Discovering Google Reader was the best thing to happen to me on the internet (unlike twitter, which was the worst thing for me to discover of the internet). Google Reader allowed me to keep up a lot more efficiently with the blogs I follow, and various places across the internet (unlike twitter, which enabled me to stop reading other anime blogs because I was too busy watching my tweetdeck update). And you should all use Google Reader too.
No really. Hear me out. If you’re not already using a feed reader, this will be the most useful thing you’ll read all day.
And if you already use a feed reader, feel free to totally ignore this post.
But what does Google Reader do, and why should I use it? I’m glad I pretended you asked! Google Reader is a single site that informs you when a different site, be it blog or imageboard or news site, updates with new content. What this means is that you don’t have to visit each site independantly, hoping that there will be a new update and then slinking off in a huff when there is nothing new to read. You can simply visit your Google Reader page and it will tell you when there’s a new update. From there, you can either visit the site and see the new post, or you can read it inside Google Reader itself. Plus you can subscribe to anything you want to see updated. From blogs to news sites to a comment section to a tag on an imageboard to a tumblr site to anything. There are other feed readers like Google Reader, but GR is the most popular and it’s the one I use.
Setting up a Google Reader account
Getting a GR account is a piece of piss. Chances are you already have a Google account anyway. If you have a youtube or gmail account, you have a Google account. Go to the GR homepage and you’ll be greeted with this.
Simply type in your gmail/youtube account in. If you don’t have one, hit create an account and follow the instructions there.
Right, GR account set up. But you’re not subscribed to anyone yet, so it’s looking rather empty.
So now we’ve got to subscribe to a few places we like. You like The Cart Driver? Of course, why wouldn’t you. What a fantastic blog this is with incredibly useful information about Japanese cartoons provided in an entertaining manner. Let’s subscribe to The Cart Driver! There are two ways you can do this. First, you can look for a ‘Subscribe to Feed’ button on the site. Oh would you look at that, there’s one right there on the sidebar!
When you want to subscribe to somewhere, look for an orange button like that. The thing you are subscribing to is called an RSS Feed. Click on that to subscribe to the RSS feed of The Cart Driver.
…is how it should work, but the RSS Feed button is a mysterious magical creature that doesn’t always do what it’s supposed to do. For example, it could give you a simple page like this.
Which is all very easy. Hitting the big “add to Google Reader button” will do the job for you. However, as I said, the RSS Feed button is a mysterious button and will sometimes produce something like this.
ARGH! Clearly this is not helpful. However never fear! For there is a second and much easier method to subscribe to sites. First, go back to your GR account and hit the ‘Add a Subscription’ button.
A text box will appear when you click ‘Add a Subscription’. In there, paste in the url for this site, thecartdriver.com, and click ‘add’.
Huzzah! But just being subscribed to one blog isn’t worth much. That’s not using GR properly. Let’s now subscribe to Ogiue Maniax, which you should do, because it’s an awesome anime blog.
Now where’s that RSS Feed button…ah, I see! Right up the top left. Alternatively, you could just paste in the url of the website into the ‘Add a Subscription’ place and forgo the whole ‘search for a rss feed’ button.
The great thing about feed readers like GR is you can subscribe to pretty much anything that updates with new content. You like Zero Punctuation videos? I know I do! Stick that url into GR and you get updated with every new video. You like naked pictures of Horo from Spice and Wolf (NSFW obviously)? I know I do! Stick that url into GR and you get updated with every new picture. Do you like Cyanide and Happiness comics? I know I do! Stick that url into GR and you know the drill. It’s not a foolproof method, and sometimes it throws a hissy fit when you try to throw in something too specific, or the site isn’t optimised for feed readers. But it works 99% of the time.
Let’s say you’re having trouble coming up with what else to subscribe to. Google Reader will provide you with recommendations. Under the ‘browse for stuff’ on your GR sidebar, go to the header marked ‘recommendations’. However if you’ve just set up your account, there won’t be anything there yet. There is a trick I’ve learned though. Click on The Cart Driver in your feed subscriptions. Go to the drop down bar marked ‘feed settings’ and click ‘unsubscribe’.
Ta-da~! A list of blogs people who subscribe to The Cart Driver also subscribe to. Just make sure when you’re done checking them out, you resubscribe to The Cart Driver. It would be awful to forget to do that.
If you don’t like one of the sites you’ve subscribed to, it’s very easy to unsubscribe, just like that. What I like to do is subscribe to any blog I like a post or two of, and unsubscribe later if I find I don’t like most of their stuff.
There are many other tips and tricks to Google Reader I’ll leave you to figure out yourself. However that’s the very basic beginners guide and some tricks to help you find blogs and places you’d like to subscribe to. If you have any questions about Google Reader, please do ask. No matter how stupid, I promise I’ll try to help you. This actually matters to me, because when someone is subscribed to your feed, it’s an effective method of keeping them reading your blog.