Saturday, April 2, 2011

How to use a blog reader.

A friend and I were discussing RSS the other day. We've come to the conclusion that it's a generational thing - people over a certain age either don't know what RSS is or don't seem to understand what it's good for. Both of us have run across people of the over-50 variety who look at us cross-eyed when we suggest to them that they should use a blog reader.

(No offense to anyone out there, over or under 50... I mean no disrespect. It's merely an observation I've made that people over a certain age TEND to not have a clue about RSS. I realize that's a broad generalization, though.)

"A blog reader? What's that?," I've been asked, "I just click on these tabs here to check all my blogs." Says the woman who has 50 browser tabs open at all time.

Really... I beg of you... there is a better way... an easier way... it's called Google Reader.




There are actually quite a few blog readers out there. Google Reader is free and probably the most versatile that I've found. Even if you one day graduate to a more full-featured reader... most are still compatible with Google Reader. I personally have tried several other free web-based readers... and always seem to come back to Google Reader.

Feel free to try any blog reader... really... I won't be offended. They pretty much all work the same way, so this tutorial can still work for you.

So anyway, first things first.

You need a Google account to use Google Reader, which you already have if you have a Blogspot blog or a Gmail account. If not, it's free. Sign up. It's easy.

Next, go to a blog that you enjoy (or maybe some that you don't). Find their RSS button/link.

RSS just means "Really Simple Syndicate". It basically means... a really easy way to have your blogs come to YOU instead of the other way around.

It a lot of times looks like this:



... but could also look like this:




... or this:




Basically anything that says "Subscribe" or shows a picture of the RSS button will usually work. There's also something called "Atom Feed" which seems to work; I'm not at all sure what "Atom" refers to in this context, although that doesn't really matter. My point is... find the subscription feed link.

Next, when you click on this button/link, it will usually ask you which reader you want to subscribe with - tell it Google (or whichever reader you choose). Now whenever you go to Google Reader, every time ANY of the 5,189 blogs you follow has an update, your reader will just know. It'll be like your own personal newspaper!




So... one link... 5,189 blogs... gotta love Google Reader.

In summary...

RSS is just a fancy way of describing the news feed that you're reading. Any blog or news website has an RSS feed. Anything that updates with any sort of frequency has an RSS feed. Even sites like Etsy have RSS feeds (for each individual shop), so feel free to "subscribe" to these shops to stay updated with their latest wares for sale.

A blog reader is a way of grouping together these feeds all into one place. It will tell you the number of unread for each feed so that you know which sites you need to read next. You still have to click through to the site to make comments, so don't worry, you'll still get to see their beautiful site design!

Hopefully...

this makes sense. If not, feel free to ask. I'm sure there's something I didn't explain very well here. I know when I discovered blog readers, it seriously helped organize my online reading to-do list. Hopefully it can do the same for you! :)

8 comments:

  1. My Blog Frog friend this is a wonderful post. I use Google reader to follow blogs but I just did it I never really understood what RSS meant or what it actually did. Thanks for letting us all know, even those of us under 50 ;)

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  2. Sure! Glad to help. :)

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  3. I use bloglovin and love it! I tried google reader and couldn't stand it.

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  4. I have tried Bloglovin'. I must say, I just didn't get it. It seemed way too cumbersome to make comments on the blogs - at least on the iPhone version. That's cool that it works for you though - it is nice to have options for everyone out there!
    I actually use Mobile RSS on the iPhone and iPad and Gruml on the computer - they all sync with G.Reader which is why I keep all my feeds in there.

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  5. Google reader is the best RSS reader I've ever used! I've tried a few of them, but they either did feed formatting in a way I don't like, or they would only let me subscribe to a few feeds, or in the case of bloglines, (or at least when I used it 4 years ago,) they limited feed items to 200, and after that it wouldn't collect anymore items. I have the google reader subscribe bookmarklet installed, and I must use it like 20 times per day! Oh yeah, I'm about to use it right now, to subscribe to this blog.

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  6. Oh yeah - limits. I was trying to think of concrete reasons why I like GR. That's a good one right there. No limits on number of feeds allowed!

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  7. I'm not sure how many feed subscriptions I have, but it has to be somewhere between 1500 and 2000. It's a lot, that's for sure! No, I don't read feeds all day, but I do try to get to as many as I can.

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  8. Yeah I hear you. I like to try other readers and when it cuts me off, it's like, really?? Lol.
    I try to keep up with reading all of mine but it's hard. Got any secrets on reading them all? Sounds like you've got way more than me! I can't remember my exact count but I would guess around 50 right now. It has been higher but I keep deleting the boring ones. ;)

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