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Google Reader Tips and Practices for Power Users

18 September 2009 Posted by in category: Internet tools with Tags , , , , , , ,

Google Reader logoGoogle reader is probably the best RSS reader available today. Here are some tips and practices for power users (hopefully, you) to help you better manage your RSS reading time and leverage it, tweak Google Reader to use first and second level categorization, and optimize you RSS subscription list.

Use folders to prioritize your reading

At a certain point you've probably realize that it is just not possible to read all of the new items you get. One possible solution is to use folders to categorize your feeds. Once you categorized all your feeds, you can read prioritize your reading by urgency level. For example, I use a folder called 'Immediate' where I put feeds that I want to read the moment they publish something new because it is important for me to know about them as soon as possible. These could be work related or new trends, usually things that if no read within day or two (sometimes less), they became irrelevant. Other folders I use are 'friends', 'Podcasts', 'Premier Blogs', and some more. I also use a 'must read' folder for things that I want to read sometime, but it doesn't really matter when (such as family blogs or new WordPress plugins).

Use folders to prioritize your reading

Eric Friedman's post, 'Prioritizing and Organizing Feeds in Google Reader', shows a similar method of using tiers to prioritize RSS reading on Google reader.

Prefix folders for easier categorization

But now a new problem arises. If you are tagging the items you read, you'll notice that under 'Feed Settings' (where you choose the folders for new feeds) there are tens and even hundreds of folders to choose from. That happens since all the tags and folders are listed in there together. The solution is the artificially separate the folders from the tags by adding an asterisk sign (*) at the beginning of each folder's name. This will make the folders show up at the top of the Feed Setting list, making it easier to find the right folder to put new feeds in.

Prefix folders for easier categorization

Prefix feeds for Second level categorization

Sometimes, the first level categorization is not enough and you need a second level categorization. That happens when you need to recognize a specific feed among the other feeds in a folder. It is important to recognize the source of an item since it can get a whole other meaning if it was written by one of Google's blogs or maybe you're competitor's blog. But that doesn't mean you want to create a folder just for them. Yet, you don't want to invest the effort of reading the name of each item's source, in addition to reading its headline. After all, one of the advantages RSS offers is the ability to scan items rapidly without distractions. So, to get a second level categorization, prefix the names of the feeds themselves so that their name will stand out. To change the name of a feed, locate it in the right sidebar (called 'Subscriptions'), click it, and under "Feed settings" choose 'Rename subscription'. Add a unique prefix to the name of the feed. For example, I have prefixed blogs about writing skills with this prefixes: ^^ writing ^^ Second level categorization example

Optimize your reading list

I believe that it is good practice to subscribe and unsubscribe from feeds as needed. There is no reason to stick to websites that do not provide interesting or useful content; it is reasonable that your tastes and needs will vary over time. Therefore, I have developed a practice that will enable you to optimize Your RSS Subscription List in Google Reader by finding the feeds that are not relevant to you and unsubscribing from them. To optimize your RSS subscription you should first start using the 'star item' feature. Whenever you read an item that you find interesting or useful, star it (it also make it easier to find these items later). After you've been doing it for a few weeks, go to 'trends' and compare the number of stared items with the update frequency of the subscriptions. Relatively, the most frequently updated subscriptions should also be the ones with the highest number of stared items. If you find subscriptions that are updated in high frequency but you did not star a lot of items in them – you should get rid of them. Why? Because the more items a source post, the more stars you would expect it to get. You can read the full post here.

Use automatic sharing to Leverage time spent reading

You can Leverage the time you spend reading by automatically sharing items. The 'Share' feature allows you to publish items to be shared with your friends through Facebook or your readers through your blog or website. When you mark an item as 'shared', what you are actually doing is making it public on your shared Items page (this is my shared items page, by the way). To get the link to your public page, to as follows:

  1. Click 'Sharing settings »' in the left sidebar (just above 'subscriptions').
  2. Scroll down, and under the 'Your shared items page' section, copy the link that says "Preview your shared items page in a new window"

Get the link to your Google Reader public page‎

Now you can add it to Facebook as one of the streams in your profiles. Every time you'll mark item as sheared, all of your friends will see it in your personal stream. To share your shared items in your blog or website – still under 'Sharing settings »', click the link that says "Add a clip to your web site or blog", at the end of the page. Follow the instructions to generate an embed code that will display your latest shared items (you can see my shared items in the news section).

11 Responses to “Google Reader Tips and Practices for Power Users”

  1. Jack Cola 19 September 2009 at 4:10 pm (PERMALINK)

    You forgot to mention tagging individual articles. Down the bottom of each post on reader, you can click the add tag button and write your own tag. If I run out of time, but I want to read it or write about it, I tag it with need to write, need to read etc
    If I find something that is useful for my website, i tag it with useful web tools etc, or if its something else, useful stuff. This allows you to find posts more easily then just clicking on star. It basically groups individual posts in folders
    so if i busy and need to read something, i can find it quickly. then if i don't like it or whatever, i just remove the tag

  2. Zigmund 23 September 2009 at 4:29 am (PERMALINK)

    As someone who recently moved from FF's toolbar subscriptions to Google Reader this is exactly what I needed, the “prefix” idea is excellent, thanks!


  3. Tim 27 September 2009 at 6:56 am (PERMALINK)

    Great post! I really need to do some work to my rss feeds in Google Reader. Sometimes I'm almost afraid to look!

  4. Tim 27 September 2009 at 6:57 am (PERMALINK)

    Article tagging! Great point!

  5. eyalsela 27 September 2009 at 11:24 am (PERMALINK)

    Hi Jack and Tim,
    Thanks for the suggestion. I do use tagging and I think it's a great way to categorize items as well. personaly, I only use them to allow me to find things I've already read.

  6. eyalsela 27 September 2009 at 11:25 am (PERMALINK)

    Thanks a lot Tim :)

  7. eyalsela 27 September 2009 at 11:25 am (PERMALINK)

    Thanks Zigmund, I'm glad it helps.

  8. iwantsocialgo 4 October 2009 at 4:55 pm (PERMALINK)

    I like this so much I have put it on my website :-)