Get Thee to an RSS Reader

A few weeks ago my friend/former coworker Linda wrote about Google Reader on her new blog. I had certainly heard of Google Reader before, but had no idea why I’d want to use it until I read this post. It suddenly clicked that it was solution to my problem of not being able to keep up with various friends’ blogs, or at least the problem of remembering to visit them on a regular basis. What could be better than those new posts coming directly to me instead?

I wasn’t really sure how it would all work, but within a few days I decided to give it a try. It was easy and marvelous. I put pretty much my entire blogroll in there, and while it was nice to catch up on recent posts I had missed, it is even better now that they just arrive on their own, no effort on my part at all except to read and enjoy. And if I want to post a comment or there’s content I want to view that doesn’t show up in the reader, I just click on the link for the post and proceed as usual.

It wasn’t long before I realized that I could get all sorts of other things fed to me automatically: all my other favorite blogs, news, baseball blogs and news, my favorite content from EW.com, Dilbert…I just can’t believe how much stuff I want to read is available without me having to go look for it more than once to grab the feed’s URL. It’s sort of like TiVo for the Internet — everything just shows up and I read it when I want to. One other really nice thing is that I’m actually able to unsubscribe from a bunch of things I have been receiving by email and never get around to reading.

One test of the reader was when I went to Las Vegas a couple weeks ago. Vegas was a general test for my iPhone, to see if I really could get by on a short trip without dragging my laptop along and still keep up with important email, fantasy baseball rosters, and the like. But would I enjoy the mobile Google Reader as much as I had been in a browser? Yes and no. All the content was there, and it’s optimized for iPhone a bit so it was easy to read and navigate, but it lacked the organization I had set up in the standard reader and was a little more work than the regular version.

I had intended to try out other web-based readers to see which I liked best, and finally got around to doing so after realizing that one thing I didn’t like about Google Reader was how limited the area for my list of subscriptions was; even after organizing them into just a few tags I was constantly scrolling around this small area. Earlier this week I decided to check out Bloglines, and I fell in love all over again. There is more room for my list of subscriptions (which has grown quite a bit this week as I find more and more sites that have RSS feeds); it has a Clippings area that for some reason I like better than starring them in Google Reader; and the iPhone version, after tweaking my preferences a bit, is everything I could ask for. Plus, for some reason I’ve never been particularly fond of the Google “look,” and Bloglines is just more appealing to me aesthetically.

So now I’m trying out lots of different feeds, trimming them out if they don’t work for me, hopefully ending up with lots of stuff I’ve already been enjoying the hard way, plus new things I otherwise wouldn’t seek out or have time for. If you haven’t already, give an RSS reader a try. If you like it half as much as I do it’ll be worth it.

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