Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

How To Read 120 Blogs

I love blogging. I love reading friend's blogs. I have an obsession with reading the news. Perhaps I love these things because I get addicted to checking things that change often - like blogs and news sites. Some sites update several times a day - like news sites. Others might go months without an update - like this blog. Isn't it really annoying to always keep coming back to check on sites again and again and again? It takes a lot of time, and it chews up bandwidth - which in Canada is very expensive. (Not only do you have to load the article, you have to load all the templates, ads, etc.)

Too bad there wasn't a way to know when a blog/site/comic gets posted, so you only read them when they get published so you don't have to keep going back.  Too bad there wasn't a way to read those sites easily and efficiently without loading all that extra stuff. Wait! Maybe there is! (Cue cheezy infomercial visual wipe.)

I keep up with 120 blogs/news sites. How do I do it? I use a feed-reader. A feed-reader is a piece of software that keeps track of all your blogs and news sites. It keeps track of what articles you've read, and which ones you haven't. Instead of going to every blog individually (which takes a lot of time and bandwidth), the feed-reader does the leg work for you.  It tells you when a new article, comic, blog post, or whatever is published.

It's kinda like Facebook.  When you log into Facebook, you see your friend's status updates.  It would be a big pain in the neck to go to each of your Facebook friend's profile pages to see if their status has updated, or if they posted pictures.  Instead, Facebook tells you what your friends have done recently.  It's like each person on Facebook has a blog, and by adding someone as a Friend you're subscribing to their blog.

I use Google Reader. I always keep Google Reader open in a tab in my browser at work and at home. When I find a blog or news site I want to keep up with I subscribe to it using Google Reader. That's how I keep up with 117 of my 120 sites. (The remaining 3 sites are made up of 2 work blogs that aren't available on the Internet, and one friend's blog who has seen fit to disable his RSS feed so I have to remember to check it all the time. I don't often remember, so when I do I end up reading about a month's worth of postings at a time.)

Whenever I explain the concept of a feed-reader to people they usually shake their head and say something like "It sounds really complicated." It's not.  It's about as complicated as making a Peanut Butter and Jam Sandwich.  Maybe I'm just doing a bad job of explaining it?

Here's how to do it:

  1. Go to Google Reader (
  2. Sign in to your Google Account. If you don't have a Google account, click "Create an Account" on that page and follow the steps.
  3. Optional: Bookmark Google Reader and/or make it your homepage when your browser opens. You'll want to go there a lot.
  4. Go to a blog (like this one) or a news site and look for the RSS logo ().  It may be in the address bar of your browser, or somewhere within the site. (Stinkin' Mozilla took that out of the address bar of FireFox as of version 4.)   Click on it. It should give you subscription options. One of them should be to use Google Reader. Select that option.


    Copy and paste the URL into the textbox that appears when you click "Add a subscription" in Google Reader.
  5. When you go to Google Reader to read your feeds, make sure you have "All items" selected on the upper left menu under "Home", and just the "New items" at the top of your feed list.
  6. Play with some of the settings. There's lot of key strokes you can learn to make things go faster, like "v" opens the feed that you're currently reading in a new tab or window, and "r" refreshes the list. Even without knowing all the ins and outs, it's a very efficient way to keep up with your favorite blogs and news sites. As you learn more, you'll discover all sorts of wonderful things (starring, sharing, liking, emailing directly from Google Reader, etc.), you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.
There, now that wasn't so hard, was it?  I listed 6 steps.  One of them is optional.  The first two could really be counted as one.  The final two are really about the settings of the reader.  Really, its:
  1. Log in to Google Reader,
  2. Subscribe to Feeds,
  3. Read feeds in your reader, and
  4. Learn to speak Swahili with all the free time you now have on your hands.

Here's a video (from RSS Day.) that explains everything in a bit more detail: