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RSS Subscriptions In Really Simple Language: The Whats, The Hows, The Whys, The Wherefores, The Whatnots

RSS Subscriptions In Really Simple Language: The Whats, The Hows, The Whys, The Wherefores, The Whatnots

OK, so it’s time to have full-fledged ABDPBT subscription drive. Look, it’s Tuesday and I’m sure you have nothing else to do [cough]. I don’t want to hear any complaining. Because what I’ve been hearing around the blogosphere lately is a lot of bitching and moaning about how little time everyone has, and how blogs are this big old time suck and wah wah wah. Boo frickidy hoo.

Blogs don’t have to be a time suck. Or, well, they don’t have to be quite so much of a time suck. It occurred to me that perhaps I was making assumptions about my readership that were not accurate–perhaps I assumed that because I knew all about RSS subscriptions that all of you did, too. And I know some of you have been RSSing since before I was even a glint in the blogosphere’s eye, but ever since I switched my feeds from Feedburner to Google, I lost a chunk of you.

So it’s time to let everyone in on the dirty little secret of blogging: there’s an easy way to cut the time you spend checking your favorite blogs in half. Maybe even in quarters. That method? RSS subscription through Google Reader.

rss.jpgAre you still checking your blogs one by one? Chances are that you are–only a small fraction of internet users use RSS. When I first started reading blogs regularly–oh, about 8 months ago–I was checking my list of blogs every day for new entries. Since not all bloggers write every day, this resulted in a bunch of wasted trips around the net. Sure, each one only took a few seconds, but if you add these trips up, you can definitely spend a ton of time looking around for nothing. Finally I realized there was a reason that nearly every blog has a symbol like the one at right on it.

So, what is RSS?
RSS is short for “Really Simple Syndication,” and it is basically just a feed of information that allows you to receive the most recent content from websites in one central location. Each blog has an RSS feed (or two or three) that can be sent to a news reading program like Google Reader almost like an email. When you subscribe to an RSS feed, you are telling that website that you want to be notified of all new information that is posted on that website. As such, the RSS feed does the work for you–it checks each blog site for new material and delivers it to your reader when it’s ready.

The reader program that you use is where all of your feeds are displayed. I prefer Google Reader, myself, but there are many different programs such as Bloglines and Newsgator. The advantage of using Google Reader is that, not only do they always have the most up to date technology and organization programs, they also hook everything up, so if you already have a gmail account, you have a Google Reader account already, even without knowing it!

How do I subscribe? Is this going to be difficult? Please help me: I am cold and frightened.
NO. This will not be difficult at all. All you have to do is look for the little button that I showed above. Sometimes it will be blue, sometimes orange, sometimes there will be words around it that say “subscribe”. All you have to do is find it and click on it. For example, if you use Firefox as your browser (and you should), to subscribe to ABDPBT’s full feed (ABDPBT has four feeds, by the way: 1) the full feed (contains everything), 2) ABDPBT feed, 3) the ABDPBT Personal Finance) feed, 4) the ABDPBT Tech feed; and 5) the ABDPBT Commodity Fetishism feed), you should go up to the address bar of your browser like this:

All you have to do is click on that icon, and it will take you to a screen that looks like this:

Then you can just add it to Google Reader, and bingo! Every time there’s a new post on ABDPBT, it will be delivered to your Google Reader. If you are not using firefox, or you can’t find the button, or you’re otherwise confused, you can paste the blog’s URL into the reader. Here’s what you should look for in Google Reader to do this:

If you are subscribing to ABDPBT, ABDPBT Personal Finance, or The Bathroom Wall, you will note that on the individual posts, there is always a box with a link from which you can subscribe. This box looks like this:

Wait, why am I doing this again?
This will make your blog reading easier and save you time. Now if you’re planning on giving up blogs altogether, that’s one thing–but if you want to be able to read your blogs without wasting a ton of time searching all over the net, then this is how you want to do it. Oh, and by the way, if you’re one of those people who reads the newspaper online, you can use these feed readers for those things too! You just go to the section of whatever newspaper it is that you want to subscribe to, and find the feed for that section, and subscribe! It works for just about everything these days. It is a great way of consolidating everything into one place, so that when you’re ready to do your daily reading, you just have to open Google Reader and choose from the various new posts that are listed in your subscription menu.

