We'll be continuing to touch on UMF library resources as they come up, but we're also branching out into other tools and resources that make life better, easier, or more fun as we try to make sense of all the amazing information resources out there today.
Today's installment is about Google Reader, a quick and easy way to keep up with blogs.
Blogs, of course, are a way to share content online that includes date-based entries, with the most recent material on top. While short-form approaches (microblogging!) like Facebook and Twitter have caught on, there are still lots of topics that work better with a bit more space.
One of the challenges of blogs has always been that you need to remember to go and read them (or get a reminder some other way, like how our blog auto-posts a "Hey, we have a new post" snippet to our Facebook page.)
Google Reader fixes that. How to get there? http://google.com/reader should take you to the reader front page. If for some reason that doesn't work, try the instructions at the end of this post.
Adding a blog:
Before you can read a blog through Google Reader, you'll need to add a subscription. This is a very simple process. Click the subscription button at the top left of the page:
You can enter a search term, or you can paste the address of a blog you like to read. For example, if you wanted to subscribe to our blog, that you're reading right now, you could type "Browsing room Mantor" or you could paste in http://browsingroom.blogspot.com. Either way, if there's a blog you can subscribe to, you'll either be subscribed (if there's only one blog that fits that search) or be given blog feeds that match that search.
Many blogs also have the option to subscribe right from the blog. The most widely used RSS icon looks like the orange square with white lines below, but you'll see all sorts of other icons out there (usually they'll say RSS or XML or feed, something like that.)
|most common RSS icon|
Once you click on the feed, you'll be taken to a page where you should have the option to choose Google, then Google Reader, as your way to read. (There may be lots of options, which is why using the subscribe button in Google Reader can be a lot simpler!)
Managing your feeds:
Once you get a few feeds, you might want to organise them! You can divide up your blogs into different categories. To do so, you can either use the Feed Settings menu (in the top center) or the Settings tool, found at the top right of the page. (You can also find the help here.)
|help and settings menus|
To give you an idea what this might look like, here are my folders for my professional blog reading (I have an account for professional reading, and one for personal reading, because I subscribe to a lot of blogs, but read the two sets differently, and at different times.)
Sorting them like this helps me manage my time: I read the UMF folder first, then work my way down. (The humor folder has my subscriptions to a couple of library-related comic strips.)
|example organization : my Reader folders|
Once you have some new posts to read, your Reader screen will look a little like this, with your blogs and other tools down the sidebar, and posts in the larger right hand side of the screen. As you can see, you can get both text and images, but you don't get all the formatting of the original blog. (In this case, the post is about providing paper handouts for conference sessions, and how he handles that.)
|reading in Reader|
As you read, each item will be marked as read by default, but you can change this in the settings menu we looked at just above. You can also manually mark something as unread, or you can star it, to make it easier to find later. You can also browse in expanded view (where you see the entry) or list view (where you just see the titles of posts.) Lots of choices!
Some blogs will give you the entire text in the reader. Others, you may see a link that says something like "Read more" or "Click here to read more" that takes you to the blog. (People do this for a variety of reasons, but often it's because people are taking their text and using it without permission.) I typically open up the blog posts I want to read in more detail into a tab in my browser, then go through and read them all when I'm done, but there are lots of other ways to do it. Do what works for you.
Other neat tricks:
If you have a smart phone, an iPad, or many other mobile devices, there are apps out there that will allow you to use your Google Reader feed to access content on the go or to format posts in a way you prefer to read. (I use one for my personal blog reading called Reeder which I like a lot, but there are plenty of others.)
There are also tools that let you save webpages or blog posts to be read later on a wide range of devices - I'm currently testing out Instapaper, and expect to write about it here sometime soon (and that works with various of the ereaders, including Kindle).
Again, please ask! I'd be glad to use future editions of our Wednesday blog space to answer your questions about any of the resources we've talked about here.
Finding Reader from your email:
If you've got a UMF email account, you already have access. (And if you don't, you just need a Google account.) In the top menu from your email, go to the More menu (as shown below) and select the Reader option.
This will bring up all of the many and varied Google products - and somewhere on that page, you'll find the option that says "Reader". Click on that, and you'll be on the main Reader page.