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.

 

 

 

 

The Tyranny of the Digital

News surfaced this week of Rupert Murdoch’s plans to launch a newspaper exclusively on tablet devices. It’s the kind of plan that sounds great in a press release. Murdoch knows how to put a newspaper together – The Daily, as it will be called, will be housed in a real office, with real journalists, but it will not have a print or web edition. The only edition, which will be released seven days a week for 99c, will be available solely on the iPad. Murdoch, I fear, has finally jumped the shark.

It’s not that a new newspaper (can you even call it that if it’s not printed on paper at all?) is something to sneer at. Or that newspapers don’t need to experiment with new models to succeed. But the distribution model – locked to a single kind of device and behind a paywall – fails to acknowledge that people who read the news no longer do so in isolation. A huge proportion of digital natives rarely, if ever, get their news from a single paper delivered to their front door; news comes piecemeal from diverse sources like Facebook, Twitter and from multiple websites, RSS feeds and email. Most importantly, news comes from trusted colleagues, friends and family members – through connections that are more important than loyalty to a brand of news. Murdoch’s The Daily will not be able to join in on this participatory news experience, which is increasingly becoming the norm. It will be edged out by content that is more easily shared. In essence, like many follies in the digital era, Murdoch is trying to replace the analogue experience of a newspaper with a digital facsimile, and it is not going to work.

It’s a similar story with ebooks. Publishers would much prefer it if ebooks were just like real books, only digital. The problem is, they are most emphatically not. Digital content is completely different – it can be easily shared, copied and moved around. These things are all good things; they’re what make ebooks cheaper to produce, easier to carry and faster to buy. They are why ebook readers buy more books than regular dead tree book readers. But ebooks could be more successful than they are, and the reason they are not is that publishers (and retailers) are still trying to control the content in a way that is even more restrictive than the dead tree books they are trying to emulate.

Why, to pick just one example, are ebook loaning rights so restrictive? Barnes & Noble’s Nook already has the ability to lend books, and the Kindle is soon to join it. However, owners of digital books will only be allowed to lend a book once for a period of two weeks. Does anyone in their right mind really think that the book business is going to be sunk by giving ebook readers the ability to loan out their books to a single person at a time for as long as they want as many times as they like? This is a basic feature of any dead tree book, and the benefits to the book industry are obvious. Anyone in publishing will tell you that the basic problem with selling books to people is getting people to read books. To paraphrase Tim O’Reilly, obscurity is a far greater threat to the book than piracy. It’s why publishers give away paper books to drum up interest in it. It’s one of the cheapest ways to market a book. Why not harness the word-of-mouth power of social networks to get books out there to at least as many people as it was already getting out there with the paper edition?

But no. Where producers are able to restrict, they restrict. What producers of content are not doing is working backwards from what their consumers want. Consumers want fast, cheap, easy access. Producers of content want to be paid enough to keep doing what they’re doing. There is a compromise position between these two points that allows both to be achieved. But it won’t happen when producers are sticking their heads in the sand and trying to recreate the analogue in an increasingly digital world.