So you want to master your RSS feeds, eh? (If you don't know RSS, read our thorough breakdown
.) Google Reader is our go-to feed aggregator, and -- if you're a Gmail user -- we're willing to bet that it's yours, too. You can access Reader through Gmail, Google, or even directly at reader.google.com
, but you probably know that already. After all, you're no novice Reader(-er); you're just horribly, incontrovertibly disorganized. Who needs folders, tags, Starred Items and that menu-bar balderdash when you could have the entire, unedited stream of the Internet smashing directly into your brain?
Well, put simply, you
do. You can't separate your Mashables
from your MoCo Locos
, or your Wonkettes
from your Walyous
. You're missing meaty posts right and left, because you can't keep up with the unending torrent of the RSS rush. But, trust us, there is a way to rein it in. Continue past the break to read the Gospel of Folders, and become one of the enlightened few who can master the Feeds like the Force.
Your Filing Cabinet
Imagine your Google Reader as a library of all your interests. You wouldn't read NPR.org for concert listings, and you wouldn't head to Pitchfork.com for current events. So come up with a group of topics. Your author prefers five or six (above left), but Switched's Editor-in-Chief has a large number of folders with specific interests (above right). Clearly, both your author and the EIC have different organizational methods, preferring to catalog by subjects and priority, respectively. Organizing by subject keeps sections clearly separated, which is helpful if you are keeping tabs on hobbies, or if you enjoy the "section-based" newspaper format. Sorting by importance is helpful to stay abreast of work and news, or to keep important sources front-and-center. Prioritizing is also helpful for productivity. Once you've scanned the important work- or news-based folders, you can head to the more casual sections, where you can get your LOLcats fix, or scan the gossip blogs. Both methods work well, and you can combine the two by prioritizing your subjects.
To get this beautifully streamlined catalog of feeds, have a couple of folders in mind before you log into Reader. Think about your news-reading habits. Do you go straight to Designboom
, or start your day with a cup of D.C. gossip at Politico
? Do you need to know the exact moment that the next episode of 'Bestie x Bestie
' lands? Maybe you'll want to prioritize your folders as 'Politics,' 'Design' and 'LOLZ,' or keep all of your cat-related news feeds among your 'Essentials.' (We certainly do.)
Once you have a few folders in mind, head to Reader. You'll want to click on the bottom-left option, 'Manage Subscriptions,' which should automatically take you to the 'Subscriptions' tab under 'Settings.' Select 'New Folder' from the drop-down menu on the right, and start plugging in your folder names. Or, if you have some feeds already in your Reader, head back to the main page, click 'Subscriptions,' and expand any RSS you are currently following by hitting the down arrow. You'll be able to select 'New Folder' from there.
Organizing Your Folders
To give you an example, let's create a music news folder to keep track of our favorite bands on the blogs. We've titled it 'Music' (obviously), and put it below 'FOOD' in our Subscription list. Now, we get to accumulate our sources. Either drag feeds you are already following (but haven't yet organized), or start typing in site names (like our favorites Pitchfork
, Brooklyn Vegan
and Gorilla vs. Bear
), and drag them into 'Music.' So, now what?
Increasing Your Feed Count
If you're suffering a major brain freeze when listing your favorite blogs, Google has an awesome feature that recommends similar sources. By clicking the down arrow on an RSS subscription, you can select 'More Like This,' and see a selection of blogs and feeds. If you decide to check one out -- say, You Look Nice Today
-- Google will display the feed's average post rate and number of subscribers (just in case you only like what the cool kids like). If you enjoy what you see, click 'Subscribe' and -- voila
-- it's now in your list of feeds. (Remember to drag it into your selected folder, or you'll just fall back into your directionless ways.) We think that 'More Like This' is one of the best features in Google Reader; more feeds bring in more recommendations, and more recommendations mean more sources of information. And information, as they say, is king.
More Google Reader Tips