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More efficient time-wasting

Earlier this week I decided to buckle down and take a look at RSS organizers/readers. I, like every other web addict out there, have a stable of websites that I eyeball on a daily basis. Prior to this week, how I checked up on these sites was basically to bookmark them all and throw them into folders differentiated by content type (Blogs, General Tech, Mac, etc.) and then right clicking on the folders and choosing the "Open All in Tabs" option. This generally worked just fine for me, the only hitch being if I had a folder that had like 20+ bookmarks, Firefox would hang a bit trying to load all 20+ sites at one time in separate tabs.

For news-related sites that had RSS feeds, I also fed them into my My Yahoo page, which also worked ok except the current beta version of the site doesn't seem to update the feeds reliably. And you're limited to the 10 most recent headlines.

So I asked around to see what other people were doing. Some were just using Firefox's built-in RSS feed support (aka Live Bookmarks). Which, as far as I can tell, is just a souped up bookmark. When you subscribe to a feed, Firefox creates a "live bookmark" that pretty much looks like any other bookmark except when you click on it, a list of headlines from the feed pops up for you to peruse. A step up from my original setup but not really all that much better I thought.

Another option is to use an entirely separate app, like NetNewsWire to handle my RSS needs. I nixed that idea real quick cause I didn't think having to run a separate application alongside the browser made any sense. Yes you can read entire articles in the RSS app but... why? It's not like I don't like having a browser open. Just didn't see the point.

So I decided to settle on, what else, Google Reader. Like other Google web apps, it's clean and pretty easy to use. Some may find the available functionality a bit light so far but it works just fine for my needs. I organize my feeds into folders (why folders here and not in Gmail?), and they get updated every few minutes. Or if you're the impatient type you can click on the Refresh buttons yourself. They actually work, unlike the mysterious update buttons on My Yahoo that give no feedback so I can't tell if clicking on them actually does anything.

You can also star entries that you might want to refer back to in the future and a simple click on the "Starred items" link will show you just the ones you've starred. Although it can get kinda unwieldy once you start starring tons of entries since there's no other way to categorize the starred items or search through them.

There's also the option to share selected feeds and entries which Google will then display on your "public" page which you can then tell your friends to browse to. And you can also use that to set up a "clip" that you can add to your own site. Unfortunately the clip isn't really very customizable yet (you can set the # of entries displayed and color of text for now) so I couldn't cram it into the right-hand column of this blog.

And there's a "Trends" section where you can see how many articles you've read/starred/shared and more interesting, how often a feed is updated per day. To sidetrack for a minute here: for some reason, after I started using Google Reader, I started noticing offhandedly that Gizmodo seems to churn out a lot more posts than its rival, Engadget. The same holds true for their video game sites (Kotaku vs. Joystiq). Now I've been visiting all 4 sites ever since their inception and truthfully, there's really no need as they pretty much report the exact same things throughout the day. A quick look at trends shows that the Gizmodo/Kotaku combo averages about 26 posts/day while Engadget/Joystiq comes in at 14.9/day. So I wasn't just dreaming and I guess if I really wanted to, I could just dump my Engadget/Joystiq feeds. And I suppose if there's no compelling reason for me to stick around (like enjoying the Weblogs, Inc. writers' witty writing style more than Gawker Media's or whatnot), I probably will.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. For me, Google Reader's turned out to be a pretty good aggregator of all my feeds. It works pretty reliably and it allows me to catch up on my feeds no matter which computer (or iPhone) I'm on. I pretty much never have to visit any of the added sites directly anymore unless I want to view comments or leave one of my own. Oh, and it has integration with Google Gears in case you need to go offline and want to take your unread feeds with you. I haven't had the need to do that yet so no comments there. Moving all my RSS feeds to Google Reader also trimmed down my My Yahoo page as well so it's no longer 50 pages long (so I'm exaggerating, just a little bit). So it seems I can officially lay my old blog bookmark folder to rest.


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Comments (1)


I liked reading this. I use Google Reader, too, but hadn't compared it to anything except Bloglines. You have validated my choice! Thanks!!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 25, 2007 4:16 PM.

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