I’ve been having a play with various RSS readers since I started following blogs.
Google Reader was the first that I tried and I was also using iGoogle as my start page at the time. I found Google Reader very easy to use, particularly through my start page. The good (and bad!) thing about this was that I was checking my feeds pretty much all day, whenever I went back to my start page (which I do fairly regularly as I use it for my to do list). Although this was great for keeping really up to date and meant that I didn’t have to spend a lot of time all at once checking my feeds, I also found it disruptive as it was eating into my day (you could say I should just learn to be more disciplined and ignore it of course but I get far too easily distracted, particularly when I’m studying!).
At the same time as thinking about this, I decided to give a different start page a go – iGoogle was good but I wanted a play with PageFlakes as Phil Bradley raves about it so much in his How to use Web 2.0 in your Library book. When I set up my start page on PageFlakes I chose a few of my favourite blogs and added them to a separate page titled “Web 2.0”. I kept my to do list and links to sites relating to work on my main page which meant I only saw the blogs when I actively wanted to. I also exported my blogs from Google Reader (which was a seamless procedure thanks to their Export to OPML feature) and put them into the PageFlakes Reader. This was, quite frankly, a disaster. The PageFlakes Reader took an age to find new posts, often the posts were all over my page (i.e. not aligned for some reason) and I found that many posts, despite having read them and marked them as read numerous times, kept coming up as new posts. The option to view the blog in its original page through the reader was useful, but apart from that I found it very difficult to use.
I then decided to try something completely different, BlogLines – which specialises in RSS/blog feeds. One of the main reasons for trying it was actually related to work – it’s something one of my colleagues recommend students use to subscribe to our library blogs so I thought I should give it a go. I again exported my OPML and imported it into BlogLines. At the time I was playing around, BlogLines Beta was being tested so I decided to have a play with that too. I’ve organised my blogs more (lots of separate folders so that if I only have a bit of time I can just check the Library/Web 2.0 blogs as they are the ones I am most interested in keeping up to date with) and now only check when I have time to rather than all the time. I realise for some people this defeats the object a little (having to go and check what has been updated) but it suits me better and at least I only have to check one place. One thing I particularly like about BlogLines Beta is the 3 pane view, I can select the folder I want from the left hand pane, then scroll down the titles of the posts on the top right hand pane, and click to view those I want to in the main pane. (see the screenshot below – click for a bigger version). I can also save things to read or refer to later by pinning them which works really well. The only thing I miss from BlogLines in BlogLines Beta is the ability to see other subscribers and see what they have subscribed to – I found a few blogs by searching other people’s blogs who share my interests. I can’t work out how to do this on BlogLines Beta but I’m sure there must be a way!
So, in summary, I think Google Reader and BlogLines are both excellent for controlling your feeds, BlogLines particularly so with all its new features. Using PageFlakes as a reader I’d steer well clear of though – great start page, lousy reader.
Anyone else have any favourites or different experiences?