Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to Manage your Google Reader Without Losing Your Mind

Happy Wednesday, friends!  Do you have tomorrow off from work? I am planning a relaxing day in yoga pants and fuzzy slippers, reading blogs and cooking in my newly reorganized kitchen! Any special requests? :)

Today's post has been a week or so in the making and I hope you find it useful and interesting. While sipping the most amazing tea of our lives at Leland Tea Company in SF on Sunday, Teri and I got to chatting about reading blogs (duh) and how we manage reading, commenting, saving recipes for later, etc. It's a massive task, and no one system is perfect, but here are a few of my tips for making the most of your Google Reader.

Google Reader Next Button
I've blogged about this before after I heard about it from Savvy Julie earlier this year.  Basically, the Google Reader Next button has revolutionized my blog reading habits and it is so easy. Here are 4 simple steps for getting set up.

1. Log in to Google Reader
2. Click "Settings" in the top right corner and select "Reader Settings"

3. Select "Goodies" from the menu across the top
4. Scroll down to "Put Reader in a bookmark" and drag the "Next" button into your bookmarks bar. I like to leave it as the very last bookmark so I don't mis-click.

Clicking the Next button will take you to the newest item in your Google Reader. The best part is that you don't have to read blogs in Reader anymore, because the Next button takes you to the actual blog post! This gives the blog you read traffic and you see the post in the way it was intended to be read (sometimes Reader messes with the formatting, etc).

You can also create a Next button for a specific tag if you separate your Reader into categories or folders. Just select the tag you want to create the button for and then drag the button into your toolbar like before. You can rename the button anything you like by going to Organize Bookmarks under your browser's "Bookmarks" menu.

I keep my blogs in Reader separated into the following Folders:
  • Cooking
  • Friends
  • Food/Fitness
  • Teaching
  • Wedding (yes, I still read a few wedding blogs... They're so pretty!)
  • Design/Lifestyle
Using the Next button kind of eliminates my need for folders (since I didn't create a Next button for specific folders as outlined above), but as a highly organized person, they just make me feel better. :) You could also organize your blogs by ones that post daily versus ones that post less often (or ones you want to read daily versus ones you want to read less often) or by any other system that makes your little organizational heart sing.

I cannot sing the praises of Taboo highly enough. This is a great little Firefox plugin that everyone should be using. Once I started using the Next button, I realized that "starring" blog entries was getting more difficult (since I was on the actual blog and not in Reader). However, just bookmarking them didn't help me much either because I always forget to go back to my bookmarks. And then I installed Taboo.

Taboo is a Firefox toolbar add-on that lets you save a website for later by taking a snapshot of the web page, including session state information (such as how far you've scrolled on the page and information in forms). The basic premise is that instead of having a million tabs open of pages you want to go back to, you just keep them all in one tab. Even when you quit Firefox, your tabs are still saved!

The plug-in adds just two little buttons to your toolbar, so it's pretty unobtrusive and definitely not clunky (I had clunky plug-ins!). You click on the button on the left to save a tab and the button on the right to access all your saved tabs.

You can then search/browse through all your saved tabs. A single click and you're back to the same place on the page as when you saved it.

You can access your saved tabs a number of ways. My favorite is the grid view:

When you mouse over a saved tab, it enlarges it for you!

You can also access your saved tabs in the details view, where you can enter notes about the tab:

There is also a calendar view, so if you can't find that recipe for Lemon Bars but know that you saved that tab back in February, you can look for it that way. Ah-maze-ing. I love Taboo!

"Just Say No"
This last tip is the easiest, but the hardest at the same time. Sometimes, when I am feeling like my Reader is never empty and I am just skimming blogs to get to the next one (instead of reading and commenting and contributing to the conversation, which should be the whole point), I start pruning my blog list. I have a few criteria that I consider when adding a blog and I follow that same criteria when I decide to remove it.
  1. Do I like your writing style? 
    • As an English teacher, common spelling/grammar errors drive me mad. I know I'm guilty of making mistakes now and then, but a blatant disregard for punctuation and frequently misspelled/confused words (there, their, they're!) is a huge irritation for me
  2. Do you post content that I find interesting? 
    • Personally, I am interested in recipes, kitchen tips, and workout/training information. I am not interested in what you ate every day. When I started reading blogs, I was reading a lot of "what I ate today" blogs and very quickly got bored. Now, I look for blogs whose content helps me improve my own life, whether in the form of recipes/cooking tips, new workouts, style and design or blogs that just give me something new to think about.
  3. Do I get annoyed/angry/bitter when I read your blog? 
    •  I read a great article on Hollaback Health about putting down the haterade and not "hate following" blogs, just for the purpose of thinking about how much you dislike them when you read them. I immediately unsubscribed from about 5 blogs after I read that article. I choose not to surround myself by people who say/do things I don't like in real life, why wouldn't I do the same online?
  4. Do you seem like a person I would like in real life? 
    • OK, I know that sounds horrible, so let me rephrase it a la Katy Widrick and some of her 10 Reasons I Subscribe to Your Blog: I know you, I like you, I'm like you, I want to be like you, you make it easy, you make me think, or you're funny/quirky.

I love blogging and being part of this community, so I do everything I can to make staying in contact with other bloggers as easy as possible so I want to continue doing it. Reading blogs should never be a chore, so if it's feeling like one, try one (or all!) of these ideas to get your blogs under control!

What are some of your tips for keeping your blogroll manageable? Share them in the comments!