Using Google Reader to stay on top of RSS feeds

August 22, 2008 Comments

I just started using Google Reader this month to keep on top of websites that I visit frequently. Google Reader is a RSS feed aggregator - meaning, it keeps track of the latest news from many of the websites I visit in just one location. This is really handy, it means instead of checking lots of websites to see if they have any new articles, I can check Google Reader and it shows the new articles from all the websites that I'm interested in following.

It has a couple of useful features:

  1. Folders - Just like in GMail, you can assign feeds, and individual posts, to multiple folders. These folders help sort and sift through all your feeds. I'm using a folder sorting system originally described by Alan Rimm-Kaufman to help organize things and make sure I see the news I'm most interested in first.
  2. Sharing - At the bottom of each article in Google Reader is a button labeled Share. Pressing this button places the article on a personal RSS feed that can be shared with others. Here are my Google Reader shared items. I'm also subscribed to a few of my friends shared items. It's interesting to see the things they share. I've discovered a few interesting RSS feeds this way.
  3. Discover - Google Reader keeps track of how many people subscribe to a particular news feed. With this data, Google Reader is able to offer recommendations of other feeds that may be of interest to you. The Discover feature uses my list of subscribed feeds to recommend feeds that other people, with my similar feeds, are subscribed to.
  4. Trends - Each time I read an article Google Reader keeps a record of it. Information about the articles I have read is summarized by the Trends feature. This feature allows me to see what percentage of articles I read from a particular feed, how many articles I read per day, how many new articles appear in a feed per day, and how many people are subscribed to a particular feed. This information helps me to prioritize the feeds according to how often new posts come out and how many of those posts I actually read.
  5. Starred Items - Find an article interesting and want to come back to it again? Star it. The Starred items feature works just like GMail. All starred items show up in a folder where you can view them later.

In addition to following news and technology websites, I've also been using Google Reader to follow interesting people on YouTube, Facebook, and for reading new articles on Google News.

Using the YouTube API, you can enter a URL that will retrieve an RSS feed of a user's uploaded videos. You can use this to have Google Reader include YouTube videos as articles. The URL format is:[insert_username_here]/videos.rss

If you're already subscribed to people on the YouTube site, you can also use Yahoo Pipes to follow all your subscriptions from one feed.

Facebook posts can also be added to Google Reader, as can status updates. Facebook status updates can be added to Google Reader by clicking the See All option for status updates, then subscribing to the Friends' Status Feeds. Facebook has a help page for more information about getting updates via RSS.

Google News also provides RSS feeds for its content. In addition to the usual topics like Top Stories, Sci/Tech, and World; Google News searches can also be viewed via RSS feeds. I use this for keeping track of any news items related to topics of interest, like my work, or the small community that I live in for example. Try it, search for something in Google news. At the bottom of your search results will be a "Subscribe to a news feed for X in Google Reader" link. Any new news articles that Google finds related to your search will automatically show up in Google Reader.

All in all I've been happy with Google Reader. Having all my news in one location saves a bunch of time. And it even displays well on the iPhone.

Do you have a Google Reader shared items feed or, have any interesting news feeds to share? Post a comment below.

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