Sunday, September 23, 2012

Google Reader: A Great Way to Follow Blogs

Please note that Google Reader is being retired on July 1, 2013.  Read here to find out about alternatives.

I remember when I first started visiting blogs, probably about 5 years ago, give or take.  I loved reading them, but I didn't like going to each blog every day to check for new posts and finding none.  It felt like a waste of time.  Then I learned about Google Reader which is "a web-based aggregator capable of reading...RSS feeds." (Wikipedia definition)  In layman's terms: it will grab all of the new content of blogs and other types of web pages that are updated often and will put them all in one place for you.  It's like reading a customized newspaper especially for you!

In order to use Google Reader, you must have a Google account.  If you have a gmail email address, you're good to go.  If you don't, I recommend you get one because I have found it to be a great email service -- far better than Yahoo mail which is a spam magnet.

Go to Google Reader, and log in (if you're not logged into Google already).

How to add blogs to your Google Reader:

Method 1:

If you'll notice in the upper left-hand corner, right under the word Google, there is a red button that says subscribe.  This is what you will use to add blogs to your Google Reader.

First, in a new tab, go to the blog you want to follow and copy the URL (web address).  Then, go back to Google Reader, click on the red subscribe button, and paste it into the box, and click on Add.

Make sure that you only put the main address for the blog.  For example, do not copy  Just select to copy.

Method 2:

Go to the blog you want to follow, and look for a button or icon that looks something like this:

See that orange and white thing that looks like radio waves coming off of a dot?  That's the universal symbol for RSS.  Click on the icon and from there, you can tell it to use Google Reader to collect the blog posts.

One thing to note is that it will not always be orange.  It can be other colors as well.  Sometimes it can be hard to find because of where bloggers put it on their blog.  You just have to look carefully.  If you can't find it, you can always use Method 1 above.

Method 3:
I do not recommend this method.  Here's why.

This is an example of the Google Friend Connect widgit.  You can simply click on Join This Site and it will add the blog to Google Reader.

Google Friend Connect has been retired from all non-Blogger/Blogspot sites.  Read here for more information.  It still works every time I use it, so I'm not sure how much of an issue that is.

How to Use Google Reader

After you've added your favorite blogs, you can use Google Reader to read the posts.  One thing to note is that when you've added a blog to Google Reader, it will automatically put in the last ten posts, so that allows you to read some older posts without getting too overwhelmed.

To read your posts, click on the words AIl Items in red on the left-hand side of the web page.  In the screen shot above, it has loaded my posts to read.

If you'll notice the first couple of posts (of a brand-new blog I just started following) are truncated (short, cut off posts).  This is one of my pet peeves and I wish bloggers wouldn't do it.  However, lately there's been a big stink about some  jerk somewhere stealing content off of blogs and claiming it as their own.  To combat this, some bloggers have opted to truncate their posts.

In order to read the truncated posts, I have to click on the grey arrow to the right of the blog post title:

This will allow that blog post to open in a new window from which you can read the entire post.  {Note: if you do a right-click on the grey arrow, it will open in a new tab without going to that tab.  You can then look at the blog post at a later time.}

To get to other blog posts, just scroll down to read.  The first screen shot up at the top shows a blog post that has not been truncated.

One very useful thing you can do is "star" posts.  When I read blog posts on my phone or iPad, I will oftentimes star posts to re-read later.

To go back to the starred posts, click on Starred Items below All Items on the left-hand side of the web page.  You can then scroll down and re-read those.  To "unstar" the blog post, simply click on the star again.

There are several different reasons why I star posts.  The main reason is to save it to read on my computer at a later date.  From there, I can open up the blog post in a new tab and pin the post on Pinterest or comment on the blog post.

If you change your mind about following a blog, you can unsubscribe from it using Google Reader.  On the left-hand side of the web page at the bottom, the blogs you are subscribed to are listed (I have many of mine put in folders.  I'm not going to blog about that.). 

The easiest way to manage your subscriptions is to click the gear wheel on the right-hand side of the page underneath your profile pic.  From there you can click on Subscriptions and manage them.

The bad thing is that just because you have unsubscribed from a blog doesn't mean you will stay unsubscribed!  I have had subscriptions come back hogging up my feed.  This is my one big pet peeve with Google Reader.  I have had to unsubscribe several times from blogs to make them stay away.  The good thing is that it doesn't take too much time to scroll past posts I'm not interested in.  Problem solved!  I have caught the bad guy and put him away for good!

This should get you started on using Google Reader.  If anyone has any questions or suggestions for things to add, please let me know in the comments below or by sending me an email.

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1 comment:

  1. I have tried Google Reader and I liked it. I noticed I do like going to the blog itself to read the post so I can comment easily if I wish. I like getting comments, so I try to leave them. However, I don't read many blogs, since I don't have a lot of time. Thank you for taking time to share how to do this! :)



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