How do you read your blogs? Do you have a list of bookmarks that you check each time you’re in front of your computer? Do you use somebody else’s handy sidebar list that’s organized by the most recent update? Do you (god forbid) google each site you want to check and use their results to take you where you need to go? Do you put a drunk monkey in front of your keyboard and let him type away until something interesting appears? Each of these involves some varying level of tedium (although the monkey may be mildly entertaining until the poop-flinging begins). THERE IS A BETTER WAY.
Feed Readers. I’ve posted about them before. For those of you who already use a feed reader to keep track of blogs, news, and pretty much any content posted on the web that interests you, disregard this post. Hopefully this is most of you. For those of you who don’t, let me encourage you again to give them a try. Google Reader and Bloglines are both fine readers. If you like those and want to experiment, there are a number of other web-based feed readers, as well as many stand-alone readers that you can download and install locally.
What, you might ask, are the benefits?
- Eliminate Clicks – Say you have 15 blogs like this one that you check every day (gosh, I’m honored!). If those blogs are like this one, they only update (at best) once a week or so. So that’s 6 useless clicks per blog (90 for all 15 blogs, if you’re keeping track) per week. Now use a newsreader. Chances are at least one of your 15 blogs was updated on any given day. Every time you visit your newsreader, you’re saving yourself time (your mouse-hand will also thank you for eliminating the repetitive stress of all those clicks)!
- YOU are in Control (i.e., Why Feed Readers are Superior to Mailing Lists) – Some blogs allow you to receive updates via email (although this has become more rare with the explosion of RSS feeds). With a feed reader, you don’t have to expose your email address to anybody. You don’t have to give your email address to a shady web site owner (like me!), exposing yourself to spam. You don’t have to rely on anybody to take you off the list. If you want to stop reading the feed, remove it from your reader and you’re done!
- Customize Your Reading – Use your feed reader to create “mini publications” for yourself. I roughly organize my feeds into categories by topic: web design, friends’ blogs, comics (gotta have the daily Dilbert), Flickr photos, etc.
- Feeds for Everyone – There are feeds out there for just about everything you could want to follow on the Web. For instance, did you know that there is an RSS feed for your Flickr photostream? I follow my friends photostreams (public photos only, unfortunately) so I know when there’s a new photo out there by one of my talented friends like Shannon or Lou Ann.
- It’s so Easy – Wonder if a site has a feed? The answer is probably ‘Yes’. Look for the feed icon that accompanies this post (or some variation thereof). The orange icon is pretty standard, but some sites use custom colors.
I would be remiss if I did not present the one major drawback to the convenience of using a feed reader. It’s SO easy that you may find yourself subscribing to more and more content on the Web. Your feeds can eventually become like those magazines you subscribe to that lay around your house waiting to be read. But at least on the Web it’s free!
There are plenty of other reasons to use a feed reader, not the least of which is “Pat told me to.” So what is your current procedure for reading blogs? Would you consider a feed reader? If I push it any more will you stop reading THIS blog?