A reader named Jim recently asked me to write about my favourite, most-used bookmarks, or the websites I visit most often and why. “No problem,” I wrote back … while noting a bit of a drawback.
Namely, I don’t really use bookmarks anymore, at least in the way we used to think of them. I have bookmark folders on every browser I use (I use three machines daily between work and home), but they’re seldom touched.
First, I don’t often mark something as a bookmark, maybe because I’ve come to rely on Google and other engines so much. It may be hubris, but I often just assume I can find something later on.
As well, I’ve come to rely on autofills – that is, as soon as I type in, say, a news site in the U.S., my browser completes it for me. Lazy, yes, but effective … at least until I clear my cache.
More importantly, I organize my favourites in a way that makes a folder obsolete. While I use Explorer for work (some of the programs I have require it), my browser of choice is Firefox.
At both home and at work, I make great use of Firefox’s bookmarks toolbar, which allows you to create a thin navigation bar above your screen, featuring your own most-used or favourite sites. Even on my li’l Macbook, I get great mileage, with no less than 32 separate bookmarks in a row. (Believe it or not, I hadn’t counted until just now.) To do that, I’m quite economical with characters; the BBC Radio 4 link is just the numeral 4.
So what are the ingredients of my daily web diet? Well, things break down into groups. There are work-related links and tools (I’m an online editor for CBC News in St. John’s), so naturally I want one-click access to them. This includes pages I monitor for work, like our webcam, and what the competition is up to.
I also run my own personal blog, so I have hotlinks to the publishing tool (Typepad) and other things I use regularly because of it, like Google Analytics and the “ping” tool on blogrolling.com. (If you have your own site, I suggest making a visit to this engine-notifying tool every single time you do an update; it makes it much easier for readers anywhere to find your content.)
Then there are the sites that are key to my daily life, like my calendar (my wife and I share one, which has become vital). I use Google’s gmail for my personal mail, but I have a link to my work mail too. There’s also, of course, a quick login for Facebook, which I check at least once a day (and try to keep up with my Lexulous games there, too).
I use Twitter through the day, in different ways. I actually don’t log on to Twitter.com that much, preferring instead to use Hootsuite, which helps me manage personal and work feeds, as well as monitor a lot of thematically oriented lists I’ve created. (A local news feed has become a prime way to monitor breaking news.)
While Hootsuite lets me track the news and what people are saying, the main tool I use to keep abreast of things is Google Reader, which combines scores of RSS feeds I’ve subscribed to over the years, and streamlines the information into handy, easy-to-skim digests. I wouldn’t want to imagine things without it, as every single day, I come across something remarkable.
I like listening to radio streams, so I have several different feeds ready for speedy access … like the aforementioned BBC 4, the information-driven channel from Britain.
There are other things I track. I have a bookmark to monitor my son’s school work, links to YouTube and Flickr, and links to peppy sites that make my first cup of coffee that much more enjoyable (Popwatch, an entertainment blog, and Daily Beast are a couple). There’s also TeeFury, which has often-entertaining T-shirt designs, with a new one on sale for that day only, which explains why I want to remind myself to check it out.
So, there it is … my work, hobbies, personal interests and obligations, all notched on one thin bar, and all within easy reach. It’s my digital lifestyle, at the ready.John Gushue is an online editor with CBC News in St. John’s. Twitter: @johngushue.