Return Of How-To Sunday ~ The RSS Edition

by Destri on September 12, 2010

It has been awhile since you have seen a How-to Sunday post as Kate has been moving, among other things.  I told her I wouldn’t even hear of her return until life was settled for her.  Her husband was finishing up his residency here in the US and they have moved to Canada since.  As you can imagine, she has had enough on her plate, and I wasn’t about to add to her list of things to-do.  Her life seems to be falling into place now, and so I guess I will send her a new password.  Seriously, she hasn’t even been able to log-in, that is how serious I was!  She has been emailing me plans and has a great line-up of guests planned as well.  It will be great to have our resident Brit back, and I can’t wait to see what she has in store!

In the meantime, I had promised a post on RSS.  The hows, whys and all of that.  It took me awhile to post it because I decided I’d better do some research before I tried to be an authority on the matter.  Still not an authority, but I can offer a few pointers.  ;)

I had planned a super in depth post on the subject but it became all too boring.  So instead, let’s just get to the basics!  I will try to do this in an easy-to-read format.

What is RSS?

Really Simple Syndication

What does that mean?

Republishing an article on another source as a simple solution to keeping up with blogs, or websites.  At least that is what it means to me.

Who should use an RSS feed to read favorite sites?

I would say if you regularly read five or more blogs you may benefit from using an RSS as a means to keep up with them.

Why is that?

Because it keeps all of your favorite places on the web in one spot and tells you when they have updated their content.  This is a time savor, and a sanity saver.

How is that?

First ~ You are not typing in urls for each site you visit, clicking on individual bookmarks, and most importantly waiting for load times.  This is especially important for those with slower connections.  There is no flash, music or things of the like included in the feed.  This speeds things up!

Second ~ You can create folders and organize your subscriptions by categories or however you wish.

What RSS reader should I use?

For the sake of keeping you awake…we’ll just discuss Google Reader.  There are a lot of options, but I have always used Google Reader.  If you are using bloglines be advised it is coming to an end.  Marta has an informative (and hilarious) post on how to break up with bloglines and start a meaningful relationship with Google Reader to help ease the transition.

Okay, so how do I get a Google reader account?

If you use Gmail, blogger, or have a google account then you already have one!  Here let me show you:

If you are signed in, the google home page will look different.  At the top of the page you will see a row of options with drop down menus.  It may take a couple seconds for these to show up.  Click on the more option, and the drop down will have a variety of options.  Find the reader option and click on that.  If you are signed in this should pull up your reader account.

What if I don’t have a Google account?

Go to google.com and follow the steps listed above.

You should see a screen looking like this.  Click on create an account and your set!

Now how do I subscribe to a blog or website?

It depends on the site, but most have it easy to recognize.  There is a universal icon that most sites will use that looks like this:

On TMH you will find ours here:

When you click on the subscribe option it will give you different options to subscribe.  You will click on “add to google reader”.  It may just have a list of options with Google being one of them.

After you have subscribed to some blogs, you will find that account of yours to have some activity!

I have a Google Reader account, and have subscribed to some sites…now what?

Well, just log into your reader and start playing.  I was going to explain it all, but really the best way to learn is to just do it.  Your feeds will be automatically updated and will show up on your reader account so you do not need to worry about that.  You will see a number next to the websites indicating the amount of post you have not seen from them.  Just give it a few minutes and it will all make sense!

Cons to using an RSS reader to keep up with blogs

So this part is only my opinion, but will tell you a few things that I don’t like about using an rss reader.

  • I forget to leave comments. This really shouldn’t be an issue as all you have to do is click on the title of the post from your reader and it takes you to the landing page of the post.  But it has been for me.
  • It can be overwhelming. At first I subscribed to just about any blog I came across.  I would find hundreds of unread posts waiting for me all the time.  So I did a little “house cleaning”  and only kept the blogs I truly loved and gained from.  Now when I log in it is not quite so overwhelming.  I have to admit, there have been time that I just hit “all read”  because it has been a few days since I have been on.  Then I just start from scratch.
  • It can feel less personal at times. In readers you are not seeing the sites visual personality.  No headers, no pretty fonts, no sidebars.  Of course this is what saves you in load time, but sometimes I miss reading in the “home”  of  the site.  I did find a solution to this and talk about that later.
  • Some things are excluded. Not all videos, surveys, links show up in the feed.  You will usually know when they are talking about a video you do not see just to click on the title to go to the page, but it is not always so obvious.  For the most part this has not been an issue for me but good to know if you are just getting started.

Alternatives To Using An RSS Reader

There are like a bajillion.  When I decided to write this post up for you I thought I would show you some alternatives in case you just do not like using a reader, but are looking for a more convenient way to surf your favorite places on the web.  I tried out a few and I have to say that Allmyfaves.com was my favorite.  On the home page there is a short informative video on how to get started.  It is so easy.  I found the “mini faves”  tab to be my page of choice when using this service.  It is the end tab, and is covered in the video.  Here is what else I liked about it:

  • Easy to use
  • Opens every link in a new window
  • It takes you to the actual url, not the url of the provider
  • Has links to sites I use regularly already listed
  • Shows everyone’s pretty little banners, kinda fun
  • It doesn’t show me how behind I am in reading!

Basically you set up an account and add all your favorite sites to your list.  Then it adds all their banners in a row so you can just click through them.  I have really enjoyed this because unlike a reader, it takes me to the Author’s home.  I get to read in the atmosphere intended.  Kind of like when I order take out from my favorite restaurant.  It never tastes quite as good at home as it does in the restaurant.  So I will continue to use All My Faves for some of my favorite sites.  And I of course will still use my google account as there are still a bunch I love to keep up with.

So there you have it.  Again, this is only my take on RSS, and there is so much more that could be said, but hopefully this will get you started!

If you have any questions let me know in the comments.

I would love for you to weigh in on this subject.  I know a lot of you out there are experts on the matter and have two cents to give.  What is your favorite reader?  Can’t stand Google Reader and have another favorite?  What other services do you use besides rss readers to follow your favorite sites?

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