Castrating click-bait

As I’ve written before, for the last year or two I’ve had a huge issue with the increasing amount of click-bait and inflammatory articles posted on websites of companies that call themselves news outlets. My previous solution to this was to simply block out the news sites, but I think I have found a better solution.

There are two big issues with blocking out everything. First, while many articles are shit, there are some choice writers and columnists who stand out as exemplary. As a side note, if you have any favorite writers, check to see if they have a Patreon, and try to support them this way. Second, it turns out that sometimes the issue isn’t the article itself, and not even the headline, but the font/color of the text, placement, as well as images that are used to promote the stories.

My new solution solves these two issues at once: RSS. The main reason I hadn’t looked at RSS before was that after Google shut down Google Reader for completely illogical crap-reasons, there was really nothing that worked for me. Readers tended to be clunky and not well supported. I’ve found a new reader, a Chrome extension called “RSS Feed Reader”, that offers the best integration I’ve seen. It uses the site feeder.co as a backend, and it offers a really convenient browsable menu.

Most of these news sites offer RSS feeds, and many (like the NY Times) even offer feeds for individual authors. So I’ve been able to collect a list of all the websites I consider relevant, even if I don’t agree with them, and now I have a little plugin where I can click on the name of the news outlet and get a list of headlines of the latest articles, in neutral colors and fonts so that it doesn’t piss me off. This has made browsing some of the worst offenders, such as Breitbart and The Hill, way way way more managable.

One of my favorite features is that when there are new articles, a little number shows up next to the feed corresponding to the number of new articles. You can look at the headlines, and if they all look like garbage, just click the “mark feed as read” option and the number goes away. This is also a fantastic way to do comparative news analysis: when a big story breaks, such as Al Franken resigning, you can quickly click through all the different outlets to see the takes. It’s actually enlightening, sometimes just by the headlines you can tell the bias of the news outlet.

The point of these exercises is to figure out a way to manage the current landscape without falling prey to any of the downsides of it. I’ve also found that this plugin replaces what I used to use reddit for, and it has none of the downsides (like reddit comments). And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t add something thanking Aaron Swartz for his efforts in helping to create RSS, since it seems to be helping restore my sanity.

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3 Responses to Castrating click-bait

  1. strycat says:

    You would use a Google product (Google Chrome) after what they did to iGoogle and Google Reader?

    • aestetix says:

      A few reasons why.

      First, Chrome has a massive share of the browser market, and they’d be insanely stupid to revoke support for it. Google Reader didn’t have many users (at least, that was their stated claim).

      Second, Chrome is miles ahead of Firefox– I have tried the latest versions of both browsers, Firefox basically crashed my system.

      Third, while I have had personal issues with Google in the past, I tend to focus on specific issues rather than disavowing the company as a whole.

      Fourth, in at least one instance that I know of (Google Plus names policy), Google has admitted a mea culpa and fixed things. So while they aren’t perfect, I consider it generally good enough to use.

  2. Check out The Old Reader. Its a reimplementation of Google’s old Reader product.

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