RSS Feeds

I don’t know how I survived without Google Reader. Admittedly, I didn’t even know RSS aggregators existed until a year ago. I’ve learned so much since then! You see, right after I graduated from college in May 2009 I got a temporary part time job as a receptionist at a law office. Because my only tasks were to scan documents and answer phones, I had a lot of free time while I was waiting for the phone to ring or for someone to hand me a paper document to scan. I remember sitting on the computer visiting my favorite blogs individually. I remember typing in the URLs for my favorite blogs. I remember thinking, “there should be an easier way to check for blog updates.” Then someone told me about Google Reader, and my life changed forever.

Now I am a Google Reader addict. I check mine at least twice a day. I would keep it open all the time, but I am so addicted to it that I added it to my list of sites to block during certain hours of the day. Here are some of the ways I use it:

  • To get up-to-the minute updates on new job/internship postings
  • To interact with my LIBR 246 (Web 2.0) classmates. Each of us has a blog that we use to post exercises and discussion topics. We comment on each other’s blogs twice a week or so. We also subscribe to each others’ de.licio.us feeds.
  • To get updates on new events on my school’s calendar
  • To listen to songs from Glee after each new episode
  • To relax after a long day of interning and homework with a cup of peppermint tea, some music, and subscriptions to over 150 blogs about libraries and librarians, knitting, music, technology, feminism, pop culture, commentary, social media, webcomics, fashion, and productivity.

Being so addicted to RSS feeds this past year has also led me to formulate a few standards about using RSS to maintain readership (at least readers like me). I’m sure I’m not the first one to do this, but here goes:

  1. If you have a blog, make sure the RSS feed is enabled and functional. Tonight, I visited a blog to which I would have loved to subscribe, but it had no RSS feed enabled! I probably won’t visit that blog again. It’s not that I’m angry and acting on my principles, it’s just that blogs with RSS feeds take much less effort to check. It sounds lazy, but part of creating a successful blog or website is knowing how your readers access it.
  2. Make sure your content makes it to the RSS aggregators. I hate when I subscribe to a blog only to find out that the posts show up as titles with no content. It’s only slightly better than having no RSS feed at all (unless your titles are really compelling or descriptive). Entice your readers with something.
  3. Make sure the appropriate amount of content makes it to the RSS aggregators. This is really only a problem when too little of your content appears with each post on an aggregator, because you want to have a large enough snippet (such as a picture and a short paragraph) to entice your readers. Entire posts, even if they’re lengthy, are not a problem because they are easy to scroll through (on Google reader, you can click “previous item” or “next item” or use keyboard shortcuts to skip through posts you don’t want to read).
  4. If you tend to write a lot of text-heavy posts, be sure to add some visual interest. Remember, people accessing your blog through an RSS aggregator can’t see your creative blog template (unless you make them to click through to read your post).

Well, I’m fading fast. The long weekend is over, my belly is full of my mom’s barbecue, and I’m ready to crash. Before I go, how do you check on your favorite blogs? If you use a feed aggregator, what are you subscribing to? What are some of your RSS annoyances?

Finally, here’s a song to mark the end of another week (a day late, since it’s labor day): Florence and the Machine – “Rabbit Heart” (Live on KEXP)

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2 responses to “RSS Feeds

  1. Ditto on loving RSS. I couldn’t get into staying up with RSS until recently. I have been using/loving Reeder on my iPad, which imports feeds from Google Reader. Really nice interface, easy to read and share, and generally makes blowing through a bunch of new news really an enjoyable experience. Great post!

  2. Intriguing! I’ll have to check it out once they release the Mac app. Thanks Micah.

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