Alltop is aggregating the news so I don't have to

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Have you set up an RSS reader yet, to bring news from your favorite websites to you instead of having you surf out to them, usually somewhat randomly? I confess I havenâ''t, beyond creating a simple My Yahoo page several years ago; not because I donâ''t think itâ''s a good idea, but because it would take time to set up, Iâ''d have to spend some time thinking about my web browsing habits to figure out what to put there beyond the obvious, decide what RSS reader to useâ'¿ You get the picture. Itâ''s just one of those things Iâ''ve been meaning to get to eventually.

And now Iâ''ve got one more excuse to put it off: Guy Kawasakiâ''s new online venture, Alltop. Alltop has sorted news sites into categories (food, green, news, politics, technology, and science, among others), put a selection of RSS feeds onto one page per category, and done so in a nice, clean, format that reminds me of IEEE Spectrumâ''s new design. Alltop displays five headlines from each site, with popups that show a little more of the story, and clickthroughs to the original site. It calls this aggregation variously a dashboard, table of contents, and digital magazine rack, pick your favorite metaphor.

Alltop admittedly copied the Popurls concept, but did it well, and made it a heck of a lot easier to read. (Popurlsâ'' tiny blue type on a black background page makes me worry that I need new reading glasses; not fun.) And, as of today, Spectrumâ''s RSS feed is at the top of Alltopâ''s science page, right around where I would have put it were I setting it up myself.

Critics have been slamming the semi-transparent bar that splices the lower quarter of the page, I kind of like it, it reminds me of the elastic strap across my low-tech copy stand, and helps me keep track of where I am on the page.

Clearly Iâ''m the target market for this site. From the Alltop FAQs section: Q: â''Couldnâ''t I build my own custom aggregation using customizable home pages, Netvibes, etc? A. Yes, you couldâ''knock yourself out. While youâ''re at it, you could backup your hard disk, bake your own bread, iron your own shirts, floss daily, tune your own car, and bike to work.â''

Kudos to Kawasaki for making my life a little simpler. Wonder if heâ''d mind coming over and backing up my hard disk next.

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