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?