Rss Feeds Feed My Soul

By ranfanranfan (1261369798|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

RSS aggregation allow users to "subscribe" to a website and have updates of that site's info delivered to a single account, it is a great tool for easy tracking of information. There are many solutions to keep track of RSS feeds, the two most popular are Bloglines and Google Reader. In this post, I compare my likes and dislikes of both RSS trackers.

Back in middle school, I had a goal to read the encyclopedia, the entire set. I knew, even then, that there was a whole lot of interesting information out there in the world. Unfortunately, I gave up somewhere into the B's because not every topic interested me. I didn't, however, give up the desire learn new information. Since then, the World Wide Web has been my go to source for questions of all kinds. It has led me to sites like Instructables, forums on which I discuss the latest album of my favorite Asian pop star, recipes for a late night snack etc. Last year, I was introduced to RSS Feeds, and it has essentially formed an online version of an encyclopedia designed exactly for me.

Because it's 3 am and I'm kind of hungry, I would like to think of such a collection of information as food for my soul - reading random blogs is actually very effective at taking my mind off the hunger pains.

I compared and contrasted my experiences / likes and dislikes with the two below.

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What I like about Google Reader

Whenever I check email (gmail), I then go to Google Reader and see what’s new. I have my feeds separated in folders like “news”, “blogs”, “photography”, “geeky”, “technology” etc. Some of them were from the prebuilt bundles Google suggests to get started.

  • Personalized Recommendations: This feature makes the experience very personal. At the home page, it gives me “recommendations” based on my current feeds. A brief preview of the most recent items in each of my feed folders, and what I recently stared.
  • The star & unread feature: It allows me to prioritize what I’m reading or go back to a feed. I especially like the star feature, it makes a separate list of all the items I starred
  • Email & Tag:These features are conveniently located underneath each feed item. I can email interesting feeds to friends and tag feeds with key words and go back to them later.
  • Trends: I must admit that I went a little crazy when I first signed up for Google Reader and subscribed to a LOT of sites, and soon realized I don’t have enough time to read through all of them.
    • Through the “Trend” page, I can see my own reading trends (how many items / the percentage of items I read from a site, what I’m starred etc.) and clean up my RSS feed a bit.
    • I can also look at subscription trends which has the nifty feature of seeing which site has been inactive. For instance, there’s a blog I subscribed to that hasn’t been updated since December, 2008. I decided to delete that blog from my feed.

What I dislike about Google Reader

  • Things Disappear: Items that I've read disappear after I've read them unless I star it or tag it. To actually get back an item, I have to click "see all" and it's just an inefficient process.
  • The Search Feature: It is not as well placed. At the top, there’s a search within the reader, but I had to navigate through a couple pages to find the search function.

When I did find the search function though, it was helpful. For instance, I entered the keyword “consultant” and got several (although it doesn’t tell me exactly how many) pages of returns. Each has the title of the blog/site, with number of subscribers, a short blurb of intro to site, and what I found interest is the number of posts per week. So for instance, even though the first return had 2,000 subscribers, it has an average of 0 posts per week. Knowing that it doesn’t update with new information, I only bookmarked the site and did not subscribe to its RSS.

Unique Google Reader Features

Offline Reader I find this useful when I'm stuck in the airport without Internet. I can still catch up on topics I'm interested in using this offline version of Google Reader.

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I just signed up for a Blogline account for this class, so to get some new subscriptions, I clicked the top feeds. I really was intrigued by the mini graph they had by each site. It doesn’t exactly say what it stands for but from it, I can still see a general trend of what I assume to be post rate / subscriptions etc. With so many new “hot” sites, it lets me see which ones are growing and which ones are trailing.

What I like about Blogline

  • Unique Email Address: The ability to create unique email addresses and have webpage updates sent to them.
  • Blog: I can publish my own blog! After reading so many good articles, I just might be inspired to reflect or create a piece of amazing writing, and with Blogline, I can do it right there!
  • Save articles:Similar to Google, it allows me to keep an article as new. But it also has a "clip blog" feature that allow me to save the portion that I find more relevant.
  • Playlist Feature: that allows you to make pages with headlines from selected feeds.

What I dislike about Blogline:

  • Less Personalized:In comparison to Google, I feel like it's a less personalized experience. From what I saw, I do not get recommendations concerning what I like.
  • No Tagging Feature: I wish this feature existed so I can organize my information better.

Conclusion

I will probably not switch from Google Reader (I'm a bit biased after having Google Reader for a while now and have been spoiled by the whole line of Google products). There are a lot of comparative features between both tools however and I think a new user should check out both to see which one suites them more. Personally, I feel Google's more interactive interface is more suitable for my needs. The most important thing is that they both satisfy the same need for a collective area where desirable and custom search information is posted without the user actually having to go out and search for the info everyday. It is a wonderful, and life changing automation process.

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