I follow more than 200 blogs. I am often asked, “How do you do it? That would take me forever!” It would me, too—if I tried to visit all of these blogs daily. But using an RSS Reader, I can stay current by spending less than 30 minutes a day.
In this post, I want to show you how to set up Google Reader and then use it to keep up with your favorite blogs. This is not a post for “power users,” though even they might pick up a tip or two. It is intended for novices—people who are not even sure what RSS is.
Let’s start at the beginning. What is RSS?
RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication.” Before RSS, you had to bookmark your favorite sites and then visit them one-at-a-time. Maybe they had new content, maybe not. This was slow and tedious; it took forever. You could only follow a very limited number of blogs with this kind of workflow.
In 1999, engineers at Netscape dreamed up RSS. It is a simple technology that allows you to subscribe to your favorite blogs. Whenever one of your favorite bloggers posts new content, it is pushed out—or syndicated—to you and everyone else who subscribes (watch the embedded video above).
- It’s simple.
- It has lots of easy-to-use features.
- It’s free.
Why should you use Google Reader? Three reasons:
- It is convenient—content comes to you.
- It is consistent—you have a single user interface.
- It is fast—you can read WAY more content then you could by visiting sites one at a time.
So, how do you get started? Fortunately, it is very simple. I am going to walk you through it, step-by-step:
- Set up a Google account:
- If you already have a Google account, you can skip this step.
- Goto Google.com/accounts.
- Look in the lower right-hand corner. Click on the Create an Account link or button.
- Make sure you write down your new email address and password.
- Set up a Google Reader Account:
- Goto Google.com/Reader.
- Sign into your new account, using your Google login credentials.
- You should have a new screen with some pre-populated posts.
- Start adding subscriptions:
- You have three options:
- Click on the Add a Subscription button. It is in the upper left-hand corner of Google Reader.
- Visit the blog you want to add and click on the RSS button. Most blogs have this prominently displayed.
- Click on the universal RSS button in the address bar of your browser.
- Start adding a few subscriptions. I have a list of my favorites here.
- Optionally add each subscription to a folder.
- You have three options:
Now is when the fun begins. Create a bookmark to Google Reader. That’s the only bookmark you really need in terms of blogs. Here are a few random tips for using Google Reader on a day-to-day basis.
- Install Add to Google Reader if you are using Mac Safari. This makes it exceedingly easy to add new subscriptions.
- Adjust your Reader settings:
- Click on Settings | Reader settings. It’s in the upper right-hand corner of the Google Reader page.
- Check scroll tracking to marks items read as you scroll past them.
- Click on the Send To tab and check the services you use most often. I have Digg, Facebook, Instapaper, StumbleUpon, and Twitter checked.
- Use the shortcut keys. You can find a full list here. The ones I use the most are:
- j moves you forward one post; k moves you back. These are the keys I use the most. They allow me to scan through new posts quickly.
- The space bar moves the page down. Shift-space moves it back up.
- s stars the item; l likes the item.
- v opens the post on the original blog site.
- Shift-s shares the item with those who subscribe to your Google Reader feed. Here’s mine. (Yes, some people might be interested in reading what you find interesting.)
- Shift-d share with the note. You can not only share the current item, but share why you think it is important or make any other comment.
- e emails the article to a friend. I use this all the time.
- Shift-t opens the send to menu. This enables you to Twitter the post or share it on Facebook. This is probably the feature I use the most. It makes it really easy to share posts that you find meaningful with your followers.
- Use Google Reader on your phone. You can access Google Reader on the go by pointing your mobile phone’s browser to http://www.google.com/reader/m.
Using Google Reader may seem awkward at first. But I would encourage you to stick with it. It is one of those applications that becomes more valuable the more you use it.