You’ve watched this video by the Common Craft guys on the definition of RSS and how to use it, right?
If you want to process a lot of information quickly, you can’t beat Google Reader. Instead of moving from website to website, typing in URLs, seeing if anything new has come up, and generally chewing up your exploration time on discovery, using an RSS reader properly allows you to “power slide” through a lot of information quickly, thus giving you more time to actually USE the information you find.
In my example, I’ll show you how to set up Firefox as a web browser for subscribing to feeds, and then how to use Google Reader to search through them.
Setting up Firefox and Google Reader
Step 1: Use Firefox– I recommend the Firefox web browser over IE7, Opera, and others. (Okay, you might try Camino, which is another branch of similar code. Why Firefox? Because it makes browsing easier. Because it’s more secure. Because it’s more flexible.
If you don’t want to use Firefox, skip down to the bold text that says FOLDERS, and you can play along.
Step 2: Set Up Firefox to Use Google Reader– Go to File> Preferences> Feeds, and select “Subscribe to the feed using” Google. I think at this point it gives you the option of Desktop or Reader. Choose Reader. This means when you click the little RSS button in your address bar, it will dump your new subscriptions into Google Reader.
Step 3: Find a Site to Add to Your Feed List– Say there’s a blog you like. Like BoingBoing. Go to that site, and look up at the upper right corner of your address bar. You should see a little orange icon (mine’s weird because I use a weird skin for my browser).
CLICK THE ORANGE BUTTON.
Choose Google Reader in this case.
**NOTE: Everything after here works the same on all browsers. If you don’t like Firefox (why?), this still applies to other browsers.**
Let’s pause a sec. You have two ways you can consume your feeds: all in a big pile, or in folders. If you want to better parse your time and attention, consider using a folder system.
In my case, I’ve set mine up like this:
The first folder are all my ego searches (checking Technorati and Google Blogsearch for references of my name, podcamp, network2, and some other terms). The rest are fairly self-explanatory.
The benefit to folders is being able to segregate your reading. The drawback is that they slow you down.
Step 4: Pick a Folder
Select which of your folders to add your new BoingBoing subscription into:
I chose “interesting,” which are items I want to read, but if I miss them, I won’t die.
Now, the Power Reading
Once you’ve got a healthy dose of feeds that you like, and that matter to you, like mine), you can then settle in to read new blog posts, news, alerts, and whatever else you’ve configured to land in your reader. When you note the expanded view in this picture, you’ll se some of the feeds I read. Develop your own list, and see what comes of it. If I were to bother recreating my folder list, I might choose 1-Me, 2-Friends, 3-Tech, 4-Business, 5-Video, 6-Interesting, 7-Recreation or some such. One thing I want is a way to segregate friends from FRIENDS. There are plenty of people I like who don’t fit another category, or who fall into the must-read, but I can’t bear to lose my REAL friends in the experience. So I haven’t solved it. What are your ideas?
Step 5: Navigating
Click on the folder group of feeds you want to read. From there, you’ll note the right hand part of the reader shows either an expanded view or a list view.
I prefer list view, and then I open the stories I want to read. Here’s how I navigate:
- Click the folder I want to read.
- Touch the N key. (N for NEXT). You’ll see a highlight around the first story.
- If you want to read the story, touch the O key (O for OPEN).
- When you’re done reading, touch the O key again, which un-OPENs it. (Note: there are a few ways to skin this cat. That’s how I do it.)
- Touch the N key to go down to the next story. And then so on.
- If you want to go back, touch the P key (P for PREVIOUS).
- NOTE: If you have a story open, and want to read in full open mode the whole way, you can use J and K to go forward and backwards. Experiment with it. That’s not how *I* do it, but others do.
A big FAQ list of the keyboard shortcuts is here. (I learned a new one just by going to find you this link).
Now, the next part is where this gets really cool.
Step 6: Power Tools
Google Reader has the following really cool options available for every bit you read:
Here’s what it all means:
- Add a star- put a little yellow star next to a post you want to go back to. (I don’t use this, nor do I recommend it).
- Share- mark a post to be included in your shared items page (more later). Do this often.
- Send via Email – if you use gmail, this is super powerful.
- Mark as Read – I don’t do it this way, but you can.
- Edit tags – I don’t use tags in Reader, but you can.
Step 7: Shared Items
When you share an item (either by click the Share icon above or by using keyboard command Shift S), it goes to a shared item page like this. This page can be shared a few ways. It can be viewed as a set web page. It has an RSS feed, which means you can dump *it* into a reader or share the best of your feeds with others (That’s what makes up Robert Scoble’s popular link blog). Or you can make a widget to display some of your recent shared items on your blog in the sidebar (check [chrisbrogan.com] and you’ll see it down the right hand side).
Sharing items is a great way to add value. By CURATING the stuff you read, and pointing out what you consider useful, you add to the overall world of aggregating and sharing good information.
Step 7: Put it all Together
Here’s a workflow for using what I just laid out for Google Reader:
- Click on the folder of items to read.
- Touch N
- To read certain articles, Touch O
- Share items, Touch Shift S (hold down shift and press S)
- To close an article, Touch O again.
- Go to the next item, Touch N
- To go back, Touch P
- To view the original page, Touch V (if you get a warning about a popup blocker, either disable it for Reader, or just use the mouse to click the bold blue text at the top of the post to pop a new window or tab, depending on how you’ve set up Firefox).
- When you’re done, go to the top of the page and click MARK ALL AS READ from the button on the blue bar below the folder name. This blues out all the pieces you might’ve chosen not to read, and sets your unread count to zero.
- Repeat on whatever folders you want to read.
Bonus: All items
Maybe you don’t mind blasting through ALL your feeds. To do so, click the ALL ITEMS option in the upper left hand corner just below Home. Then follow the workflow above.
Corrections, Addendums, YOUR Tricks
What have I missed? Anything? Let me know in the comments section. Heck, if there’s a way better tutorial, point it out. I’ll link to that as well.
I’m not saying there’s a best way to read a bunch of information quickly and process it efficiently. Okay, maybe I am, and I think this way is it. Disagree? Let me know your thoughts.
Chris Brogan blogs at [chrisbrogan.com]. If you want, add his RSS to your Google Reader.