THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Blog Subscriptions
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.
A blog updates regularly. Which means you read it regularly, like a magazine or a newspaper. How do you keep track of all the updates from the various blogs you read? There are ways to make it easy to keep up.
Just like the newspaper, you can subscribe to a blog. The subscription comes to you as an RSS feed in a feed reader, or by email. Ronni's blog offers both choices.
I know a number of Ronni's readers subscribe to her blog by email, so I'll talk about that method first.
Subscribe by Email
Simply put your email address in the form and click Subscribe. Each new post will arrive in your inbox as email.
It isn't quite like email, however, even though it comes to you by email. You don't respond to it like email. That is, you don't click Reply to comment on the post. You must click through to the actual website to comment in the comment box under the blog post. Usually, the title of the post is a link that will take you right to the post on Ronni's site.
If anyone has left a comment on the post, you won't see that in your email.
On the other hand, you can forward the email to others in the same way you would share regular email.
Subscribe by RSS Feed
There are special software tools for RSS feeds, called feed readers, or in Google's case, Google Reader. Google Reader is probably the most popular. It's free. It's handy if you're at your computer and have a browser open; you can use Google Reader to read your blogs while you are browsing.
After the problems we had with those of you using Windows in my post about Readability, I wanted to be sure my instructions for Google Reader were going to work for Windows. Thanks to some lovely folks on Twitter, I was able to get images of how you use Google Reader on Windows. My helpers were Elaine Nelson (@epersonae), @RiverGirlCancun and Jason Mobarak (@silverjam).
To get started,
- If you don't already have one, establish a Google account at google.com
- Sign in to your Google account
- Click the link in the upper right that says My Account
- Find and click the link for Reader in the list of Google Products
- You are now in Google Reader and ready to start saving subscriptions
- Now, any time you sign in to your Google account, Reader will show up in the links at the top left, along with Gmail and other options. To use the Reader, just click the link.
Three areas marked with ovals are important.
There is a button with a plus sign in it that says "Add Subscription." Under that you see something called Your Stuff. This is where you will store and organize your subscriptions. On the right you see links and buttons that let you see only unread items, or mark everything as read. The large area on the right is where the actual blog posts will appear. It looks quite a bit like email software.
Add Some Subscriptions
Click the Add Subscription button while in Google Reader and you can search for the blog you want to subscribe to.
If you are on a blog site, like Time Goes By, you can click the subscribe button on the blog. A new page will ask you if you want to subscribe by RSS or Atom (these are basically the same thing, either one usually works) and if you want to use Google Reader to do it. Click the Subscribe Now button and the feed will be in your reader whenever you go to Google Reader.
You can create folders to organize your subscriptions; give the folders names you choose yourself. Read the posts from any folder when you are ready. In the following image, you see the list of folders on the left. One called Blogger Friends is selected. On the right, you see the titles of blog posts in that folder. To read a specific one, just double click the title.
Each post includes a link to the actual blog, which you can click to open so you can leave or read comments.
There are additional ways to organize the folders (or subfolders) that will hold your feeds, and different ways to display them in the reader, depending on what you decide to do in the settings for the Google Reader. Or, to put it another way, be sure to go through the Settings for the Google Reader to arrange it the way you want.
The reason Google Reader is so popular is that it works on any computer with any browser. You don't have to download and install anything.
I personally don't use Google Reader. I use feed reader software meant only for Mac users called NetNewsWire that I downloaded and installed. It does basically the same thing Google Reader does, but in a separate application. A similar one for Windows is Feed Demon from NewsGator. Most RSS feed readers like these two are free to download.
The advantage of using a feed reader is that everything you want is in one place, ready to be perused when you are ready to do your daily blog reading.
[EDITORIAL NOTE: If you have a question for Virginia or a suggestion for an Elder Geek column, you may email it using the Contact link in the upper left corner of this page.]
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary E. Davies brings us another Mother's Day story: M is for the Million Things.
Thank you, Virginia, for such a clear and understandable explanation of something I have wondered about....
Posted by: Nancy | Tuesday, 12 May 2009 at 05:40 AM
Thank you so much, Virginia! This is going straight to my mom -- and then I want to put a link on my blog for all the people who don't know how to subscribe, and I'm nowhere near as good at telling them as you are!
Posted by: Sixty and Single in Seattle | Tuesday, 12 May 2009 at 07:51 AM
Thank you for such a clear and thorough explanation of RSS. I've bookmarked this for possible use with my own blog's readers.
I'm afraid many of my readers don't understand RSS and therefore don't subscribe. I've changed my RSS phrase to "get updates free" and that's helped a little.
All my favorite blogs are in my RSS reader, and that's the first place I head in the morning. It's very convenient, with all of them in one place.
I use NetNewsWire on my Mac, too. I prefer mail and RSS to be on my computer, not out in the "cloud" somewhere!
Posted by: Mike Nichols | Tuesday, 12 May 2009 at 08:53 AM
I like Google Reader -- probably the easiest feed reader to use, and the first one I've really liked using. Google indexes everything anyway so updates pretty much continuously. I notice some delay but not a lot.
I do miss the look and feel of an individual website, though, and often click through to read my favorites.
One thing not mentioned here is that you can share your favorite posts with others using Google Reader -- my husband and friends and I can exchange interesting posts easily and it's fun to see what others are reading. Although my friends complain they really don't understand all the economic posts I share. ;^) You can also directly link from Google reader into a blogger blog as well. So if you go to my blogger blog you can read my shared items:
Note this is not my personal blog so not frequently updated. Personal blog is here:
(Sorry, Ronni, not trying to blogwhore!) ;^)
Posted by: donna | Tuesday, 12 May 2009 at 10:49 AM
Donna, thank you for bringing up the sharing aspects of Google Reader.
Posted by: Virginia | Tuesday, 12 May 2009 at 01:07 PM
Thank you for this. I had a hazy knowledge of subscribing and RSS but you put everything is a much clearer light. I always look forward to your "geek" posts.
Posted by: Alice | Tuesday, 12 May 2009 at 03:23 PM
Me too! This was great reading and I learned a couple of things. I really appreciate your step-by-step directions along with the graphics.
Posted by: Colleen | Tuesday, 12 May 2009 at 04:30 PM
Really appreciate learning the specifics about subscribing and your other contributions. I've never subscribed to any blogs or other websites, nor taken the time to study computer basics -- just emailing family and reading blogs has been so time consuming. It's easier now that I have my new laptop instead of the old sluggish PC and accompanying problems I've had up to now.
Thanks to you and to Ronni for adding your feature.
Posted by: joared | Friday, 15 May 2009 at 09:27 PM
Thank you for such a clear step-by-step directions along with the graphics. I'll use RSS feed, though my friend will prefer e-mail option.
Posted by: anavar | Tuesday, 02 March 2010 at 04:59 AM