Friday, July 10, 2009

Read My Mind

A long time ago, on a blog not-so-far away, I promised a post on Google Reader. Like everything on this blog, it just takes a while.

Google Reader is a one of many "feed readers" that are available for free. If you are unaware of the term, a feed reader is an application that allows a user to aggregate all the "feeds" to which they subscribe in one handy place. "Feeds" are just syndication of content. You've probably seen the icon on the right on various websites (including this one). It means that this site syndicates its content, and when there is new content available it will publish that content to its subscribers. This saves the subscriber from having to always go check the site for new content, and allows the publisher yet another way to get its content out to subscribers.

Is this the most exciting post ever, so far, or what? OK, so why this is cool...

The most basic reason to use Google Reader or any feed reader is that it allows you to go to one place to read all the content you normally read. Instead having to remember to go to xtreme-knitting, Angie's Romance Reviews, Curling News, The Antarctic Sun, 99 Sense, (and many more) every day, I just open Google Reader, and the latest content from each of those is right there for me to read.

Google Reader advertises itself as "the inbox of the web" you basically have all your feeds in a column on the left, and the content from each of these feeds is displayed in the center of the window. Content is either displayed as the title of the artical only, or the full article itself (I prefer the latter). You can scroll through the content pane, perusing all the latest content from your numerous feeds, sifting through until you find something you like. You can also apply labels to your feeds, and filter the content pane on those labels.

That's the jist of how feed readers work, but Google Reader has a number of other features besides syndication aggregation. For each piece of content you have the option to:
  • E-mail a link to the article to someone.
  • "Star" the content. (I think of this as bookmarking it, making it easier to find later)
  • Apply new labels to that content (sometimes if I want to read something but don't have the time, I label that particular item with my "Reading List" label. Then later I can filter by "Reading List" and see what I have to catch up on.
  • "Share" the content. Anything you "Share" will be published into a feed of all the items you have shared. And anyone else can subscribe to that. What is incredibly cool about this feature is that I can subscribe to your shared items, and then I can comment on your items, and anyone else can read that, and a discussion can happen. This "social" feature makes it so simple to see what your friends are interested in, and discuss. And of course, the only things that are published are those that you explicitly mark "Share".
Hopefully now you can see the benefits of Google Reader. It allows you to read and manage the content you want more efficiently, and at the same time share and discuss with your friends! For more animated demonstrations of Google Reader, check out the videos below. I hope you all try it out, and please let me know your thoughts!


kevin said...

nice post. i love google reader and click it once a day. a complaint and a few questions:

i subscribe to this blog on GR. can you as the owner tell that i've subscribed?

does your page get a hit if i read the posts on GR without clicking the link?

complaint: i don't see on my GR the number of comments. sometimes there is good conversation going on and i wish it would alert me with new comments.

Marty said...

so what your saying is i could get all my new material all in one website how much time could i possibly kill with only going to one seems like it might be counter to my counter-productivity

Roller said...

Kev, great questions.

As far as I know, there's nothing within the Admin section of the blog that lets you know WHO has subscribed. In fact, I can't even see HOW MANY people have subscribed. I'm sure that data is available somewhere, but for now I can just count on one hand.

Regarding page hits... again haven't looked too deeply, but I don't think so. This is just an educated guess, but the publish/subscribe model is a one way street. I don't believe any metrics are sent back from the subscriber to the publisher.

I'm sure what you're getting at is, this kind of info is important for advertising revenue. There are a couple ways to solve this. 1) You can choose to display only the title or the first XX words of the content you syndicate, teasing the user to click the link to actually go to your site to read the rest. Another option is to actually display ads within your syndicated content. A lot of publishers do this. The ads can obviously track when they've been clicked, and most if not all are smart enough to fire a message back to their host to just say that they've been displayed.

Regarding comments, were you referring to the comments on the blog or comments in the shared items of GR? I'm not sure about the latter, as I don't have enough GR friends to have drummed up good discussions (but would like to add you guys!). If your question was related to comments on the blog, you can actually subscribe to our comments feed here. There's also a link on the left hand nav bar of the main page.

Roller said...

McFly! If you are a GR degenerate like me you have 52 subscriptions and can waste PLENTY of time if needed. You never run out of things to read. The cool thing is, you can sift through all of it very quickly and only read the stuff in which you're really interested!

Ryan said...

Yes indeedy, interesting. This would speed up my morning ritual of waking up, turning on and tuning in. (Screw Timothy Leary.)

Kevvie does bring up a lot of good points, especially about the comments. There are several publications where the comments are almost as important as the news feeds. I don't have a GR page yet, but I might set one up.

How does it handle something like the AP? or the NYT? Something that produces huge amounts of new info that I wouldn't even want to see, even though I read maybe 5 NYT articles a month?

If GR could also integrate my several inboxes like Thunderbird does, that would be a real clincher.

Another benefit to GR is that it would clear up my browser bookmark buttons at the top. Most of them are reserved for pages I go to several times a day, but I could get rid of them if I could just use GR as a portal.

Thanks Rollers!