How to read blogs

I posted a couple of links yesterday to some newish blogs and suggested you add them to your blog reader. I know that some folk will not know what that means, so I’ll explain here.

I’m often surprised by the number of people who say, “I don’t know where you find the time to read all those blogs”. As it happens, I’m following 111 blogs at the moment, and yes, I read them every day and no, it doesn’t take me very long. The secret is to use something called a feed reader or aggregator. What you do is sign up for such a service on a webpage and then that service downloads all the new content from the webpages you are interested in and presents it to in an easy to read list on one page. You can then scan down the list, reading the things that interest you and dismissing anything that doesn’t interest you with the click of disdain.

You do have to tell it which websites you are interested in. (Called, “adding a subscription”). Basically you put in blog addresses and it searches for a clever thing that most blogs have embedded within them called an rss feed. An rss feed is just a script written to allow content to be syndicated in this way. Clever and well behaved blogs will also have an rss feed for the comments that are posted as well as one for the main content. Thus if there are blogs on which commenting is a great deal of the fun, you can follow them in your reader and join in the conversation much more easily than if you just happened to come across a comment whilst casually browsing away. For the record, my comments feed can be found at this link and my main feed at this one. Techies will note that I use another google service on my blog called feedburner so that I can get a sense of how many people are following my blog using rss as well as having an idea of how many people read it by going to the webpage.

At the moment, I’m using Google Reader to do this and it is easy to set up and use. You need to set up an account (ie set up a login name and password) but its free at the point of delivery. They fund it by targetting adverts at you, but the ads on google reader are not terribly obtrusive.

The benefit to google is that they know what you are reading and that helps them to target adverts more cleverly towards you than they could otherwise. Yes, it is slightly creepy that concept. I’m inconsistent myself – I don’t use a supermarket loyalty card because I don’t want the supermarkets knowing everything I’ve bought, but I’m relatively happy trusting google with my reading habits every day.

Anyway, it enables me to read lots of blogs by only going to one page. If I was to go from blog to blog every day I would soon lose heart and would only be able to read a very few.

There you go, that’s how it is done. I’m happy to take recommendations from other people of different readers if anyone wants to blow someone else’s trumpet.

How many blogs do you follow, anyway?


  1. 125 subscriptions in Google Reader.

    1000+ unread and probably not going to be read any lifetime soon (mostly “real-world news”).

    What I really need is an aggregator with Bayes-style ranking per article… and sux0r is too much of a pain to install. Meh.

    • I’ve looked at fever myself Tim. However, I’ve never taken the plunge and its far too techy an installation to recommend to the woman on the Clapham omnipew.

  2. Have you been living my life the past week, with at least one person every day saying “whassat RSS thingummy?”? (I shall be forwarding this on!)

    I have a cap of 150, because with more than that I either have days of procrastination or I end up neglecting posts I shouldn’t. I add things willy-nilly to see how I like them, so usually every couple of weeks I go and do a cull.

    Lots of the feeds I subscribe to are journal alerts, and I find RSS is so much better than email contents alerts for those.

    I use google reader, and I like how it lets me sort feeds into multiple folders (and each feed can be in more than one). I have used Brief (firefox extension) in the past, but it ended up that both Brief and firefox’s own live bookmarks were fetching the same things and it wasn’t so good for the expensive Antipodean bandwidth.

  3. I can concur with you Kelvin. I use Google reader, which ties neatly in with other bits of google I use – including Chrome.

    …ohh and thanks for asking I am currently following 29 blogs.

  4. I don’t follow so many Blogs as you folks, so I don’t use RSS feed but instead just have them listed in the Blogroll on my own Blog, where I have it set up to display the most recent at the top.

    I simply scroll down every day and see what’s new, then open up each one I want to read in a new Tab in Firefox.

    Kelvin, you mentioned yesterday something about being unaware of the exotic layout of one of the Blogs you read regularly via Google reader. Doing it my way, whilst admittedly comparatively low-tech, has the benefit of the exotic every day!

  5. Eh, I thought I usually had an avatar when I commented on your Blog, where’s it gone!

    • Lay Clerk – I think that you will find that your avatar (strictly speaking a gravatar) reappears if you type your email address correctly when making a comment. The last couple have been from someone claiming to have a url of, which does sound butch but I don’t think is quite right.

  6. 61, on Google Reader after the demise of Bloglines. I like the way I can mark all as ‘read’ without losing them from the reader page. But some of them are in need of culling – if I could only find the time!

  7. Kelvin, I bow to your superior ability to read. I am an idiot! Ta

  8. I’m using Google Reader too and, after a big cull recently, I am following 78 blogs.

    I’ll tell you something that niggles a wee bit about Readers… some of them only show a wee snippet, a taster of the blog and you have to click on the blog to read the whole thing. Only a couple of them do this and I haven’t figured out why.

  9. Scarily I appear to be following nearly 200. I did use bloglines but recently transferred to google reader and much prefer it now. Mostly I can skim blogs to see if there are any I want to take the time to read properly, and I like that I can sort them into folders of different categories (art/photography/Christian stuff/friends/funny/academic/Scotland/etc).

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