Reading blogs this way is so much easier, and I want to show you how to do it, if you don't already know how. (If you already do, carry on with your bad self. Or skip to the tips below. Maybe you'll read something new.)
Checking in on your favorite blogs is so much easier this way; you'll wonder how you ever did without it. Basically, you can go to one placeone application or one web siteand read all your favorite blogs, instead of having to go to 20 (30? 50? 100?) web sites to see if they've posted something new. You log into your RSS reader and it delivers to you all the new posts.
There are two kinds of RSS readers: a software application or a website. I prefer to use a web site: No downloads to further crud up my computer, I can access my blogs from anywhere, and it's one bookmarkone bookmark I click at least once an hour. If not more.
I'm going to give instructions to use Bloglines, my RSS reader of choice. I think it's easy to use, reads all syndication forms (RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0 and Atomis there more?) and they're always adding new features. And it's free. I recommend it. But I don't blame you if you want to use something else. Here is a list of RSS readers to choose from.
How to Use Bloglines
1. Create an account. Confirm your registration by clicking on the link sent to you by email.
2. Start subscribing to blogs. Go to the tab called "My Feeds." On the right side, just below where it says "My Feeds" is a link called "Add." A page will load on the left. Put in the URL of the web site you want to subscribe to. Or, if the blog has a link that says "Syndicate this site" or an orange XML button, you can use that link. After you click "Subscribe," a list of "Available Feeds" will be displayed. If there is just one, choose your "Options" and click "Subscribe." If there is more than one "Available Feed," preview them to see which you want, click the checkbox of the one you want, choose your "Options" and then "Subscribe." Your page will reresh and a link with the blog name will appear in the right frame.
3. Read your blogs. In the right frame will be a list of your blogs and folders. When there is something new to read, the link will be bold and have a number beside it, indicating the number of new posts in that blog or folder.
4. Bookmark http://bloglines.com/myblogs.
That's all there is to it. There are links to rearrange your blogs, unsubscribe, search and more. As you use Bloglines more, you'll figure out how to use these features easily.
There are features in Bloglines that I don't use (My Blog, Clippings, Share), but maybe you will. Play with them and let me know if they're useful.
General and Bloglines Tips
Full Post vs. Excerpt: There are different versions of RSS that determine how posts are displayed. Some posts show only the first paragraph or a few sentences. Some show the full post. Some will include links embedded in the post, and some will show graphics in the post. Some don't. For abbreviated posts that catch your interest, the link to the full post is very clearly in the heading. If you subscribe to a blog that offers more than one feed, in Bloglines you can preview the feed and see if one is in a more likeable format, and then you can choose the one you like more.
Folders: In Bloglines, you can set up folders for your blogs to sit in. I have mine organized in folders with names like Always (as in, I always read every post from those blogs), Sometimes, Gossip, News, Work. When the folders are collapsed, the folder will be highlighted with the number of new posts inside the folder. So when you click on the folder, it'll display all the new posts inside, without having to click on each highlighted blog. I find this to be very efficient.
Keep New: When reading a post in Bloglines, there is a little checkbox in the lower right that says "Keep New." If you come across the post that you want to read, but don't have time, you can check the box and it will still be there later.
Who Is Reading? In Bloglines, in the dark blue bar above the blog title name, you'll see a link that says "X subscribers." If you click on that link you can see who else is subscribed to that blog, and click through to see what other blogs they like. You can keep your subscriptions private so no one else can see what you're reading, if you so choose. (I so choose.)
More Than Blogs: I don't read just blogs via RSS. Many web sites now offer syndication of their content. I read CNN and Slate via RSS. I get Netflix New Releases and my daily Dilbert comic. I get IMDb news and New York listings on Upcoming. In Bloglines, you can search for blogs by keyword. Maybe your favorite site has a feed or two. Or more.
Your Blog: Can your blog be read via RSS? If you're using Moveable Type, then you most likely are; it seems standard with the installation. I think it's standard with LiveJournal and Typepad, but I couldn't really say that for sure. If you use Blogger, it's a feature you have to turn on. Blogger users, from your dashboard, click to your blog and then go to the Settings tab. Click Site Feed. To make your blog accessible to RSS readers, change Publish Site Feed to Yes. Below that, you have the option of the format your feed will be in (Short or Full). Take your pick.
I wonder if anyone read all this ...
* CNET: News You Choose
* RSS Gaining Momentum
* Feed Readers / News Aggregators for Linux, Mac and Windows
* Bloglines Help & FAQ
Do you read blogs via RSS? Do you have any tips to share?