Keeping up-to-date with your favorite blogs

I’m a late adopter. When new things come out, I don’t pay them much attention because I’m used to making do with what I have. When I bought a video player, everyone else was buying a DVD player (okay, not quite, but DVD players were just around the corner). And so it was with using a large screen with my computer (you want to spend $700 on a screen – are you insane? For the record, I LOVED that screen for close to 10 years). And using two screens (a client couldn’t fathom how I worked on a laptop, and so to say thanks for a project she bought me a second monitor to plug into my laptop. Yet another case of how did I live without this?) And blogs. What the heck is a blog and why do I care?

I suspect I’m not the only one to have just discovered the incredible wealth of cool stuff in the blogosphere, so if you’re a late adopter like me, here are five tips to help you make the most of your favorite blogs.

1. Remember the blog address.
I think we all start out this way. You hear that a friend is blogging, and you know the URL for their blog. You remember it, and when you have time, you go to the blog to see what’s new. The problem with this method is that you have so much to do and so many things to remember, that life gets in the way. You end up missing the good posts, the ones the blogger wrote especially with you in mind. But you can always catch up, right? As the Kiwis would say – yeah, nah. Who has the time or inclination to go back and read the ten posts since last time you looked at a blog?

2. Add the blog as a Favorite/Bookmark.
When you follow a few blogs, remembering their addresses starts to become a problem. So I’d suggest, that when you find a cool new blog, save it as a Favorite or Bookmark, or use Delicious, so that you can find it again. There is nothing more annoying than remembering that you read something fascinating, and then digging through your browser history trying to find the site again. Been there, done that!

3. Share it.
These days Sharing is all the rage. You can click the Facebook Like or Share button to share an interesting story with your Facebook friends, Tweet it, Digg it, or Stumble it. In fact, there are hundreds of tools for sharing things with your friends, but just pick a couple that you find easy to use. (There are also ways of linking your different social networking tools so that when you do share something, it is shared with all your social sites, but I think that’s a story for another post.) Look for these buttons or something similar at the bottom of posts:

Some people follow blogs this way too. You follow a Facebook fan page for a blog, and when the blogger posts links on their fan page to new posts, you can open the link to the blogpost directly from Facebook. I do this sometimes too, but for the blogs I’m more serious about I like to be more assured that I’m getting all the posts (see the next two tips).

4. Subscribe by email.
Most blogs let you subscribe by email. That means you enter your email address, and from then on, new blogposts are sent to you directly by email. This is great, because it means that you never miss the posts from your favorite blogs. And bloggers love this because it gives them some idea of who their audience is, and they can tailor their blogposts to things you might find interesting.

5. Subscribe to a feed (RSS).
When you subscribe to more than a handful of blogs, you need a better way of checking your blogs. You don’t want all those blogposts cluttering up your email Inbox, getting in the way of email that you have to answer or act on. RSS feeds (real simple syndication) provide an XML feed that can be read by a feed reader, so all your blog feeds can be read in a single place. There are lots of feed readers, but two of the common ones are Outlook and Google Reader.

If you decide to use Outlook, look in the left pane for the RSS Feeds folder. Right-click on the folder and select Add a New RSS feed. Enter the address for the RSS feed for the blog. Usually the address ends in xml or rss. (If you need help with this, give me a yell.) Each feed that you add, appears in your RSS Feeds folder. Like with your email folders, when there are new posts, the feed name is bolded, and the number of new posts appears to the right.

If you decide to use Google Reader, sign into Google, and click on the Reader link. Then you can simply click the RSS button on the blog, and select Google, then Google Reader. You can sort the blogs into categories to make it easy to find your cooking blogs, your craft blogs, or your cycling blogs. But the best feature, is that if you click All Items, you can see the latest posts from all the blogs, in the order that they were posted. This makes it easy to scan through your blogs every day and see if any grab your attention. Or you can use a Google gadget on your iGoogle home page (if you happen to be a fan of iGoogle, which I am), so then you can see the 5 or 10 newest posts right there on your home page. I love this, because you can tell at a glance if there’s anything new. Here’s what my Google Reader gadget looks like:

Google Reader is like an Inbox for blogs, so like with your email, it’s good to check it every day to see what’s happening in the blogosphere.

There are hundreds of ways of managing the blogs you read. These are just a few to get you started. Let me know if you find another tool that works better for you. I’m trying to change my late adopter ways!

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Spam-o-rama

Being a blogging newbie, I have so many things to learn.

For example, SPAM. We’re all inundated with spam in our email, but I had no idea that blogs are subject to spamming too. This blog, hosted by WordPress.com has a spam filter. The only information I’ve seen about the spam so far is in the form of a graph. Like this:

So you can see, not much spam. And I’ve got no idea what it is or where it came from. (Ham are the comments that you guys are leaving – ie. the valuable stuff!)

On my other site (email me if you want a link), I’ve been getting comment spam, which like email spam, I have to delete. Here’s an example:

“I just wanted to jot down a brief message so as to say thanks to you for all of the superb concepts you are posting at this site. My extensive internet look up has finally been honored with pleasant details to share with my friends. I would declare that most of us site visitors are quite endowed to dwell in a notable place with very many outstanding people with helpful tips. I feel really blessed to have used your entire website page and look forward to so many more thrilling moments reading here. Thanks once again for everything.”

If I approve this comment, the person can add comments to all my posts with links selling stuff like online classes and viagra, or just send my readers to places I would never recommend.

Interesting eh?