Moving to the Web: Part 3

// July 31st, 2007 // fun

Previous chapters in this ongoing tutorial:

My Conversion to Web 2.0
Moving to the Web: Part 1
Moving to the Web: Part 2

Part 3: Reading Blogs

This topic will probably seem a bit funny at first, because you already ARE reading a blog (and an awesome one at that) so what could I possibly tell you that would help you out?

Well, let’s say you read more than just my blog on a daily basis. You also read Nicky’s blog, and Arizona Sports Fans Network. And of course, you like to know what’s going on in Arizona news on AZCentral.com, or the sports world on ESPN.com, or the national news on CNN.com. What do you normally do? You go to each site, try to find information you want and read what you find. It takes a bit of time to cover all the sites you love to visit. When you are out of town, on a strange computer, you may not remember things you like to check.

How much better would it be if you went to a single webpage that listed all of your site’s news and blog items in one handy-dandy list like an inbox for email?!?! And you can access it anywhere like your Google Mail!

It would be SO much better, that’s the correct answer :) And yes, it already exists. They are called Blog Readers.

There are quite a few blog readers out there, but the big ones are Bloglines and Google Reader. Of course I am going to talk about Google’s reader, because now that you have your Google Mail account all setup, you may as well use all of their tools under one login.

So this is how it works:

1. Sign up for Google Reader.

2. Check it out, look at it. It probably wont make a ton of sense at first, but it will shortly. You should see a sidebar on the left with links and stuff. Towards the middle should be one called “Add Subscription”. We’ll come back to this later.

3. The main thing is, the site you like to read needs to be using RSS feeds to syndicate their news and stories. What is that? It’s basically a website putting all their news/blog information into this neat little file format called XML which is easily viewed by everyone. The cool thing is, any webpage that has a icon on it like this has an available feed:

Another thing is, when you use Firefox or Internet Explorer, that little icon appears in your address bar (For Firefox that is, somewhere else for IE) to TELL YOU that there is an RSS feed (or feeds) on this page. Check out the screenshots below.

Firefox:

Screenshot of CNN.com

Internet Exploder 7:

IE7 RSS Feed screenshot

In Firefox, clicking on that little icon brings up that site’s feed page, which also has a sweet little link to “Add to Google”. Amazing huh? Firefox will actually let you SAVE that preference so you only have to choose once. The really pathetic thing is that IE7 only gives you the option of adding to Microsoft’s blog reader crap. I hate that…Open Source rocks.

(You should be using Firefox if you can’t tell :) )

Either way, you can just copy the URL out of the address bar and that is the link to their feed. For CNN’s top stories, the URL looked like this:

http://rss.cnn.com/rss/cnn_topstories.rss

4. Back to that Subscription link in Google Reader. If you just copied the URL above, you can click that Subscription link and then paste the URL into the box that pops up and hit enter. It tells you it’s adding the Subscription and then shows it to you on the right side of the page. It will list all the articles it has in history, usually like 25-50.

5. The cool thing is, you can organize all your feeds into groups/folders. When you first added the one above, you can click on “Add to a Folder” above the articles and either create a new one or add it to an existing one. Nice and organized! You can do this kind of thing at anytime of course.

6. Super awesome secret tip: While you are on your Google Reader page, click on Settings > Goodies and scroll down to “Subscribe as you Surf”. Follow the directions there. Basically, you create a bookmark that you click when you are on a page with an RSS feed and it takes the feed and sends it to Google Reader automatically, so you can totally skip step #4! But you needed to learn both ways to understand how it works :)

(By the way, “Settings” has all kinds of other things in there you can do to manage things, so check it out)

7. Finally, the last few things are cosmetic. You can choose to read your feeds in Expanded view or List view. I like List view better, since you can click on an article like an email and view it if you want, or skip a bunch that don’t look interesting. Expanded view shows you excerpts and takes up a lot of screen real estate.

You can also have it show only feeds with Updated items in it or ALL feeds (this is in the left sidebar)…I use Updated for the most part, but All sometimes comes in handy when I’m looking for some old story.

A final thing is the Star command, which is cool. Did you like a story and want to read it later? Star that sucker and then you can always go to your “Starred Items” and read all those articles when you have the time. Pretty nifty, I’ve used it a lot.

So here is a screenshot of my Google Reader (which isn’t even showing HALF of the crappy feeds I have :) ):

Google Reader screenshot

I covered all kinds of things here and this turned out way longer than I was thinking. If you need help or have questions, go ahead and get out of here. I don’t have time.

Kidding, ask away…I want to help.

By the way, when you are done, be sure to add “A Mike’s Life” into your reader…just come to this page and click on your new bookmark you made in Step 6…you’ll be my friend for ever.

7 Responses to “Moving to the Web: Part 3”

  1. Scott says:

    Ok, so Google ready rocks! It’s like I just discovered fire. :-)

  2. Mike Olbinski says:

    “I have created fire!”

    Tom Hanks

  3. Scott says:

    Yeah, just like that.

  4. [...] So you love what you read here huh? But you aren’t tech savvy enough like a few of my pupils, such as Jina or Scott, to use a fancy RSS reader like Google Reader, or Bloglines in order to be notified of new posts I make. That’s okay, I understand…not everyone is going to want to make that change.  However, if you want to, be sure to read my tutorial on the matter. [...]

  5. [...] of you use Google Reader now, and if not, read all about what I wrote awhile ago on why you SHOULD be using [...]

  6. [...] In fact, I wrote a big tutorial on it last year, and helped a few of you guys migrate to it. You can read it here. [...]

  7. [...] via RSS Reader, like Google Reader…by clicking here. No idea what RSS is? Read my tutorial from years [...]

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