Monday, November 28, 2005

RingSurf, Greenbloggers, and SiteWinder

RingSurf is like a list of cool sites that pertain to some topic you are interested in - say soccer. 'Green Bloggers Web Ring' is a particular 'ring' on RingSurf - that is, it is a group of like-minded websites that pertain to 'Green' things - the Green Party, environmentalism, etc.

Each member website of the 'ring' must include the RingSurf pre-set HTML, which has a few text links in it, including one that says 'Random'. Clicking that link sends the user to a new website in the ring (You'll see my 'Green Blogger' stuff in my navigation bar at the left.). The URL for the 'Green Bloggers' ring is;action=rand.

Unfortunately, since the design of each blog/website is different, each blog/website has this particular 'Random' link in a different place - so it's a pain in the butt to find the 'Random' link on each new page you go to. I've found a temporary solution: put the RingSurf 'Random' URL in your web browser's 'Home Page Location' box (Firefox: Tools->Options; IE: Tools->Internet Options).

Now, every time you click the 'Home' button on your browser, or use the Home keyboard shortcut (Alt+Home for Firefox and IE), you'll get a new site in the Green Bloggers web ring. Cool. Especially if you don't use the Home button for anything else. My home page is my employer-company's home page, which is a nice, safe bet - since you never know what's going to pop up on someone else's blog. I'm trying to figure out how to create a Firefox extension to handle this with a separate button and command - say, Alt+'G', but we'll see.

What is/was SiteWinder? It was a web service I put together a couple of years ago that did something very similar to what WebRing is doing now. I was proud of it in that I'd proposed it as an idea to an internet hotshot one time a few years ago and he laughed at it - then, a year or so after that chuckle, a company called eTour blew up. Their idea had taken my idea to a new level, but I still felt vindicated.

After the success and looming failure of eTour, I started to build SiteWinder with my own set of features. It worked well for me, but never caught on with anybody else. It is now defunct, but I thought it had interesting features, which might still be useful today. The premise was that you would just click something (a button in your browser, a button in an HTML framed page, an icon in your Windows system tray, etc.) and the next website in your 'list' would appear. This is essentially what the RingSurf 'Random' link is doing. SiteWinder had a bunch of other features: sequential or random ordering of sites, categories of sites to choose from, different configuration options, ability to add your own personal bookmarked sites, a 'Site of the Day', email integration, etc. It might come back from the dead one day. We'll see. I'd like to be able to peruse my favorite blogs, news sites, Green sites, etc. in many different ways - possibly based on when they were updated, and a whole host of other ways.

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