It is now 12 days since I switched to using Google Reader in which time you can see I have 58 blog subscriptions, have read over 1000 posts, starred 54 and shared 27. That took surprising little time and I thought I would share how using Google reader is changing the way I read and write blog posts.
First a few comments on how I am using the tools in Google reader.
I have set up a number of folders and tags that enable me to organise the subscriptions. Folders and tags are pretty much the same – except that I keep Folders specifically to organise the blog subscriptions by topic area and Tags to record individual posts I want to be able to refer back to. I was initially relying on the Star feature for this – but this quickly becomes unmanageable. When I come back to interesting posts I usually want to look at a specific subject area and so it is much easier to organise interesting posts with Tags than Stars.
When viewing the posts I either click on All Posts or select a specific Folder if I just want to review one topic. I have found the best way to read is to start at the bottom of the list of recent posts and press K to move up to the next. Once read it stays in the list until I refresh the page – then it is unlikely that I will ever see it again. You can start at the top and press J to move down but I found that unless I clear all posts I end up with unread posts getting older and older.
My sense of timeliness has also changed radically – when you get 100 posts a day – a week is a long time so I have noticed that I tend to scan more quickly though older posts when I subscribe to a new blog. I have also noticed how much more aware I have become of the interaction going on between bloggers. These are the main things I have noticed about the way I read posts that are changing the way I blog.
- I seldom follow through on a partial feed. If all that is available on the post is a heading and a few lines, it has to be pretty compelling for me not to press K. Denise from the Blog Squad posted a poll a few days ago on this and I see that currently nearly 65% are in favour of full feeds.
- The same is true of posts that rely on me following a link to get the information. I find I need a reason to to take the time to follow the link – I want to read a Blogger’s commentary then follow through because it sounds interesting.
- FeedBurner’s FeedFlare has suddenly become much more important because it allows me to place tools for social bookmarking at the foot of the feed – so they appear in the reader – most stuff from my blog never reaches the feed.
- I take about 2 seconds to decide whether to read or move on – so if the post is confusing and I can’t see the message quickly – it’s gone. The Title, the first paragraph and subheads are critical to draw a reader in and this is basic journalistic practice but I still forget.
- I am starting to add more links in my blog posts because I don’t see any of the links around the post – at the same time I find lots of links in a post discourages me from reading it – needs a fine balance.
- Making comments is not so easy because the comments link is not included in the feed – so I have to make a point of going to a post on the blog to comment as a result I am not tending not to make as many comments.
The big problem for bloggers with Google reader is that you have no idea if I am reading your posts because Google only registers as a single reader in feed stats. Not sure if Google are going to deal with that but overall I love the product and it is definitely changing the way I do things.