The few people who pay any attention to my “currently reading” list on the sidebar may have noticed that it hadn’t changed in a while. It’s not because I’m a really slow reader, but because the site I use to update it, AllConsuming.net, was facing server problems. That was a minor annoyance to bloggers who use it and a major annoyance for Erik Benson, the site’s developer. The good news for the rest of us is that the crash inspired Erik to completely revamp the service with some great new features. He did this amazingly quickly, too.
When I first started using All Consuming back in September, 2003, I wrote that it made me “giddy with its niftyness.” Now the service is even niftier. Instead of being limited to a few predefined categories, users can organize their reading lists by creating their own sets of tags. For instance, I’m marking the books I’m currently reading with the tag “cbook” (for current book). I’ve set the single line of code that goes on the sidebar under “Currently Reading” to return only the books with that tag. This may sound complicated, but it’s pretty self-explanatory once you’ve set up an account with All Consuming.
So far, so what? The neat thing about the tags is that they can be anything a user wants them to be. If I want to display a list of economics books I like, I can give those books an “econ” tag and display them all by changing that one line of code and placing it wherever on my site I want to. It’s that easy.
The next improvement is the inclusion of music, movies, and other items available at Amazon; the old All Consuming was limited to books. By tagging the albums I’m currently listening to with “cmusic” and setting the code to display that tag, I added a “currently listening” section to my sidebar in a matter of minutes.
Another new feature is that each All Consuming account gets its own RSS feed. This makes it easy to keep up with what your friends or other bloggers are reading, listening to, etc. Just subscribe to their feeds and you’ll have automatic access to all the additions they make to their All Consuming accounts. Mine, for example, is http://www.allconsuming.net/person/JacobGrier/rss.
There are a few other positive changes, but those are the big three for me. Two of the old features I miss are the inclusion of the author (and now artist) on the individual items and the ability to use my Amazon Associates account when readers click on the links. Both of these are supposed to be added soon, along with some other goodies.
All Consuming is an excellent site that just got even better. Existing users’ data is saved; they just need to use the new code to get going with the new system. For bloggers who don’t yet publish reading/listening/viewing lists, All Consuming is probably the easiest way to add them. Sign up for the service here.