Favorite site blocked at work? Zinepal to the rescue.

Do you have one of those overly-strict employers that thinks your favorite harmless blog sites hamper productivity? That thinks they can filter the internet into black-and-white buckets of “needed for work” and “not needed for work”, as if anything in life is ever that simple, much less the Wild Wild Web? Or maybe you just don’t trust the IT department not to tell everyone about your penchant for trashy celebrity gossip or your addiction to Oprah’s Twitter feed? Well, you can stop losing sleep about it, right now.

Zinepal is a slick tool designed for something entirely different that what I’ve described. It’s goal is to print-to-PDF anything that’s available via an RSS feed, and kick your content to your inbox in your own little custom digital magazine (thus, the name). You can set it up to automatically send you the most recent 10 (or more, in increments of 5) articles from your chosen feed daily (or every Monday, etc) and deliver your stock prices at breakfast (or on the morning train ride), the latest electronic gadgets for some lunchbreak wishlist-building, or even a little hollywood scuttlebutt with your afternoon tea.

There are lots of Zinepal feeds already created under the “Read” tab, so your favorite site might already be there with no setup required. Otherwise, a link directly to an RSS feed (or potentially just the homepage URL, although I found its ability to parse pages for their RSS metadata a little flaky) can be rolled up into your own zine, that you can share with other Zinepal users or clutch to your bosom for no one else to see. You can also have your zine delivered as an eBook or to a Kindle (but who has one of those?) as well as customize the layout and format, even including logos and ads in there if you’re promoting your own site.

The unintended-but-brilliant use, though, is in delivering content to your mailbox that you otherwise couldn’t or wouldn’t surf directly, and in an offline way that doesn’t require a live connection to view (including the pictures and everything!) that never expires. So go ahead and set up that feed for The Superficial every weekday morning at 7am; in these difficult times Brad and Angelina’s latest baby is the only amusing thing left to discuss at the water cooler, and your boss just doesn’t understand that.


My Zinepal feed, which will contain this post next week (ooo, reciprocal!)

RSS is your friend.

Today, class, we’re going to talk about RSS. It’s gonna be a long, tedious lecture, and i hope you’re taking notes cause it will definitely be on the test, and none of those easy multiple choice questions either where you can just guess C for everything and get 35% of them right. (Yes, i know it should be 25%, since there are four letters, but anyone who slacked their way thru college can tell you that C is the right answer a disproportionately large amount of the time). If you don’t know what RSS is, well, ugh… i mean, seriously? You don’t? OK, you can go sit in the corner… no, the back corner, by the globe and the class hamster.

I know it’s totally hypocritical of me to prattle on about how cool and important RSS is when mine is totally busted and screwy. Maybe i’ll fix that today… but in the meantime, let the prattling continue.

So short story: it allows surfers to track your updates via an aggregator app, so they can tell which sites have new stuff and are worth a visit today. There are online aggregators like bloglines and desktop ones like NetNewsWire for OSX – those two actually integrate really well, btw. On windoze at work i use Sage, a very nice Mozilla extension. If you’re not on OSX or an avid Firefox user, well… i can’t help you. Go back into your cave.

Until you’ve gotten hooked on it you’ll think i’m weird. Afterward, you’ll thank me and want to send me money and jewels for improving your life so much. Let’s just assume you’re nearing that second stage… and give you your fix for today. Here are some of my daily reads to add to your collection. These go right to the feed; don’t expect the links to be readable. And don’t expect them not to be really nerdy super hip and cool, probably too cool for you.

Slashdot.orgThe true techie should require no explanation.
Fark.comNo one knows news like Drew.
GizmodoI like things with buttons and lights. So do these guys
EngadgetAnother stronghold of fellow electronic widget-whores
JoystiqGame news, game toys, game rants
hack a dayThose without a soldering gun need not apply
You Can’t Make It UpWeird people have web pages, too. Michelle makes fun of them for your amusement. (This is actually an Atom feed – same idea, different name.)
BoingBoing.netSometimes a little bit too “real news” for me… but worth monitoring for the occasional reality-free bit
Cult of MacYeah, i read it. What you gonna do about it?
AutoblogCar news for the tech-head. It’s like they know me personally, or something!
Morgan Webb’s moblogIt’s important to know whenever lovely Morgan posts a new camera phone pic. Even if it’s just a candid shot of stupid old Adam. Morgan has such nice… pictures.

Alright, click-click and stick those in your feed-eating aggregator (heh heh… that has ‘gator’ in it… crikey!). Just don’t blame me if you get a lot less work done today.