Wednesday, November 12, 2008

[TIPS] Part II - Weaning off the mailinglist

Sorry – I was busy yesterday and didn’t get this out. Maybe two today.

In the last tip I gave you a few definitions that we’re going use during this process. Don’t worry if you can’t remember them, as we’ll be using them enough that you’ll know them by the time we’re done.

We’re now going to take a look at the aggregators. (An application that collects ‘feeds’) There are several out there, but I’ll be referring to just four. Google Reader, Netvibes, Pageflakes, and Bloglines. Another, iGoogle, is a lot like Pageflakes and Netvibes, although it IS easier to subscribe with when you’re using Firefox. Each site functions a bit differently. I wasn’t going to go into detail with each one due to all the writing that would take. But, since this step is the make or break step I think I’ll have to.

Let’s first hear about the four options so you can decide for yourself which one you might want to start with . You’re not stuck with one forever should you change your mind later, however, so relax. Read the descriptions and pick one that sounds interesting.

Google reader (http://reader.google.com)
This one is fairly straight forward once you’re set up. Feeds can be arranged into folders. I’ve got an education folder, an entertainment folder, a delicious folder, a Mac Tips folder, etc, and I put the feeds into the corresponding folders. All folders and feeds are listed down the left side of the page. When you click on a feed in the left side it opens up in the middle so you can read it, email it to someone, save it, star it, and more. I like this reader because it will let me read the posts right within the reader rather than having to read a sample of the post and then rush click again to go to the actual blog to read it.

Netvibes (http://www.netvibes.com)
This one (and Pageflakes) are completely different in the “look and feel” department. Instead of arranging your feeds into folders you put them into tabs. Clicking a tab name will show all the feeds in that tab, arranged in columns and you can drag and drop the feeds around on the page to suit. Each feed appears in a block which can be collapsed to relieve crowding issues. You could have a tab for sports feeds, another for education feeds, etc., just as I have folders for my education feeds. The problem I see with it, however, is that if you have a lot of feeds you have to do a lot of scrolling. And, I’m not crazy about how the feeds themselves can be read. But that’s just me. There are TONS of folks who prefer this aggregator. It makes a great “home page”, as well. And, there are lots of little widgets, etc that you can add to add some fun to your tabs.

Pageflakes (http://www.pageflakes.com)
Similar to Netvibes this one uses tabs to organize the feeds. Again, the ajax coding allows you to rearrange them by dragging and dropping. You can add widgets, and you can even share a tab with others – even to the point of allowing them to contribute to your page. Both this and Netvibes allow you to make your tabs public. (At least I THINK they both do) As with Netvibes, Pageflakes is popular enough that many blogs especially had buttons on them to aid in subscribing using that service. Also a very nice choice that makes a great home page. You can add a lot of cool widgets, too.

Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com)
This one was my favorite for years, but I found that a feature in it, the Image Wall, was enough to have it blocked in some districts. However, I did like how the feeds were arranged (in a column on the left) and how you could read them. You can make some folders publicly viewable, too. Here’s mine: http://www.bloglines.com/public/jgates513. Of course, it looks a bit different from the owner’s viewpoint, but the layout is the same. If only that Image Wall weren’t there.

We won’t do anything today, if you don’t want, but tomorrow for SURE we’ll create the account in the aggregator of your choice. You brave souls can go ahead and do that today, if you wish.

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