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RSS tools [20 May 2005|11:18am]

Making consumerism, creature comfort, and political activism all a little bit more convenient.

RSS gifts keep falling from the sky. I don't really need more feeds to subscribe to; I'm already spending way too much time just skimming headlines and saving stories to read and to listen to later, which I subsequently rarely get around to reading or listening to.

But some RSS tools really are making my life simpler. Two of them I encountered through Bloglines, which is the web application I currently use to read RSS. They have recently started offering both package tracking and weather forecasts. These two things save me time. When I order something that is getting shipped to me, I just create a feed using the tracking number. Whenever anything changes, the update shows up in my Bloglines list. This is much better than neurotically checking whatever shipping company web site to find out where in the world my junk is.

Getting the weather forecast also saves me time. I no longer have to make the extra stop in the morning to look up the weather, which I used to do either on my cell phone or at weather.com. No more. I actually don't know why I bother to look up the weather, because I find that whatever I'm wearing usually turns out to be inappropriate for some reason or other. And currently I don't own an umbrella (lost in the move, stubbornly resisting purchasing a new one because I'm sure I'll find the old one soon), so knowing it's going to rain won't change my behavior.

The newest tool is the most exciting. At plogress.com, you can now subscribe to feeds that will update you on votes by your Senators and Representatives. This is excellent news for democracy. I no longer have to search out reasons to dislike Jonh Kerry (for not being progressive enough). They will come right to me. This also takes away one of the few reasons I have to read The Boston Globe, so it's a step toward dropping one other news feed from my list. (Note that for some reason, the feed links say "feed:" before them, so if you use the Bloglines Firefox extension to subscribe to the links, you'll get an error---just remove that "feed:" bit, and it will work fine.) I learned about Plogress from this Lifehacker post.

I'd really like to get away from Bloglines and back to reading RSS in Emacs using Gnus, but I haven't had good experiences with nnrss. I'm going to look and see if I can help out, but it's probably over my head.

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