As most of you know I had this blog over at blogger originally, I remember when RSS feeds were the new shiny thing to come out and everyone was talking about ’em. At that time though, I didn’t pay much attention because I just didn’t ‘get’ what they were or what was so good about them.
In fact, my browsing habits have always been a bit ‘hit or miss’. If somebody interested me I’d bookmark them, if they interested me enough to keep going back I’d add them to my blog sidebar until such time as I lost interest – mainly because it was easier than sorting through all my bookmarks to find ’em. Once they stopped writing (as they invariably did) they were then replaced with whoever the new flavour of the week was – I admit it, I’m a flutterby.
The thing is, I then started reading some absolutely cracking blogs, but it seemed to be that as soon as I’d visited them a couple of times they’d slack off and either stop blogging completely or just take a month or so break.. I began to feel like a blog Jonah, that my mere presence was killing off any interesting writers within the ‘blogosphere’ (sorry Dan, I know how you hate the word) anyway, I cleared my sidebar and moved over here to my own domain and the joys of wordpress.
When I first started looking at feed readers I was a little put off at the thought of it all in one place, I actually like visiting the website of the person I’m reading, the layout, accompanying pictures, it’s all part of the personality of the writer and it helps keep me focused on which author wrote what I’m reading (I’m not very observant you see) and it looked so complicated – I don’t like complicated, I’m a typical end user – if I can’t point and click I’ll usually not even bother trying unless someone is there to walk me through it (well depending on my mood, sometimes I’m a stubborn cuss and will keep at something for hours before admitting defeat in a sobbing mess)
It was not long after moving over here that I decided to give in to progress and try out the whole RSS thing – especially since once again it was being made much of amongst the people I like to read. My sidebar was cluttered with links to seemingly abandoned blogs but this time I didn’t want to lose anyone in case they came back, from what I was reading RSS was the answer, I could declutter and still keep tabs on my former ‘blogroll’
The problem was, I still wasn’t sure exactly what it was – everyone was mentioning aggregators and feed readers and all manner of arcane sounding stuff, I just wanted something simple – I’d grasped that it was a way of keeping up to date with everyone and actually seeing who had a new post up without searching through all my links, I just didn’t know what I had to do to make it work.
Enter Google reader. Many people offered suggestions but most seemed to agree that Google reader was a good bet, Since I already use Gmail it seemed a suitable choice so I checked it out.
Basically, if you have a gmail account it’s simple; when you’re logged in just go to the ‘more’ tab at the top, you can select the reader on there, otherwise just search for ‘Google reader’ and sign up.
The tricky bit is adding subscriptions.
You need to find where the RSS feed is on the blog/ website you’re interested in and then copy that into the ‘add subscriptions’ box. On some sites you can’t miss it, on others.. Well, I can only assume that like the old me, the blogger/ webmaster didn’t see it as anything of any real importance so it’s overlooked or ignored.
I’ve gone from not knowing what an RSS feed is to being annoyed when I come across something I like and can’t find the feed link to add to my subscriptions (as the lovely Master K can tell you seeing as I nagged at him to sort one out for me for his blog *grin*) Fortunately most wordpress blogs seem to have them at the foot of the page so that’s usually my first place to look when it’s not immediately obvious, just click on the link and copy it into the reader and there you have it. No more missing posts! I think I’ll be loving Hot Karl forever for being the first to point me in the direction of Google reader *grin*
It’s not just good for keeping tabs on awol bloggers though, it’s also great when you have a site like lifehacker, they’re prolific posters on there but not everything they write is of interest to me – especially the mac stuff, you just skim the post headings and select what you want to read. You can either read it as an article in the reader or click on the heading and it opens a new tab (or window depending on your browser preferences) and you can visit the post in it’s home setting. Once you’ve scrolled past the new article in the reader the counter for that blog is re-set so that next time you log in it only shows you the new stuff, it’s quick, efficient and easy on the eye.
Quite frankly I think everyone should use a reader – and EVERYONE who writes should make sure they have an RSS feed that’s easily accessible, especially if they want to build up a readership. If you neglect your blog for a while then people stop visiting and forget all about you, but if they’ve subscribed to your feed, well, the second you start posting again they’ll be back because they’ll know about it.
All in all I now think RSS is bloody marvelous 😀