Another reason for subscribing that isn’t immediately apparent is that it is great for those times that you stumble upon a cool new website or blog and you don’t want to forget about it. Just add it to your reader, and then you won’t have to remember the address or wonder what the exact name was the next time you try to find it. If you’re like me, you’re always coming across new stuff that interests you, but you can’t keep all the names straight in your head. Google Reader takes the guesswork out of it for you.

Comments (26)

  1. Skinn
    Feb 3, 2009

    Dear Saint Anna,

    Thank you for finally explaining this like a human. My boyfriend, a somewhat tech geek, has tried to hook me up – in the RSS sense naturally – numerous times but frankly the explanations were confusing, had no pictures and thus became boring.

    I get it. Yes, i do!
    I’m a convert

  2. Feb 3, 2009

    My husband works with computers all day, and doesn’t know how to add my blog to his My Yahoo page. I think I’ll refer him to your post!

    Ginny Marie´s last blog post..Tears

  3. Feb 3, 2009

    I’m sending this to my husband. I’m trying to get him to be more hip to this stuff.

    I finally started doing this a couple of months ago, and it is a HUGE timesaver. I’m able to keep up with a lot more blogs than before. It’s also a great way to easily try out a new blog and see if you like it, without having a long list of bookmarks to check. You even get the photos (like those ones that Dooce posts daily…I get those via RSS, and they’re just as big as they are if you go directly to the site).

    Subscribing is also a nice way to support the bloggers you like. One of the ways a blog’s success is measured is by the number of subscriptions…so I always subscribe if I like the blog.

    Kerry´s last blog post..Meet the Blow It Out Your Ass Guy

  4. Feb 3, 2009

    I’m so ahead of the curve on this one.

  5. Feb 3, 2009

    @jenni, quiet, fancypants. 🙂

    @Kerry, I know–it’s kind of a revelation when you start using a reader instead of just visiting the sites.

    @Skinn: AWESOME. I knew that people must need an explanation for this. I’m glad it worked for you.
    @Ginny Marie: LOL That’s funny!

  6. I clearly dig you so much that your new entries show up twice in my Google Reader!

    foradifferentkindofgirl (fadkog)´s last blog post..things i learned while watching the super bowl, which, truth be told, i didn’t care about. at all.*

  7. Feb 3, 2009

    fadkog, that is devotion, I must say.

  8. Feb 3, 2009

    Crap. I just Feedburned my site. Whatever that means. How would I go about changing it to Google Reader. And why would I want to – what are the relative merits of Google Reader?

    eliz´s last blog post..Tinkisms

  9. Feb 3, 2009

    @Eliz: that’s OK, Feedburner was bought out by Google, so all feedburner feeds will be migrated to google, I believe automatically. I did this a few months ago, because I wanted to put adsense for feeds on my feeds. Check your account, but I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that feedburner would be migrating to google on its own.

    Feedburner is just a way of localizing the url of the feed, more or less. It’s a little more accurate than just using the default address. And you can track user stats with it, etc. But all of those features will be available in almost exactly the same format via google.

  10. Feb 3, 2009

    Eliz, Google Reader is different from having your feeds “burned” through Google or Feedburner. I should have made that clearer. Google reader is just the program you use to read the feeds of other blogs, whereas Feedburner/Google Feeds is the uh, how can I say it, the technology that drives the feed of your own blog. What sends it to other people’s Google Readers, in other words. Or sends it to other people’s bloglines, or whatever. I hope that makes sense.

  11. Feb 3, 2009

    Bloglines works out well for me (and yes, I subscribe to you on it). 🙂

    But are YOU subscribing to ME? 🙂

    3carnations´s last blog post..Make every moment count

  12. Feb 3, 2009

    Most blogs have feeds, not all. I read a couple of old school blogger blogs without feeds. I have to manually go check them a couple of times a week. Other than that, feeds really are a huge timesaver!

    Can you do a post on how to figure out statistics for your blog? If you are selling ads or whatever, they often ask for stats, but does everyone know how to figure that out?!

    NGS´s last blog post..45 x 365 #83

  13. AKD
    Feb 3, 2009

    I tried to set this up a couple months ago on MyYahoo, but it was a little clunky. I think I need to try Google Reader.

