Sunday, June 24, 2007

Consumed by the interwebs

No, I'm not knitting -- don't even ask such a silly question! I haven't knit a stitch in about two weeks, and it's weighing a bit heavily on me, especially since knitting deadlines have come and gone, and more are looming on the horizon. And yet I continue to spend an inordinate amount of time at my desk, hypnotized consumed by a couple of new web toys, (and unlike the apparently eight-armed Robin H., I cannot knit and surf at the same time).

First of all, I've now joined the 21st century and am using a feed reader to do my blog reading, and boy, am I loving it! You may recall a previous post where I requested your blog reader preferences. The very kind NotPlainJane gave me an excellent recommendation for Google Reader, and after experimenting with it and several others, Google Reader won, hands down, for ease of use and simplicity of layout. I've now fully adopted its use, and it has completely changed my blog-reading habits.

Best tips I've found for using Google Reader, thus far:
  • If you're new to using a feed reader, start small -- just add a couple of your favorite blogs (via the "Add Subscription" button) until you get the hang of it.
  • If you're an experienced feed reader user looking for a change, you don't have to start from scratch -- you can move your subscriptions en masse by creating an OPML file on your existing reader, exporting it to your computer's hard drive, and then import your OPML subscription file into Google Reader on the Settings page.
  • Use the space bar to advance through blog posts - faster than mouse-scrolling
  • Drag the "Subscribe" button to your browser's Links/Bookmarks toolbar, to facilitate adding newly-found blogs to your Google Reader subscriptions
  • Create folders to categorize subscriptions. So far I have folders for local knitters, worldwide knitters, gardening blogs and photoblogs. I'm sure I'll add more as time allows.
  • Change the "Show" setting from "all" to "updated", to hide all blogs you've already read that have no new content. It helps de-clutter the subscription list.
  • Expand/Contract subscription folders by clicking the +/- button to show/hide folder contents, depending on whether or not you plan to read that folder during your current session. This also helps de-clutter your subscription list.

    my view of Google Reader

And speaking of photoblogs, (for you skimmers, I mentioned them up ^ in that fifth bulletpoint), I was sad to see that a favorite photoblogger, The Daily Mumps, has discontinued posting. He's a guy with four kids who would post a picture of them each day, accompanied by the funniest captions. I hadn't visited his blog in awhile because frankly, I'd forgotten the name of it. But after searching through old emails, I found it again today, which is how I learned that he has since quit posting to the blog. I went back and re-read a few posts, and he is still a hoot, so I recommend strolling through his archives. Start at his first post and just click "Next Mump" to advance through the pictures & captions. Mindless, cheap and clean entertainment, I tell ya. I think my all-time favorite, laugh-out-loud post is the one about the melting snowman. (To paraphrase: "Things to say to your kid when the snowman melts: You wouldn’t stop sinning, so the angels took him." Yes, it's twisted, but hilarious. And no, I'd never really say that to a kid!)

The other new web toy that has the potential to suck hours, days and weeks out of one's life is Ravelry. Basically, it's a very handy online relational database for knitters, where one can add yarn stash, books, needle & hook inventory, and completed, in-progress or queued projects, all in in one place, so that a knitter can (try to) keep one's knitting organized. Not only that, you can see what is in other people's yarn stashes, and link yarn in your stash to other people's completed projects, to get inspiration for what to do with that impulsively-purchased yarny goodness.

I got my invitation to join a couple weeks ago, and hadn't done much with it until enabler Jane talked it up enough to make me want to put all my stash out there for the world to see. So far this weekend, I've added a lot of my knitting books to my "library" and uploaded a little bit of my yarn to my online "stash", and will continue to load more as time allows. At some point, I'll start adding projects, too, but for now I'm happy with just attempting to get my yarn organized, at least virtually, if not in reality. Since I can't really organize the stash all that well in my house, due to space issues, at least it'll all be there for me to see online, when I forget what I have and don't feel like digging through bags or bins.

some of my Ravelry stash

There's also a discussion forum on Ravelry, so you can connect with other knitters and talk about whatever. Granted, there are already several healthy knitting forums around the internet, including Knitters Review and the Knitty Coffeeshop, so that's nothing new. But it's nice to have a Ravelry-specific forum.

If you're already a Ravelry user, you can find me out there as "BloomKitty", so please feel free to add me as a "Friend". If you've never heard of Ravelry, may I suggest you go there now and sign up and take the virtual tour? To me, it is the perfect website for non-blogging knitters (and knit-bloggers, too), to live. But non-bloggers can really benefit by posting pictures and bragging about finished projects without the burden of maintaining a blog or the obligation of posting regularly, (or the guilt when not posting regularly).

Please note that after you sign up for Ravelry, there is a little bit of a wait before you receive an invitation to join. It is still in Beta mode, meaning it is a work-in-progress and there are bugs to fix and database sizes to increase and servers to add as more folks join and add content, so be patient. It's run by a cute-as-pie young husband-and-wife team who are devoting themselves full time to this new venture, and they aren't making much income from it yet, except via donations and a few ads. There are roughly 3,000 members and about 7,000 waiting to join, and they're steadily adding about 1,000 new members each week. I do think it is worth the wait, and has the potential to become a true force-to-be-reckoned-with for the online knitting community, right up there with the aforementioned Knitty and Knitters Review.

So, come out and play!


Robin said...

I love Google Reader too...I joined a while back when I was so discouraged by Blogrolling's "problems"!!
I'm still waiting on my invite from Ravelry!!

Jane said...

In the long run, these "toys" are supposed to become "tools" that we use to inform our knitting -- when will that be?

Really, though, Ravelry is so useful already that I don't know how I researched projects without it! You're not going to see my stash there, though -- that's a project I just can't face!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the heads up on the google reader! i've been adding all the ones that it will let me add...

Robin said...

8 arms??? I wish! I took the Google Reader tour. Pretty neat! I may have to find out to do that OPML thing you mentioned to move my blogs. What does book faerie mean -- "...adding all theones that it will let me add..."???

Margaret said...

And if I had about eight more hours in each day, I'd load all my stash and projects up on Ravelry. At least I have it all on a spreadsheet now. :)