I was just a bit panicked over the last few days when the news broke that Google Reader will be shut down as at 1 July this year. And coming just a few days after I was forced into changing from the Tweetdeck app to the web version, and not really liking it, it hasn't been a great week for me technologically.
Many years ago now, I discovered how much easier blog hopping is once you start using a RSS Feed to follow your blogs. This is especially true as you accumulate more and more blogs. For each blog I remove from the list (usually because they haven't posted for more than 6 months or so) I am sure I add at least three or four more! I am sure I am not the only one who does this!
On Twitter the other day the question was asked why people use a feed reader anyway, so I thought I would talk about my experiences with feed readers, the positives and negatives, why I don't choose to follow via other methods and maybe talk about the options going forward.
My number one reason for using a feed reader is that it is a time saver. When I first started, I maintained a blog roll and each day I would faithfully click on each link and see if there was a new post or not. It was all very well if there was but if there wasn't, there was a pointless visit. With a feedreader, you can see exactly who has posted since the last time you visited and how many times (yes, those people who post 5 times a day or more I am looking at you!)
Another reason I like using a feed reader is the ability to categorise blogs into groups. It means that if I am time poor for whatever reason, I can make sure that I have read at least one group. I have mine sorted into groups like Aussie bloggers, Historical Fiction bloggers, Must Read Romance, Must Read Book bloggers, Book Blogs, Others, Challenge Blogs and New Feeds. The last one is a label that I use when I meet a new blogger who I think I might like to follow, but I want to take a look at a few more posts before I decide for sure. Once I have decided I will move them into a different category.
One thing that I do find easier in a feed reader is finding a post that I know I have seen but can't remember where. By using the search feature, I can usually narrow down the list of blogs which talked about a specific book or perhaps a specific recipe. You can also "star" posts so that you can come back to them later.
There are downsides. That feeling of being "behind" is so much easier to succumb to when you open your feed reader and it tells you that not only are there posts to read but in fact there are more than 1000 of them! Some days that causes me to go "Mark all as read" and start again, but often I sit here and go through each category and read the posts, stopping to comment on the ones that interest me. And then I give myself a mental pat on the back for getting through them all and promise never to get in that situation again. Obviously I need to work on that second part because it keeps on happening.
The other thing is that sometimes it is easy to just read through your feeds and not actually click through to the blogs to make comments. There are some times that I am really good at that, but other times when I am not so good. One of the things I might do is to say I am going to make sure that I am going to comment on 10 posts in each group, or in an hour or something like that so that I can ensure that I am not just reading but also connecting with other bloggers.
So what about the other ways of connecting to bloggers, using methods like Google Friend Connect or subscribing to blogs via email?
I choose to be able to follow all of the blogs that I follow in one place, regardless of whether they are Blogger blogs or Wordpress or Typepad or whatever different variation they are. I don't want to have to look in one place for some and another for others etc. There are also some times when I think that the GFC thing is more about numbers than the connection that builds between bloggers. Let's not talk about the fact that my follower count in Blogger broke once I went to my own domain name. Apparently I haven't had a new follower in the last 3 years. In theory that could be true, but I would like to think that it isn't!
How about receiving posts via email? Like many other people, I get more than enough email without also getting a new email every time there is a new post from multiple blogs. Whenever there is the option I choose to follow any new comments that come on a post I have commented on previously so that I can possibly continue the interaction which is more than enough mail coming into the inbox.
I do get a bit cross when I see contests and the like that are specifically only for GFC followers or email subscribers. I do get that people can do what they like with their own blogs, but the fact that I choose to follow via RSS does not make me any less of a follower than someone who chooses to receive the emails or use GFC. Anyway... moving on.
So, I guess for people like me who choose to use Google Reader currently, the big question is where to from here? I could go back to Bloglines which was actually the first RSS feed reader that I used. The only reason I moved from there was that it was supposed to be closing down. I moved all of my feeds and then came the news that Bloglines was being taken over by a new company but given that I had already moved I never went back.
Whilst I have signed one of the #saveGoogleReader petitions that sprung up, the fact of the matter is that it is totally in Google's hands and even if it is saved this time, there is no guarantee that it won't be under threat again at some point in the future.
I get the impression that part of the reason for this closure is to try and get more people using Google+. I have to say that I have had a Google+ account for ages now, and I don't think I have actually worked out the best way to use it. I do participate in a closed group there which mostly works effectively but in terms of being a blogger I haven't yet worked out why I should expend my time and energy there or how I should go about it.
Maybe this is a good time to be having a look at what other services are out there in terms of RSS readers.
The kind of things I will be looking for in a new feed reader will be the ability to import my existing feeds from Google Reader, web based (I don't need yet another reading distraction on my phone - Twitter and Instagram take up enough of my time as it is), ability to organise into categories, easy to subscribe to new blogs and to manage existing blog, functional search facilities, preferably free or at the very least minimal cost.
Possible alternatives that I have seen mentioned include The Old Reader, Newsblur, Feedly, Feedreader, Google Currents (which I have never even heard of until today - who knows if that will close in due course as well), Taptu and Zite.
Tania from Girlxoxo.com has done a comparison post of four services: Netvibes, Bloglines, Bloglovin and Feedly which you may find interesting and I am sure that there will be other posts along those lines in due course.
At this stage I am leaning towards Feedly, but it is early days yet. Do you know what you are going to switch to with the demise of Google Reader?
Not actually reading anything at the moment. I am still listening to Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra
I am in the strange position of not having any library books due until early April and no review books due for 10 days or so so I can pick whatever I like! No idea what that will be yet though!