If you don't know what I'm talking about when I mention RSS, don't worry because
- I'm planning to write a more thorough post extolling the virtues of RSS later
- The link that I'm going to talk about may cause you never to need RSS (which would be a travesty).
Anyway, I like to use an online RSS aggregator called Rojo to keep track of the various websites that I like to follow, like Engadget, Lifehacker, Boing Boing, Google News, a bunch of Tablet PC-related blogs, and on and on and on… Sites like Rojo allow you to aggregate the content from several websites onto one page so that you can get all of the information from those various sites (as long as they provide an RSS feed link) in one place. Using a news aggregator can also show you what sites have been updated, when they're updated, so that you don't have to waste time hitting a certain page every so often, only to find out that it doesn't have any new content. But the main advantage to using an aggregator (online or using a desktop application) is that you can view a lot more information in less time. Some would argue that RSS aggregators can be huge timesinks because you can hit more websites in less time. Let's save that argument for another time, shall we?
The site I want to talk up is a different kind of web aggregator, though. Instead of you setting up which websites to track, popurls.com has a predefined list of sites that it presents headlines for (in the case of media sites like Flickr, it presents thumbnails) in a sort of 3-column-newspaper kind of motif (sort of).
I stumbled upon popurls.com accidentally. IIRC, I was reading a comment thread on Lifehacker about what RSS aggregators people liked to use. I visited the site and was very impressed. It takes popular "Web 2.0" and/or news websites like Digg, Flickr, Youtube, Fark.com, del.icio.us, etc. and presents their top 20 stories (or pictures or videos) of the moment. I'm not sure how often they update the site, but I'd guess it's updated at least hourly to keep the content fresh.
I was going to intersperse some screenshots here, but WordPress is being a PITA, so I'll just mention a few things about the site and let you explore it further, if you wish:
- Its design is nice and clean
- At the top right is a little toolbar of sorts that lets you customize the look and amount of content on the page, as well as open a little form to enter a search on Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask.com, Technorati, Amazon, and Wikipedia
- You can hover over the headlines and get a little "tooltip" story summary
- At the end of the list of 20 headlines, there's a link to display more stories, which extends the column of headlines
- The media sites that are tracked (Flickr, Youtube, Google Video, etc.) display sets of thumbnails that nicely break up the columns of text
- There is a very good diversity in site coverage — it isn't just all tech news sites
A lot of the sites that popurls tracks were new to me when I first visited, so I think a lot of people would find new and interesting content here. Since their goal seems to be tracking the "latest buzz", you can get a pretty good idea of the major stories that are on the Net's collective mind. Popurls is a good alternative if you like which sites it tracks, and aren't really inclined to create your own account on an online RSS aggregator or set up your own desktop application. Even if you already have a favorite RSS aggregator, I think Popurls is a good supplement.