Web: My reading matter and My Web
Like everyone else, I’ve long struggled with bookmarks: they’re difficult to organize, there are simply too many of them, they point at pages which no longer exist, and they create many other problems besides. With the arrival of RSS readers (I use Bloglines), I felt a real sense of relief. An RSS reader lets us organize what we’re reading into folders, search through our subscriptions, etc. Wonderful. Except every page on the Web doesn’t come with an RSS feed … So, for everything else, the nightmare remained … For a while now, I’ve been using My Web from Yahoo!, and I have to say I’m quite pleased with it. At the click of a button, I can save not only a link but an actual copy of the page in question, which (perhaps) solves the tricky question of document durability.
Of course, I can organize everything into folders, search my own personal Web, share some of my folders and export them as an RSS feed. I’ve decided to use this capability to add an extra function to this blog. If you look in the left sidebar, you’ll see under “Liens” (Links) that there’s now an item entitled “Mes lectures” (My reading matter). This page is automatically generated from the RSS feed of the folder that I’ve decided to share.
I intend to fill this folder with all the interesting pages I find from my reading around the web. It remains to be seen if I keep this promise (although it shouldn’t be too taxing: just one click and it’s done).
To me, this functionality seems more interesting than the "blogrolls” you find on many blogs. You may have noticed that I don’t have one: my list would be too long, for a start, and I’d surely upset a few people by forgetting them. Often it’s just the odd post here or there that I find interesting, and with My Web I’m able to show exactly which one. Not to mention, of course, that I can point to documents that are not blogs.
All well and good, but a tool such as this obviously poses enormous privacy problems. Yahoo! has access to everything you save, and can analyse it, link it to your email address, profile you, etc. – indeed, being able to do so is probably their main reason for offering this service in the first place. If that means I start to receive targeted advertising, I can live with it, but imagine if I were a political activist or a dissident... When I see Yahoo, Google and others drifting in this direction, it worries me. Microsoft, with its Passport system, was lynched for less. Could the Netizens be lowering their guard?