Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Follow me on Google Reader (forget twitter)

google reader logoGoogle Reader recently released a new feature which enables me to share some more of my thoughts with you.

I have never been a big fan of regurgitating other people's post and information on my own blog. I see this more as a place to try to share my own thoughts and ideas, or bring a bunch of info together to express a new opinion (I hope I manage to!). So far I have been pointing to blog posts that have stood out to me via the "Interesting article's I've recently read" section in the side bar.

The links in the side bar are the most recent items I have shared using Google Reader. Up until recently, it was only possible to share things that I received via feeds (see below if you don't know what a feed or RSS is). What the clever guys over at Reader have now done is to allow me to share anything, from anywhere and add my own note to that.

This is a new form of microblogging, but is far more interesting (to me, and hopefully to you) than the alternatives, such as twitter.

So now you can follow me and see my thoughts on interesting articles and information that I find. There are a couple of ways to do this.

  1. Subscribe to my Google Shared Items feed. If you know how a feed reader works, you'll know exactly how to use that link to follow me. Otherwise, see the info about feeds and feedreaders below.

    There are one or two minor drawbacks with this, mainly that the original author's name does not come through correctly when I add a note.

  2. If you already use Google Reader you can add me as a friend and my shared items will show up in your Reader. This is a slightly more complex process and requires you inviting me to chat with you via Gmail or Gtalk. You will need my Gmail address, which is duncan.drennan at the expected ubiquitous domain name.

  3. [Update] As Francois quite correctly points out, you can also view my shared items as a webpage (which is linked to in the side bar).

Here is some info for those of you who have never heard of a feed or RSS. On this site subscribing to the feed allows you to immediately receive the latest posts straight into your feedreader.

A feedreader fetches information from a whole bunch of different feeds (e.g. this blog, a news website, etc.) displays them for you.

The beauty of this is that
  1. You can subscribe and unsubscribe extremely easily (just add or delete a feed from your feedreader).
  2. Delivery is guaranteed. Because you fetch the feed (pull) unlike email which is sent to you (push) the feed cannot get lost due to a firewall which is trying to stop spammers. Feeds are spam free!
  3. You never miss a post. This is particularly important if you keep up to date by coming to check back here regularly. You could miss something, or worse, stop coming back ;)
Once you start using feeds you will wonder how you survived without them. I use Google Reader as my feedreader, but there are plenty of others out there. Here is a really useful video which explains RSS and feeds a lot better than I can.


Francois Cilliers said...

There is another way that people can view your shared items. Google Reader provides you with a URL to a webpage for your shared items. Just click on your shared items in the sidebar and look at the info on the top of the page. You'll also see that you can use different themes for the webpage. Maybe you can update this post to share that URL too.

Duncan Drennan said...

Yes, quite right. I had that link in the side bar, but have now drawn some more attention to it in the post. Thanks!

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