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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 October 16, 2019

    11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

    11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

    Automations are key to improving efficiency. Set the system up right from the beginning and you’ll reduce the amount of no-shows and cancellations.

    Whatever your business is, with automations, meeting scheduler apps do more than just streamline appointment setting. They prime your workflow for maximum results.

    Meeting scheduler apps are awesome if you use them right. Use them wrong and you can look like an arrogant elitist.

    In this article, I will share with you 11 great meeting scheduler apps you can start using today to boost your productivity.

    1. ScheduleOnce

      ScheduleOnce is an industry leader and robust solution. Whether you work alone or have a large team, ScheduleOnce can support you.

      ScheduleOnce allows you to create multiple users and multiple calendars. I use one calendar for booking podcast guests with automations set up to prep my guests for our interview. I use another calendar for strategy sessions and coaching calls.

      ScheduleOnce also has embeddable widgets so you can keep the scheduler inside your own website.

      Starting at $7 a month and a 14 day free trial, ScheduleOnce can fit a variety of needs in business.

      Available on Web

      2. Calendly

        Calendly stands out for its clean, easy to use interface. If you like clean design, Calendly might be your choice. It too has robust automations and integrations for individuals and teams alike.

        You can try Calendly free for 14 days. Their basic plan is free while their most robust plan is only $12 a month.

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        Available on Web | Google Chrome Extension

        3. Assistant.to

          For those who use gmail, Assistant.to is a super simple solution.

          From inside an email, you click on the Assistant.to icon and pick times your free. Assistant.to embeds the times directly into the email so the recipient can quickly pick a time that works for them.

          While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of apps like Calendly or ScheduleOnce, Assistant.to is completely free.

          Available on Web

          4. Acuityscheduling

            Acuity is a robust meeting scheduler very similar to ScheduleOnce. It integrates with CRMs, Email Marketing platforms, Analytics tools and accounting software.

            It comes with a 14 day free trial. They have a free solo account but if you want the benefit of the integrations, you’ll start as low as $15 a month and can cost up to $50 a month.

            Available on Web | iOS | Android

            5. Pick

              Built for simplicity, Pick is direct and easy to use. You can create your own url extension like pick.co/yournamehere and it integrates with Google calendar and Office 365.

              At $3 a month, this is a great tool for quick scheduling.

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              Available on Web

              6. X.ai

                For those who are early adopters of AI, this may be the solution for you. X.ai created two AI assistants they call Amy and Andrew Ingram. After setting up your account you simply CC them on your emails with the person you’re wanting to schedule and the AI assistants will email your guests from there until your appointment is set.

                This type of scheduler feels more personal because of the dialogue. There are stories on their site of people thinking Amy and Andrew are real people. X.ai integrates with Google, Office 365 and Outlook.

                Starting at $29 a month for an Individual account and $39 a month per user for a Team account, Amy and Andrew are ready to schedule meetings for you. Want to try it out first? They do have a free trial.

                Available on Web

                7. YouCanBook.me

                  is another competitive solution for scheduling meetings online. You can manage the calendars of your entire team, configure booking forms, and integrate with your calendar.

                  They have a free account branded with their company name or you can have some control over your branding and appearance at $10 a month for all their features. Either way, this company is worth a look.

                  Available on Web

                  8. Doodle

                    Doodle is unique in the space of meeting schedulers because it helps groups of people find a time to meet that works for everyone.

                    It integrates with your calendar and allows you to send a poll to all invited. Once people vote on the poll you can see which time works best for everyone.

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                    You can also run polls for food preferences if you’re scheduling a lunch meeting or a section of town if people are coming from all over.

                    While there is a free account, you’ll unlock it’s potential starting at $39 per year.

                    Available on Web | iOS | Android

                    9. WhenAvailable

                      WhenAvailable is another scheduler that works for groups of people. You can use it to schedule a pickup game of basketball, decide on your next book club or book your family reunion.

                      Their free account allows up to 20 guests, unlimited events and one contact group. For $15 a year you unlock all the goodies including reminders and chat messages.

                      Available on Web

                      10. Rally

                        Like Doodle and WhenAvailable, Rallly is helpful for scheduling meetings and events with multiple people involved. You create a poll and everyone votes. It’s quick and easy.

                        Unlike Doodle, it doesn’t have as many features, but it’s entirely free.

                        Available on Web

                        11. NeedtoMeet

                          Finishing strong, NeedtoMeet is our last app that allows you to schedule meetings or events for multiple people. It has mobile apps, custom urls, easy polling, notifications and commenting.

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                          NeedtoMeet also allows 1:1 Meetings for things like performance reviews for your whole team. You send out the your calendar slots to your team and they can only pick 1 slot, minimizing the amount of emails and scheduling you have to coordinate.

                          While they have a free account, you can unlock all features for only $19 a year.

                          Available on Web

                          Bonus: Don’t Make These Common Mistakes When Using Meeting Schedulers

                          In the excitement of streamlining your scheduling process, it can be easy to forget the feelings of those you’re inviting to meet. I know. I’ve done this.

                          To say “Hey, schedule time on my calendar” feels colder than “Hey, here’s my calendar. To avoid all the back and forth, pick a time that works best for you.”

                          Always make sure to frame your invite with your scheduler app with the benefit to them and why we’re doing it this way rather than the old fashioned, personal way.

                          A little finesse goes a long way. Without it, you risk seeming transactional and cold.

                          Some meeting scheduler widgets you can embed in your site can take a couple seconds to load. If you go this route, make sure there’s text just above the widget that lets your guest know the calendar will appear below and to wait for it to load.

                          If you use an online meeting tool like Zoom, it’s also important to explicitly let them know the meeting will take place on Zoom and include the Zoom link in the email reminder. Many make the mistake of not clarifying where the meeting will actually take place which can create last minute chaos at the time of the meeting.

                          Should you require special settings, like ethernet, external mics or lighting, let your guests know that on your thank you page and reminder emails so they are prepared for the meeting and you end up with the best meeting possible.

                          With clear communication in your automation, your meeting scheduler tools can almost perform like a virtual assistant for a fraction of the cost, or free, depending on the app you choose.

                          The Bottom Line

                          Meeting scheduler apps are diverse in features and unique in design. Before committing to one and realizing it’s not a fit, I recommend exploring which 3 might best fit you and then doing a trial with each of them at the same time so that you can see how they feel as you use them side by side.

                          Scheduling meetings the old fashioned way can be tedious. Conversely, finding a scheduling app that works seamlessly in the background is heavenly.

                          Like cell phones, meeting scheduler apps are moving from a nice-to-have luxury to must-have necessity in the lives of productive people. As you explore your options, stay true to your brand and the tools that have worked well for you to this point and simply find a meeting scheduler app that plays well with what you have created.

                          Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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