RSS, Google Reader, what the whaaaa? If you don’t have a blog, you may wonder: What the heck IS a feed reader? There are a bunch of buttons to the right of this post, giving option for readers to follow the blog (and I’d love it if you did), but I also know all those buttons can be confusing if you don’t get what they mean.Â So I thought I’d do a short primer on feed readers.
But first, why would you want to follow a blog[s]?
If you don’t have a blog, you might just like finding sites randomly. I did that when I first started blogging. I bookmarked what felt like a zillion different sites and visited each when I could.Â Also, you can click the little “mail” icon over in the sidebar and sign up to get emails when the blog updates, but if you follow a lot of blogs or hate email like I do (unless it’s your blog comments), do you really want your email clogged like that?
Choosing to follow a blog is not a huge commitment. You can unfollow relatively easily, but following a blog means you are taking part in a conversation – which is why bloggers love getting comments when you want to join in.
Plus, what if you see a really great idea for your kitchen cabinets, or a good book you want to remember, or a vacation spot with tips to get good deals? Do you want to chance losing that information?
Using a feed reader can help in all these situations.
A feed reader essentially streamlines the “bookmark” process I described above. You input information into the feed reader (either the URL or site name), and it pulls new posts from the blogs/sites you follow…automatically. You can “like” or “favorite” posts you want to remember. You can even organize the different sites based on category. That way, if there is one category you only want to check periodically, it won’t show up in your daily stream.
How do I find blogs?
You’ll notice at the top of this page a menu bar. One of those pages is named “Blogs I Follow.” Unfortunately, it’s not 100% accurate as I add blogs weekly, but it’s a good place to start. Find a blog you like, then figure out where their blogroll (list of blogs they read) is. Keep clicking and while away a few hours. Or ask me. Maybe you don’t like the kinds of books I do but still want good recommendations. You can also check the Book Blogger Directory for that.
So why all the options with feed readers?
Come on, look at how many cell phone options there are; we lurv having options. Some people like the ultra-techie options. Others (like me) want it to look pretty and be easy to handle.
Below are some of the most popular feed readers, and if you don’t use a feed reader already, I hope this helps you in some way. I really enjoy being able to get on the computer and find all my sites in one place.
Benefits: Very organized with lots of data and ways to sort that data. If you have a gmail account, you already have access to Reader. It’s in the top toolbar on the left when you log in to your account.
Drawbacks: It’s not very attractive and doesn’t really show you the “personality” of each blog – one of my favorite parts of blogging. Also, you have to use a plug-in (whaaa?) to be able to comment on a blog from Google Reader.
Why I stopped using it: It worked, but I didn’t love it. I commented less because it wasn’t simple. I didn’t like the boring “RSS” font. [Insert random “picky” joke here.] Once I discovered there were others out there, I jumped ship relatively quickly.
Feedly (I am considering using feedly because of some of the extras)
Benefits: Powered by Google Reader, so you have the same data/support Google gives to all its products, and same goes for if you already have a gmail account. Has an app. Easy to share posts through Twitter or on your Facebook account, directly from the site. Also, aesthetically pleasing with links opening in a new window. The beauty of this is you can actually see the website.
Drawbacks: Must be installed on your computer. This could be viewed as a benefit because you can instantly add a site to feedly; however, this isn’t easily accessible from all computers – say your work computer when you need a 15-minute break.
Benefits: One of the most popular feed readers out there. Simple customization but more similar to Google Reader – very technical, not so attractive.
Drawbacks: Again, must be downloaded. If you’re not a techie, there are LOTS of different tools you may not need and that may inhibit your viewing.
Benefits: Simplicity. Aesthetically pleasing. (I’ll be honest, this is the feed reader I currently use.) No installation. Just log on to see your favorite sites. Easily customizable. I get an image from the post on the right, and if I click on the link, it takes me directly to the site in a new window. Love. It. (And no, they don’t pay me to say that).
Drawbacks: Few bells and whistles. If you are used to mass data and organization options, this won’t be your feed.
Hope this helps! And if you know of any readers I didn’t mention, please add them in comments with why you like it.
jenn aka the picky girl