Seen Headslapping

It took me reading less than a sentence to give myself a metaphorical headslap today. As in the kind of headslap you give yourself when you find someone’s done something you’ve kind of, almost, could have, should have thought of yourself: Julie Wilson has followed in the tradition of turning a good idea into a blog that in turn gets picked up to be a book with Seen Reading.

It evolved from her fascination with what people were reading on the train. Specifically that people reading in public ‘read and reveal’ stories: ‘Those of us around those readers often, and easily, lose ourselves in the imagined world of those readers: Who are they? Where are they coming from? Going to? Does their choice of book say anything about them?’

That premise is something I’ve blogged about before, including how e-readers are making it more difficult for voyuers like me to know what my fellow passengers are reading; that and how the mystery’s absolutely killing me. It is also the kind of thing I’ve regularly discussed but haven’t been quite clever enough to turn into a blog and then a book.

Cue headslap.

But I digress. While I wasn’t clever enough to seize and make good on the idea, Wilson has. And she’s done an excellent job of it. The blog is updated regularly. The book which has emerged from it contains microfiction based on the person she’s seen reading. The microfiction itself is faced by a short bio of the reader.

Wilson’s bio made me chuckle: ‘This space will change often because Julie can’t make up her minds.’ The summary, which is likely to change given her all-too-familiar-to-me inability not to keep tinkering with her bio is that she’s an experienced industry professional, working in marketing for a publishing house’s website, hosts another, blogs as ‘The Book Madam’, and has written for a bunch of esteemed magazines we’d all recognise. Ergo, she has the skills and the knowledge to make Seen Reading a success.

Say, for example, how she’s utilising social media to get people involved and contributing. Her How To Be A Literary Voyeur page outlines how to do this, coincidentally listing the book I’ve just read and intend to blog about on this site in coming days:

‘Vancouver. SFU. Woman, mid 20s, wearing blue hoodie. The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary by Andrew Westoll. (@chimpsoffauna) #seenreading (131 characters)’

It follows, as she explains, a simple formula:

‘The formula is simple: [where] + [what the book is] + [who the book is by, along with @writer or @publisher mention if you know them] + [#seenreading hashtag].’

If you’re keen, you can follow Wilson at @SeenReading or contributing using the #seenreading hashtag.

I will be. Once I’ve slapped my forehead some more.

How to Use Google Reader Pt 2

In my previous post, I introduced the wonders of Google Reader, a fast and easy way to keep up with your internet reading – be it blogs, newspapers, long form journalism or any content that updates regularly. In this post I’ll cover off how to save and share your posts, and a couple of extra tips that makes using Google Reader a bit easier.

 

Saving and sharing posts

If you come across a post that you’d like to save to read later the easiest way to save it is to use stars.

 

 

 

You can access your starred items at any time by finding it in the left-hand sidebar. Your starred items will remain here until you unstar them.

 

 

Sharing posts works in much the same way. You can choose to follow other people who use Google Reader, or allow other people to follow your shared items by clicking on ‘People you follow’ —> ‘Sharing Settings’. When you first sign up to Google Reader, you’ll be prompted to add people to share with (and to share from). You can import friends from your Google address book if you’re on Gmail, or using their email address if they’re not. Shared items on Google Reader also sync directly with Google Buzz, Google’s answer to Facebook and Twitter.

 

Advanced Hints and Tips

 

Keyboard Shortcuts

Like all Google apps, Google Reader has a full suite of keyboard shortcuts, which you can check out by clicking here. However, if you’re just looking for the basics, the basics are full screen (hit F), scroll down (hit the spacebar), next item (hit J) or previous item (hit K). You can also star items by hitting S, and share an item by hitting shift+S.

 

Forcing a feed to be full text

Use FullTextRSSFeed.com or WizardRSS.com. Simply copy and paste the URL of the feed you want to get in full text, hit enter and either of these two sites will produce a new URL. Plug that into Google Reader’s ‘Add Subscription’ box and you can read that blog’s full text without having to open a new window.

 

If you’ve got no idea what the feed URL is – click on the feed you want to expand in the left-hand sidebar on Google Reader. Click ‘Show Details’ in the top right-hand corner of the feed, and the Feed URL will be at the top of the page.

 

Sharing with other social networks

Go to Reader Settings (top right corner) —> Send To to set up other social networks. All the big sharing sites are already set up, just tick the boxes and authorise Google to access the site and you can share directly from Google Reader with one click.

 

That about covers the basics, and a bit more to get you on your way. If you have any further questions about feeds or Google Reader, please let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

How to Use Google Reader Pt 1

Virtually every site on the web nowadays that serves up content has a feed. That feed is a way for people to keep up to date with their favourite blogs and news sites without having to visit twenty different websites a day. There are basically two kinds of feeds – RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and Atom. For the purposes of the general (non web-developer) reader, they’re pretty much the same, and Google Reader can use either one.

Google Reader is probably the best known feed reader, but there are lots of others, including some that live on your computer desktop.

 

Logging in for the first time

For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll assume that you’ve already got a Google login. If you don’t, you can sign up to get a Google account by clicking here.

Once you’ve got your email login and password handy, visit http://reader.google.com to go to Google Reader.

 

 

This is the screen you’ll see when you first log in. Feel free to scroll through the first few introductory posts and have a read.

