Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blogging - Syndication and subscriptions

To follow up on yesterday's blog, this tech-talk topic for non-techies will briefly explain a simple way to follow a blog, or for that matter, any favourite web news source. Most of the TV channels and major news papers now have their own blogs where you can follow up on the details of a report which has only seen brief exposure as a 20 second TV clip, or a headline and a column inch or two of print... and you can very simply arrange for these blogs to be custom delivered, free of charge, to your own computer, instead of having to go rummaging around the blogosphere for them. I know, some of you already know this, and much, much more about subscriptions, but many of my friends are somewhat technically challenged, so please be patient. And if any of you less challenged individuals want to add something to this discussion, please feel free to use the comments box below.

One half of this secret (if anything to do with blogging can be secret) lies in RSS, an acronym for Really Simple Syndication. On the URL line on my blog, i.e. the address line located at the top of your browser, there is a little orange coloured icon with radiating circles drawn on it. (See the screen clip below) If you click on that icon you will be invited to choose RSS or Atom. Select (click) RSS then select (click) add to Google Reader, and you are done, except that the first time (and only the first time) you do this you will be asked to open a (free) Google account, if you don't already have one. This process includes the usual user name and password rigmarole. (In fact that little RSS icon identifies the web page you are looking at as a blog, rather than any other type of web site).
The icons you need are outlined in red - Double click to enlarge the image

The other half of this secret is having a "reader" program on your computer - which almost certainly you already do, although perhaps you didn't realize it. Since my blog is hosted by blogger.com and that service is in turn owned by Google, and you guessed it - Google has a reader... Naturally, to keep things as simple as possible, dear follower, I have used these services as my example, although there are many others out there for the more adventurous to explore.

To make a long story short, the action of subscribing delivers the chosen blog, news service etc. right into your computer's reader program any time you are on line. If you click on your reader's icon it opens to show you the blog pages that you have not yet read... and just what could be easier than that? But there's one more little thing. For some obscure reason, Google hides their reader in a drop down menu labelled "other" on their home page, although there are ways to make that more convenient to find, like bookmarking the page onto the Google tool bar, as I have done. Refer to the above clip again.

And the real magic of subscriptions is that if you tire of one, you can unsuscribe just as easily - no permissions, acknowledgements or apologies required - it is gone from your computer...

Oh if only other actions in life could be undone so simply.

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