Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How do you subscribe to this blog? And any other blog?

Subscribing to a blog or other website is relatively simple but the number of programs you can use to subscribe is really confusing. You may have a favorite blog authored by someone in your family or a genealogy blog such as this one that you enjoy reading from time to time. The trick is knowing when a new post is made to the blog. Enter programs variously called readers or aggregators. These are programs that will help you subscribe to blog post or new content in any other website and then present the new posts to you in the form of a list. There are dozens and dozens of programs that will do essentially the same thing; make a list of changes to any of blogs you are interested in reading.

Perhaps some definitions are in order. A blog is a usually small website put online by a single individual or entity. An entry on the blog is referred to as a "post" or article. Making a blog article available on the Internet is usually called "posting."Two of the most popular programs for posting articles to the Internet are Google's Blogger and WordPress.

When you subscribe to a blog or website, you are then "following" that site and become a follower. For example, at the moment I happen to be following 225 blogs and websites. My blog has two different sets of "followers" and the present total is 308 and 50. The number of followers is a rough indication of the blog or website's popularity. I say rough, because a lot of people read blogs without subscribing.

So how do I follow this or any other blog? The first step is deciding how you want to receive notices of new posts.  Some programs will simply make a list of the new posts, others will send you a notification, either by email or on your computer screen, when a new post is made to one of the sites you are following. The next step involves choosing a reader or aggregator. One of the most popular is Google Reader. As I previously indicated, there are many, many others. Here is a Wikipedia articles listing a significant number. As you can see from the Wikipedia article, readers fall into various categories depending on the way they work and how they are supported. In fact, the reader I use now is not listed. I use Feedly. Which one you use is almost entirely up to personal preference. I was using Google Reader for a long time, but Google has discontinued their iGoogle page (or will in the future) and I thought it would be a good idea to switch now instead of waiting to change.

Once you have chosen a reader, it is time to subscribe. Most readers allow you to enter subscriptions right from the reading page. You can copy the addresses of posts or pages you want to subscribe to and paste them into the list. When you are on a website or blog of interest, you need to look for this symbol:

Clicking on this symbol usually takes you to a dialogue box allowing you to subscribe to posts in a variety of programs. This is the symbol for an RSS (or really simple syndication) feed. There is another common subscription utility called Atom or Atom Syndication Format. The Atom link may say something like subscribe with Atom or "Atom posts" or "Atom comments." Obviously, Atom comments means you are subscribing to comments and not the posts.

Once you have subscribed, the website or blog address and/or name should appear in your reader. You check your reader periodically and voila! there is a list of any updates to the sites you subscribe to.

Some of the readers, work off of Google Reader and are merely browser add-ons, others are stand-alone programs that work independently. Good luck and good reading.

2 comments:

  1. I love to follow blogs but sometimes I come across one that I can not seem to find a link to follow. I find that frustrating, I find it frustrating because the next thing would be to bookmark it but I would forget to check them.

    I have also taken to delete my following if they have not posted anything in a year.

    I am disappointed because Google, in it infinite wisdom has decided to cancel iGoogle and that is where i had a lot of blog updates. I suppose I, and a lot of others need to find a new format.

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  2. Some of your readers may want a more detailed or step-by-step explanation of how to get started using a reader. Here is a link that explains most of the basics of using Google Reader: http://support.google.com/reader/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=113517

    I have never tried any other readers, but I love Google Reader. It is very convenient to be be able to read new posts on my favorite websites on the same page instead of having to maintain a list of bookmarks and check websites frequently.

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