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!