Update (2020): Google Reader has been dead for the better part of a decade. I use Feedly these days.
Something has changed in the past year for me; I no longer use bookmarks or visit my favorite websites. And it’s not because I’ve stopped using a computer and live in a van down by the river. I use Google Reader so that instead of visiting a website to see if it has been updated, the website lets me know whenever there’s new stuff to check out, and then I can go read every website in a single place.
How does it work? Most websites publish something called a Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feed, which is like a newsfeed on Facebook. Then your RSS Reader continuously checks all of the RSS feeds that you’re subscribed to.
Here are the things I like about Google Reader in particular
- Share websites with your friends at the click of a button
- Subscribe to websites without even looking for the RSS feed URL, e.g. just type in ‘guyslikedolls’ and it will find us (search engine built-in)
- You can use it from any computer or even your iPhone for the next time the Caltrain is late
Here are some of the things I’m subscribed to:
- Research journals (e.g. JMEMS)
- Friends (e.g. Noah, Oscar, new photos from friends on Flickr)
- And other random stuff (e.g. PhD)
The main sites I visit manually are NYTimes and SFGate, which are pretty noisy, but pretty much everything else I just put in Reader and skim through. Also for research journals it is WAY better than those weekly emails that most people sign up for and then proceed to delete every week.
Even if you’re skeptical, try it out for a couple of days. And if you’re reading this, then you could save time right off the bat by subscribing here. The worst case scenario is that you screw around on the internet a little bit more at work, which doesn’t sound too bad to me.