Personal Learning Network Day 18: RSS Feeds, Firefox and Google Reader

29 01 2010

As part of expanding my Personal Learning Network, I now draw my attention to RSS feeds and have been researching readers.  First off, it helped me to watch a video, which shows how a little work can make getting news and content on the internet much more efficient, with automatic updates besides:

I had been trying out Sage, which is a lightweight download for Firefox, and there was nothing wrong with it, really, but after researching RSS readers, I found that Google Reader seems to be the gold standard, especially since a recent redesign. I modifed the appearance of Google Reader by installing Stylish and Greasemonkey to Firefox and found a “skin” here that makes the site less generic looking.  It installs easily using a button.  Then you go to the bottom right of Firefox and click the Stylish icon and select it and the whole experience becomes more aesthetically pleasing.

I was surprised at how many add-ons and downloads for Firefox.  One side benefit of building a PLN is that all of these things I’ve been using for years are getting optimized and customized to my own specifications.  I do use a notebook and a desktop computer, both Macs, and I find that once I customize one, then I have to duplicate the process with the other. There might be a way to have everything synch, and I think I gleaned something about that, but for now I do everything twice, once for each computer.

I found this website useful.  Bryan Person describes making the switch to Google Reader:

“Here’s why I decided to make the switch from my longtime RSS reader of choice, Bloglines, to Google Reader:

  • Chris Brogan told me to. Check out Chris’s helpful tips on navigating Google Reader and take a spin through his “power tools” section.
  • Google Reader offers keyboard shortcuts. I’ll take keyboard shortcuts over a mouse clicks any time, and Google Reader has plenty of the former. Move from folder to folder and post to post without touching your mouse. Very nice.
  • You can share your content. Google Reader has some excellent tools for letting others know about content you find interesting. Select the share button at the end of each post, and that item will be added to your public page of shared stories, complete with RSS feed. Here’s my page: Bryan Person’s shared items on Google Reader. Another option: if you have a gmail account — and why wouldn’t you? — click the Email button and quickly forward the post to a friend or colleague.
  • Create your own tags. I am preparing a presentation on “Managing Your Social Media” for the Podcasters Across Borders conference, which takes place next weekend in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and so I’ve been on the lookout for good posts about information overload. With Google Reader, I simply tag any relevant posts as “overload,” and they’re all stored in a single place when I need to review them.
  • Manage your river of news. In Bloglines I tended to read my RSS feeds individually — and I just couldn’t move through them quickly enough. In Google Reader, I’ve quickly become a fan of reading posts in List view. This option makes it much simpler to scan the headlines of all my unread posts and only open the ones that catch my eye. Then, I use the Shift+A keyboard shortcut to mark all posts as read and — voila! — I’m caught up.

There are more reasons for liking Google Reader, but the ones mentioned above really helped bring me into the fold.

Now, Google Reader isn’t perfect. There isn’t a way — at least that I can see — to widen the left-hand subscription panel or to add editorial comments to my shared items. But on the whole, Google Reader has made my RSS reading infinitely more manageable.”

Another series of reasons to switch to Google Reader are listed at Thinkjayant’s site:

“While Google Reader have been adopted by a large number of Bloggers but yet there are people who are stuck with Desktop RSS Readers. The Desktop RSS Readers have a few advantages of its own, but nothing beats the prospect of carrying your feeds with you where ever you go. Here are a few of the many advantages I find using Google Reader over the Desktop variants:

  1. Portability: Google Reader is truly portable. All you need is your Google Account and you can carry all your RSS Feed list with your where ever you go on the earth. All is needed is a Browser and a Internet Connection.
  2. Reliability: Like any other Google Product, the quality of this application is top notch. It does not miss or deletes your Feed list, have partial updates and performs what is needed from it very well.
  3. Accessibility: Adding a new RSS Feed to the Feed list is very easy. All you have to do is Drag a Bokmarklet to your Bookmarks Toolbar of your Browser. Next time you come across an interesting Blog, just click this Bokmarklet and it will recognize the Feed Link and present you with a Subscribe option. Simple isn’t it..!!
  4. Managing the RSS Tags: Managing the RSS Feeds and Organizing it is a Breeze. You can use tags to organize your Feeds in various categories as you please. It words the same way as Labels work in Gmail.
  5. Sharing Feeds: Sharing your RSS Feeds and viewing your Friend’s Shared Feed is very easy. The Navigation Pane has a Shared Item link to view Feeds that are shared.
  6. Public Page: It also provides with a public page where all your shared items can be viewed. Useful to redirect your friends to this link to show than what you are reading now.
  7. Auto Sort: Now a high ranking frequently updated Blog like Gizmodo or Techcrunch will not dominate all your Recent Feed list. Google’s smart auto sort will show the recent list populated by the blog’s RSS feed based on its update frequency. More frequently updated blogs with have less content in the front page of recently updated view.
  8. Google Backing: Since it is a Google product and a highly successful one, product updates and bug fixes are guaranteed.”
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9 responses

30 01 2010
kimcuppett

After looking at Kate Klingensmith’s chart for RSS readers in your first blog, I signed up for Net Vibes, as opposed to Google Reader, simply because Net Vibes was listed first. I don’t know if you’ve played around with Net Vibes at all, but I seem to like it. I haven’t used Google Reader at all, but I’ll check it out and see what I think. I’m also curious what the difference is between Google Reader and iGoogle. With iGoogle, you can setup your page to add widgets and feed just like with Net Vibes (as I talked about in one of my own blog posts).

31 01 2010
lisaangelucci

My favorite part of using Google Reader is “mark all as read.” I’ve been using GR for a while, so it’s full of all sorts of blogs that I like to follow, but sometimes it’s just too much. It feels really good to just let go.

If you haven’t done so yet, categorize your subscriptions. It’s a huge time-saver.

2 02 2010
Jason Whitney

Yes, that is super helpful. I love that feature.

2 02 2010
clh5160

I’m still trying to figure out my Firefox Sage! I might switch over to Google Reader, as you did as well. I just find that Google tools are the best on the market, and since I’ve already got a Google account, I suppose I’ll give both a try and see which I like better (although with all of the perks that you gave about Google Reader, chances are that’ll be my final choice).

2 02 2010
Start Small? Or go Big? « Caitfordly Yours

[…] Readers: Jason Whitney’s post about google reader pushed me to do a little exploring. He posted this video in his blog about RSS Readers and how they […]

2 02 2010
Start Small? Or go Big? « Caitfordly Yours

[…] Whitney’s post about google reader pushed me to do a little exploring. He posted this video in his blog about RSS Readers and how they […]

3 02 2010
A shortie « Let us talk!

[…] RSS feed, even though I know I am in fact in control of that too. Jason Whitney’s blog about RSS readers still didn’t convince me. I think my repulsion towards them has kept me from really giving my […]

4 02 2010
Start Small? Or go Big? « Grow Grow Connect Grow

[…] Whitney’s post about google reader pushed me to do a little exploring. He posted this video in his blog about RSS Readers and how they […]

6 02 2010
kimcuppett

Ok so I finally signed up for Google Reader after our discussion in class. You talked about Stylish and Greasemonkey on Firefox; is there a way to add themes to my Google Reader if I’m using Safari? Like I said in my earlier comment, I originally signed up for Netvibes. Is that okay? After playing around with both RSS readers this morning, I found that I like Netvibes better. I posted a blog this morning discussing the pros and cons of both readers. If you haven’t already, I’d suggest checking out Netvibes for sure!

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