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How to Cleanup Your Web Reading

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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.

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    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.

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    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 November 25, 2021

    How to Make Private Browsing on Safari Truly Private

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    How to Make Private Browsing on Safari Truly Private

    There comes a time when we may be searching online and don’t want the browser to remember our footsteps. The reasons don’t always have to be what we obviously think of as the main reason; for example, sometimes, you may not want Safari to remember your passwords or prompt you to enter your password when surfing the web.

    Whatever the reason, we may think that we are totally in the clear with Private Browsing on Safari and the other browsers on a Mac. However, a quick Terminal command can bring up every website you’ve visited. How do you do this? Also, how do you clear your tracks for good? We will provide both answers and more today.

      What Does Private Browsing Do?

      When activated, Private Browsing on Safari prevents your browsing history from being kept in the history tab of the application. Along with this, it doesn’t autofill information that you have saved in the browser. In this mode, you essentially become incognito and any references of previous use is essentially hidden when you are in private mode.

      For example: if you are on Facebook or filling out a form and some information or your login is already filled in in the spaces provided, this is called autofill. It’s activated by simply clicking Safari next to the Apple symbol in the menubar and selecting Private Browsing, then clicking “OK” to the prompt.

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      The reasons behind private mode differ for each individual. While we won’t go into all of those reasons, one thing that is  important to remember is that private browsing doesn’t forget the websites you visit. As we will see later on, Macs keep a second copy of the websites you visit in either mode. If you are in frantic mode looking for a solution to this, look no further.

      The Terminal Archive

      While Safari does a good job of keeping your search history out of prying eyes in the history tab, there is a less-than-obvious way to view a full list of visited websites on Mac. This is done in Terminal; the command-line emulator that allows you to make changes to your Mac.

      Terminal is located in the Utilities folder on your Mac. Once activated, simply add the command:

      dscacheutil -cachedump -entries Host

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      Once you hit “enter”, a list of the visited sites appear. Showing only the domains, the sites appear in a format of:

      Key: h_name :(website domain)ipv4 :1

      However, there’s no need to fear—there is a way you can clear this information from Terminal with a command that’s just as simple.

      Clearing Your Tracks

      Just as simply as you were able to enter the command to view the websites, you can clear the cache that Terminal showed you with the comamnd:

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      dscacheutil -flushcache

      As the command denotes, this literally “flushes” the domains from Terminal. This does not prevent the record from continuing to be recorded for future sites, however, so if that’s an issue for you, repeat this process regularly.

      Other Browsers and Private Browsing

      Other browsers have this form of privacy mode for their service. They promise many of the same things as Safari, but they do not have the same Terminal issue due to how this command only presents websites visited on Safari (the browser Macs come shipped with).

      If you use Firefox, you’ll notice that its private mode is also known as Private Browsing. Chrome calls private mode Incognito, while Internet Explorer refers to it as InPrivate Browsing. Opera is the newest to the scene, denoting it as Private Tab. Safari is the oldest well-known browser with this feature.

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      As you can see, despite Private Browsing not being 100% private, Terminal allows for your browser to be. In what ways has Terminal helped your life or allowed you to become more productive? Let us know in the comments below.

      Featured photo credit: Benjamin Dada via unsplash.com

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