Some say the internet brought us the information superhighway. I can argue that it has become a misinformation superhighway littered with valueless information that threatens our understanding of how the world works. How so? The sheer volume of information is overwhelming to the point where many who go online are unable to distinguish fact from fiction, analysis from advertising, fake news from opinion and perspective.
It’s a jungle out there. How can you sort through that growing jungle of information weeds?
My first recommendation must include the directive, choose wisely. But the amount of information we then need wade through to find what is beneficial requires more than mere point and click, more than a few bookmarks to a various websites which act as an echo chamber to our perspective on current events, and should rely on using technology for what it is. A tool to advance our knowledge and understanding.
To that end I recommend RSS. However you want to call it– rich site summary or really simple syndication, RSS is a relatively old internet age technology which brings website headlines and summaries to you with little effort. Use a basic RSS reader app to gather the websites that interest you most and it brings the news to you. If you’re not using an RSS reader then you’re not getting the most from what the internet can offer.
Here I’m going to mention a couple of applications– one free, one commercial; one Mac-only, one that runs on all of Apple’s devices in unison, but both of which do what RSS does best. Bring you information almost without effort.
Vienna – go to the Mac App Store and search for “RSS news reader” and you’ll get a laundry list of apps that do much the same thing. The grab headlines and news summaries from websites with RSS feed subscriptions (which is to say, most websites). Some are free, others are inexpensive, a few are full featured and multi-platform. Vienna is free and open source and a good way to get started without spending a dime. Visit a website and let Vienna subscribe to the site’s Atom/RSS news feeds or podcasts.
In the left sidebar you’ll have an organizable list of the websites you select. Click on one to view the most recent published articles, and click on one of those to view the entire article. There is no easier way to wander through dozens to hundreds of websites. You choose which websites and when to browse. Vienna features automatic RSS subscription detection on websites, comes with a built-in tabbed browser so you can view many webpages easily in different layout styles, lets you search for keywords, and much more. It’s free and easy to setup and a good way to try out an RSS reader at low cost.
News Explorer – at the other end of the RSS news reader scale is what I use. News Explorer is the most feature laden reader and perhaps the best way to scan what is happening in the world without much point and click or bookmark use. News Explorer runs on Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Watch, and it syncs your RSS subscriptions and settings so you get a seamless look at news on each device.
What you get for a nominal fee for each app are articles that easily viewed, saved, searched, and shared. It’s a good way to put the news you want to read later into Instapaper and Pocket. Website subscriptions are organized in the lefthand sidebar. A click to each reveals all the most recent published articles and a click on each one reveals the entire article, ready to read, save for later, or share.
News Explorer handles standard RSS and Atom feed subscriptions as well as JSON feeds. iCloud sync of subscriptions is automatic. Every article can be saved or shared with a click. It even has Safari’s one-click Reader view so you get the article without all the advertising and cruft. The Mac and iPad versions look much the same, thanks to extra screen real estate, but the iPhone version is easy to browse, share, save, and view. Even the Apple TV version is a pleasure to use if your TV screen is big enough.
I cannot recommend the benefits of using an RSS reader enough. It may take a few moments to setup and find websites you wish to subscribe to, but there is no easier method and no better result. Of those RSS readers I’ve used– among many on Mac, iPhone, and iPad– News Explorer gets my money but Vienna is a good way to start using RSS on the Mac.