 

Adding a Feed to Google Reader

There are two ways to add feeds to Google Reader. The easiest way is to click ‘add a subscription’ in the top-left hand corner of your Google Reader account.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes for whatever reason, Google Reader can’t find the blog you want to subscribe to. In this case, you can click on the feed icon It’s a little different on each website, but the key is to look for the icon below or the words ‘Feed’, ‘RSS’ or ‘Atom’. They can usually be found at the top, bottom or on the sidebar of most blogs and news sites.

 

 

 

Here are a few examples.

The Guardian’s webfeed:

 

The Sydney Morning Herald feed can be found at the very bottom of the main page.

 

 

As can the feeds for ABC News:

 

Many bigger sites provide multiple feeds depending on the kind of content you’re looking for. Once you’ve found the feed you’re after, click it and you’ll usually get a jumble of code that looks a bit like this:

 

 

To get it into Google Reader, just copy and paste the URL into the ‘Add Subscription’ window on Google Reader and click ‘Add’.

 

Some websites are a bit more clever, and give you options to subscribe using a particular reader. In these cases, just click on Google.

 

 

Viewing and sorting subscriptions

Once you’ve subscribed to a few of your favourite blogs, you’ll probably want to start reading them.

 

I’d recommend using the All Items view to see all your subscriptions together. You can scroll through each new post using your mouse, or by hitting the spacebar to move a bit more quickly.

 

As each new item is viewed a blue box will surround it. This indicates that you have read the item, and after you’ve done so it won’t appear in Google Reader again.

 

 

 

You can also view each website by its source by clicking on the individual feed in the left-hand sidebar.

Once you add a few feeds to Google Reader, especially if you go on holidays or don’t have time to check it for a few days, you’ll learn that your unread feeds can skyrocket very quickly. The last thing you want a piece of technology to do is to make it more difficult to keep up with the news you visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neat freaks

There are plenty of ways to keep your feeds organised – you can use folders and tags. To access these settings just click on the small blue down arrow in the sidebar and navigate to ‘Manage Subscriptions’.

 

Full text vs Brief

You’ll notice that depending on the source, you won’t get the full news story in Google Reader. This is a way big news companies have of forcing you to go to their website to view their advertising. Some sites only show the headline. There are a couple of ways around this, in my next post I’ll cover a quick way of getting around this. Most blogs, however, will have the full text of every post up in their feed.

 

Alternatively, if you like viewing your feeds as headlines only, you can remove the briefs by clicking ‘List’ in the top right of Reader.

 

 

 

 

New bloggers appointed at Boomerang Books

Boomerang Books has appointed seven new bloggers to its book content team after receiving over 90 applications from eager writers.

‘The standard of applications received was quite amazing and we found it very difficult to narrow the field down to a manageable shortlist’, said Clayton Wehner, Managing Director and co-owner of Boomerang Books.

‘It was even harder to settle on the final seven bloggers from a shortlist of about thirty.  In fact, we originally set out to appoint only five bloggers, but we couldn’t split a couple of the applicants.  It took us several weeks of deliberation to arrive at the final seven’.

‘What’s most impressive is the fact that the positions were only advertised via social media mechanisms and, in particular, Twitter.  The writing community is a close-knit one and news of the positions spread like wildfire through ‘re-tweeting’.  We were inundated with applications and we certainly didn’t expect to receive so many’.

The bloggers have already starting producing their own themed blogs on the Boomerang Books website:

The Book Burglar. Brisbane-based Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.  Fiona’s blog revolves around Australian books (mostly ‘lifted’ from friends’ bookshelves).

Kid’s Book Capers. Melburnian Dee White is the award-winning children’s and YA author of Hope for Hanna, A Duel of Words, Letters to Leonardo and Harry’s Goldfield Adventure. Her blog explores great children’s books and the people who create them.

Poisoned Apples and Smoking Caterpillars. Aimee Burton is a Canberra-based lawyer-in-training who still dreams of befriending unicorns. Her blog is her escape from reality, and hopefully it will inspire her to finish writing that fantasy trilogy she’s always promising her friends is “almost halfway” done.

Read up on it. Sadhbh Warren is a freelance writer and proud booklover. Her name is pronounced Sive – like five – an Irish name, easier to say than spell.  She lives in Sydney, writing travel and humour articles, and is always on the lookout for a great new book.

Literary Clutter. Bookish bloggings from the cluttered mind and bookshelf of Melbourne author, George Ivanoff. George’s current teen novel is the computer-game inspired Gamers’ Quest.

Perpetually Adolescent. Sydney-based blogger William Kostakis (who doubles as Boomerang Books’ brand manager) is an award-winning, twenty-year-old young adult fiction author. His debut title, Loathing Lola, was released in 2008.   His blog deals with all things YA.

The Smell of Books. Sydney-based writer and editor Joel Blacklock is Boomerang Books’ new tech blogger. He’s passionate about the possibilities Web 2.0, social media and ebooks open up for authors, publishers, booksellers and the whole book industry.

The appointment of the seven bloggers is part of Boomerang Books’ ongoing content development strategy.

‘Content is king on the web and we’re focused on creating something that is more than just a standard e-commerce website.  We want to become Australia’s favourite destination for book lovers – not just a place where people go to buy books.  We’re committed to producing quality, thought-provoking content and instilling a sense of community for our members and visitors.’

‘We’re really happy with our new group of bloggers.  We’ve got a good spread of themes and we’ve got representation across Australia.  All of the bloggers were champing at the bit to publish their first blog posts and the quality of the early articles has been fantastic’.

Boomerang Books’ new blogs can be found online at http://content.boomerangbooks.com.au/content/main/boomerang-books-blogs.shtml.