Rolling your own news

There’s a limit on how much any one news source can be trusted, and we need to be wary of relying on sources that we tend to agree with. There are news aggregating applications, but they transmit their own biases. Recently I tried out an iOS application called Zite, which has good reviews. It demanded personal information from me (which I faked), restricted my topics to a predefined set (which I picked as best I could), condescendingly told me “don’t be shy” when I hadn’t picked enough topics, and then delivered me an article which wasn’t a news story and wasn’t relevant to the topics I’d picked. One minute later, that application was gone from my iPad.

I’ve found two good approaches toward news gathering, both based on making my own choices. One is RSS/Atom feeds. RSS and Atom are two similar but distinct protocols for delivering news feeds; most readers handle both. I’ve collected feeds from a variety of sources, giving me more perspectives than I could get from any one.

On my desktop computer, I use Sage, a Firefox add-on, to view feeds. It’s simple and works nicely; the only quirk that I dislike is that it overrides the name I choose with the title given in the feed, which sometimes isn’t very descriptive. (Why bother asking me if it’s going to change it?) On iOS, I use Free RSS Reader. It hasn’t been updated in years, but I prefer its simple, straightforward approach to anything else I’ve seen.

Here’s a short sampling of feeds, including news sites and news-related blogs, which I follow. You need to put the URLs into an RSS reader. Clicking on them may or may not do anything useful, depending on your browser and installed add-ons.

My other roll-your-own news source is Twitter. Some sources which I keep in a list include:

  • @timesofindia
  • @PNS_NH (New Hampshire)
  • @haaretzcom (Israel)
  • @TorontoStar
  • @AJEnglish (Al Jazeera)
  • @washingtonpost
  • @FRANCE24
  • @BBCNews

This isn’t an endorsement of any of the individual sources I’ve listed, but together they provide some interesting perspectives.

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