Google Reader is the single best tool on the Internet. There is a ton of news and information on the Internet, but people don’t know how to manage the onslaught of constantly changing content. Instead of taking advantage of the real-time nature of the web, they continue to utilize print, television and radio to get their current events, humor, music news, research publications, etc. often wasting time waiting for stories that interest them.
In Google Reader you subscribe to websites you are interested in, just like a magazine subscription. There are several ways to subscribe:
- In Google Reader, click the add a subscription button and enter the website URL or search terms and Google will find the feed for you.
- Just look for the RSS Icon and click on it. In Firefox this will bring you to a view of the feed. Just select Google from the list of subscription options and then click subscribe now.
- This icon may also appear in your browser’s address bar. Click it and you will be given subscription options.
In addition to giving you relevant information, Google Reader has a social aspect which allows you to share articles with your friends and see their shared articles. It’s a great way to foster discussion and helps us come across content we would not otherwise see. These shared items can be imported to Facebook, further extending their reach.
Google Reader has been a boon for my productivity – I no longer compulsively check sites for updates, they come to me. The trends feature allows me to look at what I’m really reading and determine whether my subscriptions are really worth it. Shared items have promoted hundreds of conversations. My morning routine now begins with an hour on Google Reader, like Granddad’s newspaper reading.
How do you pick good feeds? Well you can start with websites and blogs you normally visit. From there, add your friends blogs and put them in a Friends folder. As you add blogs, consider their volume and quality. The best feeds are low-volume and high-quality, where nearly every article is a must-read. Some feeds are meant for scrutinizing, while others are meant for skimming headlines.
Here are some essential feeds: (for more check out my Master Subscription List)
Yahoo! News Top Stories – aggregate of AP, Reuters and AFP headlines. Feed just prints leading sentence and picture. Gives a good overview of what the mass media is talking about. High volume, low clickthrough.
Boston Globe: The Big Picture – The best photojournalism, about 3-4 slideshows a week.
First Read – MSNBC’s political analysis blog, lots of volume. Good feel for what’s going on in Washington right now.
The Economist: International – The Economist is one of my favorite print magazines, and the international section is the best part of it.
The Economist: The world this week – Worth subscribing to regardless of interest in politics, as it provides an excellent summary of the world each week.
GOOD transparency – great section of an online magazine with infographs (example: first 100 days of the presidency from Roosevelt to Obama )
Ars Technica – moderate volume, high quality. Great articles on everything technology
Mind Hacks – AMAZING blog about all things to do with the mind. They have a post every other week entitled “Brain Spikes” that just link to a ton of interesting articles.
TED Blog – Blog from TED Talks with more information on talks and generally cool stuff
LifeHacker – High volume blog filled with cool programs and ideas to help boost productivity
The Simple Dollar – Great blog on personal finances. Make sure to check out his free eBook – “Everything You Ever Really Needed to Know About Personal Finance on Just One Page”
Zen Habits – Excellent productivity blog which spawned the Zen to Done (ZTD) system, a more practical version of Getting Things Done (GTD). See how I’ve implemented part of it: Doin Thangs.
Final tip: Review your feeds every month and try to eliminate 10% of your feeds to reduce your volume. I often find myself unsubscribing from great feeds because I’m not actually reading them, and because there are friends who will fill that gap through shared items.
If you know of more useful feeds or have any Reader tips, feel free to comment!