April 21st, 2009

Watching waiting

As the world burns

The century has paved the way for ruin and fall. We have been steadily declining from the road of growth, innovation and prosperity and yet barely seemed to notice it. Even now, when we see the incidents around us, we take it as a magnification of past ills and heightened media senses. Is it really so?

The economic world is at a virtual collapse and though it may have been propped up by a walking stick, money is still hard to come by, as are jobs. Sure, there is a vast majority who has a job, but all of them are thankful for it. We all know someone personally who has lost a job in the recent past, and that is a reality our parents did not experience.

The political world is - well, almost non existent. Our leaders are either people with zero experience, chosen to lead because the other alternative was scary. Like, for example, in India.Those who care about making a place for themselves in politics are decades old, withered and on the verge of collapse - not just physically, but also in their mental faculties.Forget changing the country, it would be an ordeal to see them uphold what we had for the past few years. The younger ones are too highly influenced and under the thumb of parent to make any difference to how the country runs. An open economy, fierce competition and really bad leadership - a broth that can make anyone feel ill. The election results are a mystery - but there seems to be no hope. One worse than the other.

Socially, the world seems to be battling away to keep faith. Because when there is no money and no social security, people turn to Gods. And what Gods. Talibans making headway everywhere, with their unbalanced view on humanity. Christians up in arms about simple things like salt and evolution. And in India, so-called Hindus trying to convert it into something the faith never was suposed to be. The only religion in the world where the Gods drink, have consorts and allow lies (if the truth hurts someone you love, tell a white lie), has been twisted in the hands of frustrated groups calling themselves 'Ram Sena' and the likes into a violent, regressing, Taliban-ish version which has imposed the purdah of fear on women in their cities.

As work reduces and money dwindles the power of brawn rises, so does the ego and ergo there are more cases of robbery, murder, rape. Not a day goes by without a news of gang rape, a woman killed, forced incest, murder, dacoity. When we study History, we read of the Dark Ages - when money was less, crime was high and power was in the hands of a select few while religion swayed the public mind. And though the European Dark Ages are popular, there was one in every part of the world.
Is it much different now?
Are we entering another Dark Ages? Or are we already in it? Things really are as bad as they look. See no further than your private sphere - where those who hold power use it ruthlessly - like the employers, the local politicians and rule makers, and religious heads, and the inordinate power and addiction to the Media.

Perhaps it all comes from a weak economic condition. If so, things can improve in a year or so. However, something makes me feel this is not so simple. Not with terrorist strikes, flaunting of nuclear warheads, decreasing resources to share, increasing population, and skewed religious beliefs.
Light Play

Keeping track of your feeds

Thanks to Facebook and its integration feature for Google Reader which I use, I now get a staple question from most of my frnds - what is 'shared on google reader' thingie displayed on ur FB ?
So I tell them. I think its time Google starts acknowledging me for their sudden increase in reader users from India ;)

However, the real question that comes has more to do with using the reader, than just well, using it. The most common problem people face, is keeping up with the feeds. Generally, people subscribe to news sites. These are sites that are updated a million times daily, and the number of 'new' items inundating the reader is mind boggling. To someone who is new, this usually results in them spending hours just to scan through, read and delete items.

After some such discussions, I have come to the conclusion that reading feeds is an art. A skill form. With every passing year a new skill form is developed for the Net. And reading RSS feeds from an aggregator is such another. To some it comes instantaneously, to others it comes with practice. Many give up and die.

Like most things on the Net, an aggregator just makes it simpler to track whats happening on few selected sites, and is not really an invite to read it all - unlike emails. Emails have to be acknowledged. All of them have to be scanned or read, whereas all the web page updates one gets probably dont need to be read. A scan through all the headlines once a day, followed by a 'mark all as read' can be good enough for feeds of news sites.
Also, it is very difficult for an unused brain to get used to the fact that though the aggregator updates immediately, it is not important to read it immediately. Once updated, that information is available thereafter (unless deleted by the originator site) and can be ready at personal discretion - a minute/ day or even month later.

Small things like the above are difficult to explain to people who get emailers with news on them - and usually just junk the email than read its difficult to read headline based material. To explain that a feed reader makes it easier to do so, is difficult without a practical demonstration. Even then, usually people get stressed by the 'unread' count. Bloglines, Google Reader, NewsGator, etc. all show an unread count, or at least mark topics which still have unread articles, if not the actual number. To people who are used to 'staying on top of their emails' this is a Herculean task to reflect on their feed readers. So, they give up and never check on them again. I wonder if Google will have the statistics of unused reader accounts - it would be quite interesting.
Google of course, it seems, is the most popular feed reader. Not only because of its great interface, but also because its seamlessly integrated with the other Google applications like Gmail, Calendar, Documents, etc. and the great publicity it gets on FaceBook thanks to people like me.

So, I say, get onto a reader, add your bookmarks and enjoy their information sans ads, flash, colours etc. - just for the information. And do not worry about the unread count. A reader is one of the most useful ways of keeping track of activities on the Net. I suggest everyone go experiment!