Organising RSS Feeds

For a long time I was not particularly bothered about organising RSS feeds, or even the feeds themselves for that matter.  In my ignorance I could barely see the point for them.  Not really sure why, probably just a case of not really spending much time looking into why they might be useful.  However, I have recently ‘seen the light’ and started checking RSS feeds regularly through the use of a feed reader.  And it has certainly made a difference in terms of how I read blogs.

I guess before I go any further, I ought to explain exactly what an RSS feed is.  The following definition is taken from Wikipedia:

RSS (abbreviation for Really Simple Syndication) is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format….they benefit readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place. RSS feeds can be read using software called an “RSS reader”, “feed reader”, or “aggregator”, which can be web-based, desktop-based, mobile device or any computerized Internet-connected device.

Essentially they help keep the reader up-to-date with the latest posts from their favourite websites.  Most websites have an RSS link on them, usually indicated by a little orange button similar to the one in my sidebar.

Before I started using a feed reader, it was very much a case of browsing through all the regular blogs I read and trying to find posts that were of particular interest.  This could be a rather arduous process as there would be many blogs that I would regularly read (most of the ones on my blogroll for a start).  As my blogroll continued to grow,  so did the amount of posts I would plough through and the amount of time that I wasted.  It was at this point that I decided to look into RSS readers to see if they could help manage this process.

After looking at several readers, I decided to plump for Google Reader.  This decision was mainly based on a post by Joeyanne on weeding RSS feeds on Google Reader.  I liked the way that Google analysed trends and provided statistics on what blogs you had read in order to weed out unnecessary feeds.  This seemed particularly useful as I could then identify which blogs were actually most of interest to me and which were not.  It is easy to make assumptions on which blogs you think are most worthwhile before discovering that you hardly ever read them at all.

After finally signing up to Google to enable access to their Reader (and thus gain yet another email address!), I have to wonder what took me so long to do so.  Now, instead of hunting through loads of blogs for valuable posts (and inevitably missing posts that would be useful due to time constraints), I can simply scan through my reader and see in an instant which blog posts I am particularly interested in.  Given the lack of time I have with my studies at the moment, the ability to condense the amount of time spent scanning blogs is a real bonus!

This facility has been further enhanced by the addition of a feed reader to my iPhone.  There are a number of different feed applications available on the iPhone and, after reading a number of reviews, I decided to go for the aptly named ‘Feeds’.  The advantage of this is that it syncs directly with your Google Reader account therefore allowing you to check your feeds on the go.  This, again, saves time as I can simply scan through the feeds on my tea break at work and quickly identify posts that may be of interest.   No more having to rely on logging onto a computer and accessing Google Reader, now I can do it at the touch of a button.  And, as it does sync with your Google account, any posts that you do read are reflected in the trend statistics for your subscriptions.  Furthermore, the time it takes to sync is ridiculously quick.  It really is a matter of seconds before ‘Feeds’ updates and displays how many unread posts are on each of your subscribed feeds.

So is a feed reader worth bothering with?  Most definitely.  It has made it far easier for me to manage the blogs I read and enabled me to go straight to the blog posts that I find most interesting without having to plough through dozens of posts on dozens of websites.  I just wish I had come round to the idea earlier!

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4 thoughts on “Organising RSS Feeds

  1. Interesting to hear your points of view, I too wondered how I ever did without RSS when I started using a reader!

    I’ve been trying out the Feeds app on my iPod, it does sync a lot faster than Byline (which I reviewed in my blog post) but there are niggles I don’t like about Feeds which have taken me back to Byline for the moment. The first is that it keeps crashing when I try to move from one folder to another. I have upgraded to the new version which was supposed fixed this issue but I still get it sometimes. I also don’t like how I can’t see which blog the post is from when I’m reading a post – something I really miss and didn’t realise I relied on so much. The other slight issue is that on my iPod it goes offline as soon as I have synced even if I am reading it online (i.e. at home) – this means I can’t mark all as read and it doesn’t sync what I have read with Google until I shut it down and start it up again. I have it set to sync every 10mins but I don’t think it is doing, I’ve changed it to 5mins to see if that makes a difference. For the time being I’m using a bit of both as neither are perfect; Feeds is good for quick syncing if I am on my way out, Byline is better if I’m reading at home.

  2. How weird, I can’t say that I have had any of those problems. I don’t think I have had it crash once since I added it. It also allows me to mark all as read once it has synced and syncs what I have read without having to shut down and then log back in again. Mind you, I have read a number of reviews for apps on the iPhone where people have complained about crashing but other have not had any problems. Seems that the apps are a little inconsistent as it is strange that some people have probs with some apps and others don’t.

  3. Thanks Chris, glad it achieved what it had intended! The reader in general I mean, I have not suddenly taken to advertising for Google!

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