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GoogleReader, How I Love Thee…

November 4, 2009
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Once upon a time, I used to work in a office. And in that office, I had a Lot of Time in Which to Do Nothing. And that is when I discovered the Blog.

Once upon a time was really only about 10 months ago, and day after day I discovered new blog after new blog. My favorites were Smitten Kitchen and Apartment Therapy, DesignSponge and The Sartorialist, among countless others. I began reorganizing my bookmark bar to compensate for the loads of links I would add every day, carefully dividing up my distractions in to Food, Design, Photography, and Crafty. I was vigilant (or at least on the days when I had no work) about checking my blogs to see who had posted new content. It was a bit of an obsession. Okay, it was a full blown obsession, to the point where I became anxious and irritated if someone who’s blog I really liked didn’t post that day. Perhaps, addiction wouldn’t have been an inappropriate term to use. This was before I knew what RSS was, and how it could change my working life.

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(ALERT: education info on RSS feeds forthcoming.)

Screen shot 2009-11-03 at 10.01.36 PM RSS

The acronym stands for one of two definitions: Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary. The format  was developed in the late 90s, though it didn’t come into popular use until 2006/07, when the major browsers agreed  on the icon on the left. RSS is an XML format that syndicates web content.

To explain better what that means, let’s use an analogy:

RSS Feeds : Web Content :: Netflix : Videos

Like Netflix delivers the latest movies to your doorstep, RSS Feeds deliver the newest web content to you so that you don’t have to go looking for it. There is one requirement: a Feed Reader, also known as an Aggregator. Google and Yahoo offer free readers, as does Bloglines.

Most websites today that update content regular offer an RSS feed subscription, like the major news websites and all blogs. Many radio sites also have RSS options, some that send a song a day to your reader. Recently, Twitter has launched an app that will feed your stream directly into your Reader so you don’t have to check your Twitter. With the advent of lists on Twitter, I can see this becoming a popular option.

RSS feeds are for anyone who doesn’t have a lot of time. And that’s everyone nowadays, right? By gathering the latest content in one place for you to view where and when you want (GoogleReader even offers an offline version so you can access new material even when you’re not connected to the internet), RSS feeds save time and enable you to scan through more content, more quickly.

Best of all? There’s no learning curve! Get a reader, copy and paste the URL into your reader, and you’re good to go!

For me of course, one major drawback is that the content doesn’t look as nice in your reader as it does on the site, as it is presented without formating.

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So One Fine Day, I clicked on the link in my gmail inbox that said Reader. And from there I was transported into a whole other world, where blog after blog came right to me, every day, without me having to do a single thing other than click the Reader button. Addiction defeated!

Not exactly. The cycle started all over again. I was obsessed with going through each and every entry in my Reader the day that arrived, so that I could start with a clean slate the following morning. Soon, the obsession grew to convenience, and now, though I am not faithful to my Reader daily, I am thankful that I always have a Lovely Window of Distraction and Inspiration waiting for me, anytime I care to pull up my Reader.

Which is still mostly every day. 🙂

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One Comment leave one →
  1. andersj permalink
    November 7, 2009 2:46 am

    I know what you mean, but I’m using Twitter instead of RSS now because it allows me to scan even more content more quickly and also to isolate it in different ways. Anyway, you came into the master’s program with an advantage over everyone else who didn’t already understand blogging and how to give value in various ways in the “personal column” (as we called it in the print-news business in the old days) or the blog. There’s always value in your work, because you know it and appreciate it yourself! You have shared some outstanding ideas – including the great infoviz generated in class that you are also showing among your November entries…

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