Note: At Jeremy’s suggestion, I’m reposting a piece I once wrote on how to use an RSS reader as a blogging tool. Steps #1-4 are all you need if you just want to use an RSS reader for reading blogs, but I included the rest in case anyone is interested in implementing a useful system for creating blog posts.
For the first three years I was a blogger, I remained a blogroll purist. I steadfastly refused to use an RSS reader to keep track of the blogs I read on a daily basis. Every night I would spend hours trawling through the fifty blogs on my blogroll. That was the proper manner for a blogger. Real bloggers, I would snobbishly contend, read blogs not feeds.
Then one day, on a whim, I decided to test Google Reader and my blogging was forever changed. The change was like trading in a horse and buggy for a Hummer.
The RSS reader entirely changed the paradigm of blogging by reducing the attention cost I paid for each blog. Currently, I have 349 feeds yet while every blog—indeed every post—gets my attention every single day I spend less time than I did when I used the blogroll method. In economic terms, the cost per post in processing time has dropped considerably, allowing me to spend more of my attention on a greater number of blogs. I’m also able to keep track of interesting posts and links by combining my RSS reader and email account into a “blog filing system.”
I’m a Google-phile so the example that I’ll be using combines Google Reader (GR) and GMail. Although I can’t imagine why anyone would choose to use any other kind of feedreader or email account, this process can be modified to fit almost any system.]
1. Set up your RSS Reader — If you don’t already have one, create an account for Google Reader.
2. Add Feeds — GR makes it easy to add a subscription. Simply fill in the URL of the blog or site you want to add.
Some blogs have more than one option for viewing the blog feed. Evangel, for example, has an RSS feed for each of the authors (click their name on the masthead to go to their author page which has the feed.)
3. Add Feeds to Folders — Folders are particularly useful for those times when you don’t have time to read every feed or when you need information about a specific topic. Rather than classifying blogs by overly broad descriptive terms (i.e., Christian Blogs; Philosophy Blogs), group them in folders with titles that reflect how you use them (i.e., Current News, Resources for Bible study).
You can always change or relabel these folders later if a blog turns out not to fit with a particular category.
4. Star Posts for Further Review — The next step is to weed through the posts, separating the wheat from the chaff. Quickly skim each blog post to determine if it is worthy of further attention. If so, add a star in the upper left hand corner.
Using this method you should be able to skim hundreds of post in less than an hour.
5. Set Up A Filing System — Once we have the labels for our filing system in place, we need to file the article. You can use GR as a filing system by using “tags.”
7. File Your Starred Post — Once your filing system is in place, you can go back through your starred items and file them away. Using keyboard shortcuts you can process dozens of posts in a matter of minutes.
8. Plunder Your Files for Links and Post Ideas — Work your system regularly and you should find that you are never at a loss for intriguing blog material.