DippyBlogs (dippyblogs) wrote,

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Keeping track of your feeds

Thanks to Facebook and its integration feature for Google Reader which I use, I now get a staple question from most of my frnds - what is 'shared on google reader' thingie displayed on ur FB ?
So I tell them. I think its time Google starts acknowledging me for their sudden increase in reader users from India ;)

However, the real question that comes has more to do with using the reader, than just well, using it. The most common problem people face, is keeping up with the feeds. Generally, people subscribe to news sites. These are sites that are updated a million times daily, and the number of 'new' items inundating the reader is mind boggling. To someone who is new, this usually results in them spending hours just to scan through, read and delete items.

After some such discussions, I have come to the conclusion that reading feeds is an art. A skill form. With every passing year a new skill form is developed for the Net. And reading RSS feeds from an aggregator is such another. To some it comes instantaneously, to others it comes with practice. Many give up and die.

Like most things on the Net, an aggregator just makes it simpler to track whats happening on few selected sites, and is not really an invite to read it all - unlike emails. Emails have to be acknowledged. All of them have to be scanned or read, whereas all the web page updates one gets probably dont need to be read. A scan through all the headlines once a day, followed by a 'mark all as read' can be good enough for feeds of news sites.
Also, it is very difficult for an unused brain to get used to the fact that though the aggregator updates immediately, it is not important to read it immediately. Once updated, that information is available thereafter (unless deleted by the originator site) and can be ready at personal discretion - a minute/ day or even month later.

Small things like the above are difficult to explain to people who get emailers with news on them - and usually just junk the email than read its difficult to read headline based material. To explain that a feed reader makes it easier to do so, is difficult without a practical demonstration. Even then, usually people get stressed by the 'unread' count. Bloglines, Google Reader, NewsGator, etc. all show an unread count, or at least mark topics which still have unread articles, if not the actual number. To people who are used to 'staying on top of their emails' this is a Herculean task to reflect on their feed readers. So, they give up and never check on them again. I wonder if Google will have the statistics of unused reader accounts - it would be quite interesting.
Google of course, it seems, is the most popular feed reader. Not only because of its great interface, but also because its seamlessly integrated with the other Google applications like Gmail, Calendar, Documents, etc. and the great publicity it gets on FaceBook thanks to people like me.

So, I say, get onto a reader, add your bookmarks and enjoy their information sans ads, flash, colours etc. - just for the information. And do not worry about the unread count. A reader is one of the most useful ways of keeping track of activities on the Net. I suggest everyone go experiment!

Tags: feed reader, google reader, internet, observing, rss

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