Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What's Your Favorite Go-To Downtime Site?

One of the dirty little secrets of the Internet is that a great deal of the browsing and clicking and reading and interacting are done at the office, on the boss' dime. And when you've hit that post-lunch lull and you'd like nothing better than for your desk to auto-magically transform into a luxuriant cot, scanning around your favorite sites can usually tide you over to when the mid-afternoon caffeine buzz kicks in with attitude.

Of course, there's no end to diversions online. But interestingly, there are relatively few sites that constantly update. As in, hit refresh and see something different appear. That's likely why social news sites such as Digg and Reddit have become popular, as you can watch a diverse array of stories getting voted onto the front page and take part in the community-powered action.

One of the indications that my personal viewing habits had entered the "2.0" era was when I started browsing around Reddit instead of refreshing Drudge Report during idle moments. While I disagree with Drudge's political slant, it was and remains a great place to find a strange and often striking block of up-to-the-minute news links. However, Reddit's clean design, interesting selection of stories, and social news features (I maintain that there's very few things online more satisfying than voting down someone you disagree with) make it a compelling downtime attraction.

For breaking news junkies, Google News is an easy choice, and one of the best places to search for information about a story or issue that may have been covered over the last few days. Getting confirmation on breaking news is usually best served by looking out for what's usually a red bar running across mainstream media news sites like and And for those with a taste for the truly tasteless and sophomoric, Fark is a standby, with specially crafted news headers like "New Jersey is all 'whoever smelt it, dealt it.' New York is all 'whoever denied it, supplied it.'"

Checking RSS feeds is a great and efficient way to quickly check up on what's going on in the subjects areas you're interested in. I've recently made a significant shift away from - a nifty little service that sends RSS feeds directly to your e-mail account - to Bloglines, a more traditional RSS reader. Bloglines is great because the functionality is simple and the interface very clean.

Finally, one of the biggest time spenders/wasters of them all should not be overlooked. One of the keys for social networking juggernaut MySpace is that people have an innate desire to express themselves and connect with one another. As social networking tools and companies grow more sophisticated and savvy, niche and themed social networks are developing that are geared toward older (read = above 21) audiences.


Anonymous said...

I am a huge Bloglines junkie myself. God knows I subscribe to way too many feeds.

Eric Berlin said...

Finding the right balance of feeds is definitely an ongoing process, but the more I use bloglines the more I like it. I tend to explore more advanced features as I use a product more -- one of my latest "discoveries" is that you can mark stories as "keep new" which is very helpful.