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How to Cleanup Your Web Reading

How to Cleanup Your Web Reading
    Photo credit: o5com (CC BY 2.0)

    There has been some talk recently of just how ugly and careless some mainstream websites have become when it comes to readability and usability for their users. And with today being Black Friday, the online advertisers are in full, annoying swing.

    Far too many sites are cramming advertisements and share buttons around their content making it an unpleasant experience for their readers. Some of us more savvy web readers may not notice this as much as we tend to use RSS readers and the like to stay away from the website we want to read.

    But, the mass majority of people still go straight to sites to get their content. Rather than have their eyes raped by pop-over ads, crummy design, or ads in the middle of their content, web readers can use some of the following ways to clean up their web reading.

    RSS Readers

    RSS is a great way to view content online as it strips out most advertisements and formats the text in a uniform way. Subscribing to RSS is a simple thing to do that involves finding a site’s RSS feed link (which is usually prominently displayed in a nice orange button on the site), copying it, and subscribing to it with your RSS reader.

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    The only real snafu with RSS is that some sites don’t offer a “full feed” for their site, meaning that you can only get a short excerpt of the story in the RSS feed, forcing you to click through to the site to finish the article.

    We’ve looked at some of the best RSS readers recently. If you want to get started, here is a nice shortlist.

    Easy Reading Services

    While I am a heavy RSS user for the simplicity of having all of my favorite content in one place, for anything that is a longer read I use a web reading service called Instapaper. A service like Instapaper allows the user to “queue-up” articles for later reading and clears out ads and bad text formatting giving the reader a great way to read their content.

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    To use Instapaper you can sign up for an account and use their nice “Read Later” bookmarklet that allows you to send the current article in your browser to your Instapaper queue. You can then login to Instapaper or use the iPhone app to read your content in peace.

    Instapaper isn’t the only service like this. There are some others that you may want to check out inluding:

    I personally can’t live without a service like Instapaper. It saves me so much time and frustration when it comes to online reading. If you haven’t tried it yet, I can’t recommend it enough.

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    Simple Abstaining

    Another way to clean up your reading experience on the web is to just stop reading content from the sites that don’t offer a full RSS feed and don’t cater to a good user experience on the site.

    There are many sites in the past that I have dumped because of poor reading experience and no full RSS feed. What I have found is that these types of sites’ content was going down the toilet anyways. It’s funny how sites that don’t make it easy for the reader to consume their content because of enforcement of ads and click-throughs tend to have content that isn’t the best.

    Instead of “putting up” with a bad reading experience you may just want to give up on the site entirely.

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    A word on ad blocking

    Some of you out there may be saying, “what about ad blocking? That will clean up your reading experience!” While this is true and I have used ad blocking in the past, I have to say that blocking ads from your favorite sites can be a bad thing.

    If I enjoy the content on a site and their ads aren’t overly intrusive to my reading experience, then the site will get my attention to its content and ads giving the site some revenue from advertisers. If they have overly intrusive ads, chances are I’m not reading the site’s content anyways so no need to block something I don’t visit.

    In other words, if the site uses intrusive advertisement you probably won’t read the content from the site in the first place. As long as the site allows its readers access to a full RSS feed and doesn’t kill them with ads I don’t see a use for ad blockers. And anyways, advertisements on your favorite sites are the means that help keep the site there for your enjoyment.

    Cleaning up your web reading experience isn’t a hard thing to do. Hopefully in the next few months and years, web content creators get the idea that readers come to their sites for content, not like buttons and flash advertisements, and find new ways to help monetize their content. As long as online content creators allow their users to consume content the ways they want to, a lot of these issues go by the way side.

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on February 15, 2019

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

    Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

    Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

    So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

    Joe’s Goals

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      Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

      Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

      Daytum

        Daytum

        is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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        Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

        Excel or Numbers

          If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

          What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

          Evernote

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            I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

            Evernote is free with a premium version available.

            Access or Bento

              If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

              Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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              You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

              Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

              All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

              Conclusion

              I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

              What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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