How To: Subscribing to Blogs / Feeds

Note: I sent this email to my dad this morning. It’s republished here for two reasons: 1) Hopefully it will be of interest or assistance to somebody else. 2) This is, I guess, the first installment of “how to actually integrate feed reading into your daily online life” series. This one is rough, but I wanted to throw it up as-is to help me bust through my writers block on this subject.

Hey Dad,

I have a blog to recommend (many actually, but we’ll start with this one). John Battelle writes about the search industry, and is very well connected to its pulse. I try to read five or six others that cover the same topic, but when I have to pick just one, it’s his. As with many blogs, it serves as a proxy for it’s like-minded blogs. If something interesting pops up on one, it’s usually echoed or references on the others. Plus, he’s a professional writer and generates lots of unique, insightful content:

http://battellemedia.com/

The process I use to subscribe to blogs follows:

  1. Have a http://bloglines.com account
  2. Browse to an interesting site (like http://battellemedia.com or http://natek.typepad.com)
  3. Click your “Easy Subscribe” bookmarklet from either your Bookmarks Folder or, more commonly, your browsers Links Toolbar.

    (“Bookmarklets” or “favelets” are special links that — generally containing a small bit of Javascript instead of a URL — perform little tasks. As with any bookmark, you simply drag a link to your Bookmarks Folder or Links Bar.) This page has the Easy Subscribe links to drag to your toolbar (depending on browser) and more of a description: http://bloglines.com/help/easysub)

  4. Choose which of the available feeds to subscribe to.
    • Sometimes there will be a “full articles” feed, a “summary” feed and sometimes a “comments” feed. (I always go for the full feed.). Of all the options you’re presented with, this is the only one that really matters since it actually represents different blocks of content.
    • Other times, as seems to be the case with the first two options on battellemedia.com, they’re just different technical formats (.xml, .rss, .atom, .rdf). If this is the case then it’s pretty trivial — they’re all basically the same — and you’re safe picking ANY of them.
    • Other times (this is the case with the 3rd and 4th battellemedia options) they are third-party-generated feeds. In this case, these are provided by Technorati and Feedburner. If given a choice, I try to get the official feed from the site itself. But it’s pretty trivial again, and any of the four options will get you the same content.
  5. Enter your preferences (like which folder to store the blog in, notification preferences, descriptions, etc)

That’s it. Pretty soon you’ll be reading scores of feeds like me. (view my blogroll — a blogroll is the term for the list of blogs somebody subscribes to.

Other Ways to Subscribe

If you’re using bloglines but not the Easy Subscribe Bookmarklet you can go directly go to http://bloglines.com/sub and enter the URL of the site or feed. This is less efficient for me, because I have to leave the interesting site to subscribe to it… On the other hand, if you have the bookmarklet on your toolbar you just click-subscribe immediately from any cool site.

Part of the thing with reading blogs is that I’m always discovering interesting new feeds to subscribe to. The easier it is to subscribe the better! The downside is that I sometimes end up with tons and tons of blogs. To combat this, I keep a special folder that new feeds go into as a form of initial probation: “Blogs I’m Considering”. If I continue to be interested in that feed on the next weeks, it gets upgraded to it’s rightful place in my personal hierarchy of feeds.

OR, If you prefer to read your feeds on http://my.yahoo.com you can go to http://e.my.yahoo.com/config/cstore and enter the URL of the feed or site. After adding it, it’ll show up on your personal My Yahoo page.