Subscribe to Civilities — with Bloglines!

Internet | Language/Structure
Here’s a way to browse Civilities.Net, along with blogs, online news, and any other website that provides an RSS: go to bloglines. What’s RSS? It popularly stands for “Really Simple Syndication,” and is basically is a way for websites to provide a summary, or feed, to subscribers to see what’s new on the websites. RSS developed in parallel to weblogs (see On Blogs for more), but it’s an open format which any site worth its bits is using.

First here’s a few technical triumphs of bloglines: O’Reilly’s explains how it’s network-friendly, since the bloglines site is a central hubu for sucking feeds versus your desktop on the edge of the Internet. And now it’s gone international, which means it will begin translating feeds into some of the other popular world languages. According to Business Week, it will save you time in reading your favorite Internet sites.

But let’s get to the heart of why it’s really cool to use:

  1. You can share your bookmarks, like I do. Granted, there have been many public bookmark sites in the past, but most had arrived before the era of RSS, and were thus rather limited.
  2. Conversely, you can see how many people subscribe via bloglines– for example, five people subscribe to Civilities, and two are public. (One of my big fans, a Drupal co-developer, who’s yet to reveal himself, had introduced me to bloglines)
  3. Additionaly, you can add a note about the site. I’ve added a short blurb about some of the sites I read and why I like them, or what my connection to the person is. I also have achieved the same effect visually by grouping the sites in folders.
  4. Conversely, this is where you can comment about my site, in a way that everybody will see it, and that you can be assured that I won’t ever remove it. There is no general-interest forum on this site, which caused a visitor from the Spanner forum to post me feedback as a comment to an article.
  5. If you get enough subscribers, you don’t have to send email updates anymore. And now that you can treat your subscribers (what used to be called “friends”), they don’t have to go through the embarassment of asking to be taken off your email list. They can do it themselves.

Compare this the “blogrolls” on that are rampant on people’s blogs. These have crusted up over time, as bloggers add more and more blogs, maybe a bit afraid to clean it up. Everybody links to blogger kings like Joshua Micah Marshall and Andrew Sullivan, who themselves link to nobody, because they don’t need to. But under bloglines, you don’t have to remove links– just reclassify stuff under like “self-important blowhards” and “what is the appeal?”

Sometimes a little collective intelligence is good. Bloglines could, for example, find out what proportion of subscribers to a particular blog actually read it on a regular basis– some big-name bloggers could be in for a surprise. Bloglines could introduce a system where subscribers rate websites according to any number of qualitative scales– and again, some publishers may be surprised at the results. It would also help if publishers, blogs and news sites alike, start considering the Civ Story Types content classifying convention. So you could ask questions like, “For category X, what are the most trustworthy sites which provide the most original content?”

At the recent Berkman Center conference, everybody was raving about, which besides being one of the first websites to truly transcend the www-blank-com/net/org name, it does some sort of social bookmarking which allows users to generate their own categories. In the Tools workshop Ethan Zuckerman noted “getting used by a lot of alpha geeks right now” (I came in a few minutes after that comment, but it appears that he was the talker according to the transcript). Near the end, the brainstorming asked about whether social bookmarking sites could “find topics similar to mine”, and I mentioned bloglines, but not before someone suggested that it find the opposite viewpoint.

Anyways, I’ve had a look at, it looks rather wild and untamed, so I thought I’d stick with the slicker-engineered bloglines. Here’s how to subscribe:

Subscribe with Bloglines
Update February 24th (and better late than never): I did get around to understanding, and here’s why I think it’s enormously useful. In short, it facilitates bookmarking of individual posts/articles, as opposed to feeds.