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Do you use a feed reader to scan blog posts? Or do you read them on their original sites?
Smart people have realised that they can save a lot of time by …

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12th March 2007 at 7:34 am

Do you use a feed reader to scan blog posts? Or do you read them on their original sites?

Smart people have realised that they can save a lot of time by reading their web favourites all in one place – the feed reader, or aggregator. They can also keep an effortless eye on their industry or their competitors.

An increasing number of web pages now contain RSS feed links. Instead of having to go off and visit your favourite blogs and websites, or search for regularly-needed information, you can grab an RSS feed, drop it into your reader and just wait for the interesting stuff to appear.

Below this paragraph is a reduced size screenshot of a reader in action. It’s a classic three-pane view with a list of topic sections and feeds on the left, a list of items in the currently selected feed in the top right, and the content of the feed items laid out, newspaper-style, bottom right. This is one of six layouts offered by GreatNews.

Feed reader

You really have three choices when it comes to readers: desktop standalone, embedded in another application or hosted. The first usually provides the richest and smoothest user experience, but requires a degree of self-discipline when you go on the road. The second is probably less sophisticated, but it’s just a mouse click away. But, by hosting your information and presenting it to you through a web browser, the third type frees you from using any particular computer.

If I were using a single laptop or desktop all the time, I would probably use GreatNews, RSSBandit or one of the embedded readers. If I were on the road a lot and not sure whose machine I’d be using, I’d probably go for a hosted service like Google Reader or Bloglines. If I were to be using my own machines, one on the road and one in the office, I’d probably go for BlogBridge, which runs as a standalone but hosts the most recent version of your feeds and their read status.

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David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World. http://freeformdynamics.com

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  1. Kelvin says:

    Hi David,

    I’ve used a few different feed readers, albeit all web-based. I’ve used bloglines, rojo.com, newshutch.com and Google reader.

    The Google Reader has definitely surpassed all others and become a must-have application for me… however I have to say that the more the more I “consume” content through a reader, the more it seems like a chore. A reader is almost a must have in the current age, but I would suggest keeping a few sites off the reader just to enjoy them as they are.

  2. David Tebbutt says:

    Thanks for the comment Kelvin. I’ve been on the road teaching a bunch of people how to handle the press. (It’s what I do to subsidise my writing activities.)

    I agree that it’s nice to visit some sites in the traditional fashion but I do it by flitting across from the feed reader if something catches my eye. It’s often much nicer to read stuff in its original context. Apart from anything else, you can often see textual emphasis (italics etc) or graphics, perhaps, that might not appear in the reader.

    I am a fan of readers but I find myself regularly pruning my feeds. I have to be brutal at times and I miss some old favourites. But if they post too frequently, write too much or include irrelevant dross among the good stuff, then they’re for the high jump.

    Sad but true. I have only so much time…

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