Experiences with Reading Blogs

by Krishna on January 14, 2007

Recently, some of my friends have asked me about what the best way to read blogs is. My answer was to use the software I am using, namely, Google Reader. Since its recent updates, Google Reader has become increasingly powerful and easy to use. Among my favorite features are the following:

  • The shortcut keys (j, k, ga, s) so that I can easily navigate while eating or while using a laptop.
  • Starring allows me to read longer articles later while blowing through the rest.
  • Tagging helps me archive articles for future reference.
  • The recent “Personalized Trends” allows me to view my reading habits and change my subscriptions accordingly.

Although I have added it to my Personalized Google Home Page, I don’t use the Home Page very often since I am using the Google Sidebar. The integrated Gmail feature is good, but it doesn’t work the way I want it to, i.e., send the whole content instead of the link – and it doesn’t retain the text formatting very well. I also don’t like the way the tag delete functionality and subscribing work. For example, when I am reading a blog and I find 3 blog links and want to subscribe to all three of them, each time, the reader takes me to the new subscription while I just want to stay in the current blog and add the rest. And there are some performance problems, too – though it is much better on Firefox than IE.

Despite the negatives, I still like and recommend it. Previously, I tried the SharpReader RSS Reader – which however meant having to run another application. The intravNews reader was much better because it integrated with Outlook, but I was hampered by the fact that I could not access an important blog post when I was on another system. When Google Reader came out, I tried it out, but it was until only recently that I have started using it in a big way. Also, the release of Internet Explorer 7 also helped because you can now keep multiple tabs open in one single application. I usually have one IE instance open all the time at work or home – so it becomes rather easy.

Since I started using Google Reader, here are some of my observations and habits in reading blogs:

  • Generally I don’t subscribe to blogs that have a high frequency of daily posts (Boing Boing, Engadget, The Gothamist) or that have a very low weekly frequency. Robert Scoble is the major exception (in the high-frequency category) because his posts are shorter and more relevant – though sometimes he deviates into stuff like the Edwards campaign (which is really irrelevant to me in late 2006/early 2007).

    On the other side, I still subscribe to Stevey’s Blog Rants (now infrequent), because although I don’t quite like his one-sided bombasts, his writing is really good and entertaining. The “Good Agile, Bad Agile” rant is particularly ironic now for its talk of “relatively rare crunch periods” since Stevey seems to be really busy nowadays.

  • Generally, I like longer posts – when they are well-written and flow logically. Most end up starred initially and then find themselves tagged for reference.
  • Shorter posts are good when they present an idea in the form of a story or metaphor. These are useful representation of real-life events or things, but usually cannot (and perhaps should not) be extended too far to fit all scenarios.
  • I quickly unsubscribe from posts that want me to go to their website to read the full posts. The only exception is Pogue’s Posts. I do visit sites when the post is interesting enough to make me want to leave a comment.

I am slowly adding more blog feeds, seeing how it goes. I tend to remove feeds when it becomes more difficult to manage. After a few weeks more, I plan to post a list of my twenty most favorite/relevant blogs.

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