Usability Tips: How to read blogs more efficiently

Usability Tips: How to read blogs more efficiently



I can tell that people are clicking on my "add to Bloglines" button,
but few are actually completing the process.  I can only
surmise that people are clicking on it in order to find out what it
does.  But if you click on it and you do not already have a
Bloglines account, the page you go to might not be too inviting.
 I've decided to write this explainer to help.



I think that more people will get involved in reading and writing
blogs, if someone takes the time to explain a few things that make it
easier, and more fun.  



Continue reading below the fold...


One of the challenges that comes up when you first start to read blogs,
is to figure out how to keep track of them all.  Next is the
challenge of finding time to read all the ones that interest you.



I can explain how seasoned bloggers keep track of everything.
 Although I cannot help you find more free time, it's possible
that by showing you how to read blogs more efficiently, I might be able
to help you make the most of whatever time you decide to devote to
reading blogs.



The most important step is to get an appropriate
browser.  The browser, by the way, is the computer program
that you use to browse the Internet.  Worldwide, most people
use Internet Explorer (IE).  But less than half of the people
who visit ScienceBlogs use IE.  Why is that?  Because
IE is not a good browser.  You might have heard of Firefox (or
Opera, etc.) but have not known why you should switch.  Don't
wonder any more.  Just do it.  Go to href="http://www.mozilla.com/">Mozilla.com and
click on the link to download Firefox.  Install it and run it.
 Don't worry about whether you will be able to figure it out.
 You probably won't have any problem, and even if you do, you
will not have lost anything.



The installation process is not difficult, but if you want
instructions, href="http://opensourcearticles.com/introduction_to_firefox">click
here.



The most important feature that makes Firefox better than IE is: tabbed
browsing.  Someone else already wrote a good introduction to
that topic, href="http://opensourcearticles.com/articles/introduction_to_firefox_2">here.
 Tabbed browsing is much more efficient than browsing with IE,
because you can have several pages open at the same time, and switch
rapidly between them.  



It may not be obvious at first why that is a good thing.  Take
my word for it.  Try it for a while and you will never go
back.  



The second most important step
is to have a fast, efficient
way to get to all the sties you want to read.  You will want
to be able to organize them, to make it easier to find what you want.
 You can do this the old-fashioned way, using bookmarks.
 In fact, using tabbed browsing, you could create a folder for
bookmarks of all 40-something ScienceBlogs, and middle-click on the
folder to open all of them simultaneously.  It would take a
while to load, and you probably want a reasonably powerful computer to
do it, but it is one way to make sure you get all the SB goodness every
day.



There is a better way, though, and that is to use a method to organize
and display the RSS feeds from the sites you want to visit.
 That is where href="http://www.bloglines.com/">Bloglines comes
in.  There are many different ways to do this; Bloglines is
only one of many.   Some involve installing software on your
computer; some do not.  If you use Bloglines, as may of the
bloggers at ScienceBlogs do, you do not have to install any software.
 You simply go to the site, register, and then add feeds for
the sites you want to visit often.   You can organize them
into groups by creating folders, just like you organize bookmarks.
 Unlike bookmarks, though, the sites you save on Bloglines
will be available to you no matter which computer you use.  If
you use more than one computer, this is a real time-saver.  



Bloglines can also be used to quickly scan through many news site,
magazines, journals, etc.  Almost any site that has frequent
updates to its content an be added to Bloglines.  If your
brain is hungry for information, and you want to keep the information
coming in fast, using a reader like Bloglines is a very efficient way
to do it.  



Any site that shows an icon like this i-611e71d6d8042ee9ee68177c063462f0-feed-icon32x32.png, can be added to Bloglines, or to any other feed
reader.  There are other icons that indicate the presence of a
feed, in addition to the one shown above.



src="http://img36.photobucket.com/albums/v108/jyaroch/valid-rss.jpg">
src="http://img36.photobucket.com/albums/v108/jyaroch/valid-atom.jpg"
height="31" width="88"> are two more.  There
are others, as well.  Not all pages with feeds will reveal the
feed with icons.  Sometimes you just have to try to add the
page you are interested in to your feed reader, and see if it sticks.



I cannot possibly explain everything that is possible with these
technologies.  People come up with their own ways to make use
of them all the time.  To give some examples, though...



Let's say you are interested in science journalism.  You could
create a Bloglines account, and add feeds from the science pages from
all the major newspapers, plus many other sites: Scientific American,
ScienceDaily, etc.  You then could see what journalists are
writing about science that day, in just a few minutes.  Or,
let's say you really like movies.  You could collect a bunch
of movie review sites, and scan them all fairly quickly.  You
could also keep track of what all your friends are saying on their
Livejournal sites.  It doesn't have to be used for serious
things.  Of course, what I am hoping is that more people will
start to make use of these methods for reading blogs.  That
can be serious, or not.  



Suggestion for other ways to make blog reading easier and more
enjoyable are welcome.


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I subscribe to over 500 blogs. It's inefficient to use a browser to read that many. I suggest a RSS reader. I happen to use NewsGator but there are others. As fast as you can process, you can move between blogs because they've all been downloaded to your computer. There's no "loading page" delays. Of course, then you'll want to only read blogs that have full or mostly full RSS feeds.

Maybe I'm just being dense, but I've got a big problem with the default behaviour of bloglines and I can't find a way around it. The problem for me is that as soon as you view a feed it marks all the items as read, and then it *never* shows those items again. Its such a simple thing, but unless there's a way around it bloglines is useless to me because it doesn't match the way I use rss feeds (just because I don't want to read an item straight away doesn't mean I don't want to come back and read it later).

Its a pity if there's no way around it because I'm looking for a web-based rss reader (I usually use the Sage firefox extension, which is a handy rss reader, but I'd like to be able to check feeds from different computers).

i use newsgator.com as an online aggrator. i've been happy with it and can read my feeds from anywhere with any browser.

By Bill Thater (not verified) on 08 Jul 2006 #permalink

Since you mentioned Opera, I wanted to add that it has a decent built-in RSS reader. Rojo is another online reader that, if I remember correctly, also keeps track of podcasts.

A: In bloglines, in the lower right-hand corner of each post, there is a little checkbox. If you click on that box, the post will persist until you explicitly delete it.

I've used Opera before, and in some ways, it is better than Firefox. I still use FIrefox, though, because of the extensions. As an aside, I'll mention that the open-source community is reliably innovative. That shows up in the development of Firefox.

As people are mentioning, there are many tools out there. The ones I've mentioned will not be the best ones for all people. However, the point is for people to get started using something, then to get them to try others from time to time.

Thanks, I noticed the check boxes, but its a bit of a hassle and I know I'd lose items just by accidentally closing a tab before I'd marked all the ones I hadn't read. I think I'm going to migrate to Google Reader --- I was underwhelmed by it at first but they've added a few features that I like now.