  14. Feb 3, 2009

    @Anna – Gotcha. That makes sense now. A question, though … How do you feel about people reading you via feeder when you have spent time making your blog look nice? None of the design features come through, and I find when I read blogs on Google Reader I don’t get a sense of who’s speaking. I like to see the post on the blog, with all the sidebars, to get the full experience.

    eliz´s last blog post..Tinkisms

  15. Feb 3, 2009

    @3carnations–I didn’t even know you were here until now! But I will definitely go check you out.

  16. Feb 3, 2009

    @Eliz, you make a good point. I guess I am of two minds: on the one hand, I want people to read my blog, and anything that facilitates that goal is fine with me. I do know what you are saying about the voice being connected to the blog, and to a certain degree I believe that’s true. One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that the reader strips away all the bells and whistles and lets the writing stand on its own. And in some ways, that is enlightening. Also, a subscribed reader is a dedicated reader, it tells you something more than just a random “unique” visit, if that makes sense.

  17. Feb 3, 2009

    Hmmm, I might have to try this, since your explanations are so clear and your reasoning so convincing.

    J.´s last blog post..Tagged Again

  18. Feb 3, 2009

    I was using Feedburner, but somehow someway my feed stopped updating (thank goodness 1 of my 2 subscribers let me know — I wasn’t smart enough to follow my OWN blog to make sure it was working okay… lol). After much searching and template adjusting and widget deleting, I managed to fix it.

    Just don’t ask me how. 😉

    Google Reader is my bloggy BFF.

    Chibi Jeebs´s last blog post..Role reversal

  19. Feb 3, 2009

    Great post. I am convinced of the goodness of Google Reader–I even have a bunch of blogs (and other websites on there). Yet somehow I still go around to blogs one by one. Maybe because I’m usually clicking over from my commenters? I need to rededicate myself to efficiency. I am even subscribed to ABDPBT!

    But my question is, how do you know how many subscribers you have? I know I have some–I can tell from my referrals–but if you knew you lost some, where were you looking for that info?

    becky´s last blog post..Thwarted. Denied. Stymied.

  20. Feb 3, 2009

    @Becky, one of the reasons people use services like Feedburner is to track numbers of subscribers. If you burn a feed with them, or google adsense for feeds, you will be able to track your number of subscribers, as well as some other stats on their website.

  21. Feb 3, 2009

    @Chibi Jeebs, feedburner has had some problems with losing subscribers of late, I’ve heard. That’s too bad your feed was compromised.

  22. Feb 3, 2009

    Ah, got it. I haven’t done Feedburner–I just have the little orange button on my site. Thanks!

    becky´s last blog post..OMG WHY ARE WE SCREAMING?: Stuff That Cracked Me Up Today

  23. Megan
    Feb 4, 2009

    I started using Google reader like you recommended……….. WAY easier than bouncing around to the different blogs I read!!! You’re the best! (obviously)

  24. May 21, 2010

    This is a great article and I notice that a lot of my readers don’t really utilize the RSS feed as they should. With twitter being easy to keep up with, my posts are always updated through there.

    The thing that I’m kind of stumped on now though is how come my feed are partial and aren’t full. I like having my readers come to my blog but most of the time the reader should perform it’s own function to provide the full article. I’ve tried activating the full feed from Reading settings and checked out Feedburner’s too. Still no use.

    Any suggestions? Much appreciated.
    Thu Nguyen

  25. Hi Anna–I am new here, and I adore your site. You have given me a whole book of info as I’ve fished around here. Here’s a question–I was reading through this article, and it seems the pics, I can only assume are screenshots?, are not showing up. Are there supposed to be pics? If so, are you going to redo?

    PS–I’m obsessed, OBSESSED with lists. So much that I actually want to start making a list of crap I have still yet to do, look up, and research all over your site. Thanks for all the great advice.

  26. Sep 29, 2010

    Thank you so much for letting me know about this! I had turned off a gallery plugin that was controlling those screenshots. I’ve fixed them now, so you should be able to see them. I have also updated some of the links here that are out of date. This is a good reminder to go through your old posts periodically to make sure everything is still working!

    Glad you like the site, and welcome! Thanks for your comment.

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