On the "10 a.m." list, I've got less pressing daily sites—things like Kottke, Andrew Sullivan, Marc Ambinder, Josh Marshall, Salon, and Fark. I've also got folders for pages that I like to check several times a week, folders for sites I check just once a week, and still more folders for blogs that I look at only a few times a month. Like Surtees, I've also got one more folder for blogs I'm not sure about—when I encounter something new that seems kind of interesting, I put it in the "Test" folder. I look at these from time to time, and if a site continues to appeal to me, I drag it into one of my other regular folders.
All this might sound like a bit of work, but I found that after the admittedly onerous initial setup time, maintaining this system is simpler than keeping your RSS reader organized. It's faster, too—an RSS reader takes time to switch between blogs, but when you open up a bunch of sites in tabs, you can move between them instantaneously. And of course, you get to see each site in full, not in a neutered RSS version. (Some caveats: If you keep a lot of tabs open for a long time, your browser might slow down, especially if you're using Firefox. I sometimes have to shut down my browser and load it up again to make it speedier. Session-recovery add-ons like Tab Mix Plus are helpful for this; they're also invaluable when your browser crashes.)
My system also makes liberal use of one of the best, least-known shortcuts built into modern Web browsers—the tab-managing powers of the middle mouse button, also known as the mouse wheel. If you think of the wheel only as a tool to scroll with, dear friend, you're missing out; the middle mouse button does so much more. For example, it's the best way to open a link in a background tab. Try it: Click and release the middle button on this link and—in most newer browsers—you'll see Slate's home page open up in a new tab. You can use the same button to quickly close unwanted tabs, too—click and release the tab you just opened, and voila, it disappears. In Firefox, the middle button has one extra power: Click an empty space in the tab bar and you'll open up the last tab you closed, which is a godsend if you accidentally sent away something important.
Armed with the middle mouse button, I skate through my day's blogs in short order. When I open up an aggregator like Buzzfeed, for example, I scan through each link and middle-click anything that looks interesting. These pages load up in a stream of tabs to the right of my current page. And that's pretty much how I spend my day—opening up a lot of tabs, middle-mouse-clicking all of their pertinent links, and then going from tab to tab in a never-ending quest for new news. I'm telling you, it's totally fun.
But that's just me—I'm curious how you do your daily surfing. I know everyone doesn't loathe RSS readers the way I do; if you've found a way to get right with RSS, or if you've come up with some completely different method of staying on top of the news, send me an e-mail or post a note to "The Fray" to let me know. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise.) I'll pop open all of the best ideas in separate browser tabs and share the results in a future column.
Farhad Manjoo is Slate's technology columnist and the author of True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter.