Sunday, April 24, 2005

10 points on Blogs & RSS (Newsfeeds)

[This post is updated from time to time. Record of changes at bottom. Comments & suggestions are welcome. Last updated: 11 Feb 2006]

I've been explaining about Blogs and RSS to colleagues. Decided to post the info here. They came up to be 10 items. It's not meant to be comprehensive. If you have suggestions, comments or if you want me to link to your tutorials, do email me, or submit as a comment.

This post is organised as follows:
Introduction to RSS & Newsreaders - you might not want to blog, which is fine (like, I certainly don't intend to windsurf). But you might want to learn more about Newsreaders, RSS and Aggregators.

Why use Newsreaders? I'll use a quote from Preetam:

"Instead of going to several sites, you can subcribe to those sites and the new content will come to your feed reader. It is like instead of going to the store to buy the newspaper, you could get it delivered to your home."
On Blogs & Blogging - In case you want to pick up blogging or understand more about blogs, I've included links to sites/ blogs that provide tutorials, and links to free tools to enhance your blog. Also links and resources on how to blog well.

1) What's an "aggregator", a "newsfeed" or "RSS"?

  • Find out more here -- but the best way to learn is to actually use one.
  • I had ZERO knowledge of newsfeeds. Then I signed up for Bloglines (web-based, so no installation needed) and was reading feeds in minutes.
  • You can view all my blogline feeds [added: 12/5/05]
  • This is their FAQ page (btw, they don't pay me anything to promote them).
  • Here's a tutorial from Preetam, on using Newsgator (another web-based newsreader).
  • He's also done a tutorial on Using Bloglines [added 25/4/05]
  • If you're feeling confident and want to install newsreaders on your computer, try these:
  1. NetNewsWire Lite - for Macs
  2. Feed Demon - free trial for PC
  3. Shrook - for Mac OS X
  4. More are listed at and RSS Compendium.

2) So you've read a few blogs and you're asking "What are Blogs"?

  • Find out more at How Blogs Work. Better yet, get blogging!
  • I've found Blogger to be the most user-friendly. You hardly need to know any HTML. Signing up and getting started only takes 3 or 4 steps.
  • If you prefer a tutorial, here's a step-by-step Blogging 101 course (on using [broken link - July 06]

3) Before you start some serious posting, remember: Blog Responsibly

  • Blogging can be liberating. But before you start revealing your most intimate thoughts, or complain about your co-worker or your boss in your blog, do read this (from Blogger).
  • Here's a set of search results ("how not to get fired for blogging") from Google. This is from Yahoo!
  • IBM has a set of guidelines for their employees [added: 19 May 05]
  • You might also ask"Should I remain anonymous in my blog?". This is what I think - "To be (anonymous) or not to be: that is the question" [12 Apr 05].
  • My other opinions on blog ethics etc.:
  1. Common sense and respect above a Blogging Policy [11 Feb 05]
  2. Thinking Aloud; Blogging Allowed - "When the blogger blogs, can the employer intervene?" [19 Apr 05]
  3. Thoughts on blogging: What would you do if someone took issue with your blog post and think you should take it down? [4 Aug 05]
  4. Starting A New Blog (a personal step-by-step account in starting my new Art Blog [11 Feb 06]

4) Now that I'm blogging, is anyone reading my blog?
Add a counter or tracking tool to know how many visits you have on your blog. Find out how people find your blog, what search engine they use, what search terms etc. Some free tools:
. Sitemeter
. Statcounter
. CQcounter
(You need to know a little about HTML to install the codes in your blog -- but just a wee bit.)

5) Having a blog is just half the story. Enable others to subscribe to your blog
If you want a wider audience for your blog, enable your site feed (from Blogger). Here's a tutorial by Kevin, on counting your blog's RSS subscribers using Feedburner.

6) Drive traffic to your blog
You can also submit your blog to various blog search-engines and directories:
. plazoo
. BlogSearchEngine
. Bloogz
. Blogwise
. Technorati
. There's of course Google, Yahoo! etc

Here's a PDF document on "16 ways to drive traffic to your blog" (source:NextLevelPartner)

7) More tools to enhance your blog

  • Search feature in your blog: I found this feature useful as my blog grows. There's one from Technorati (you need to sign-up for a free account in order to get the code for the Searchlet). Here's another from Feedster.
  • Learn about (great for hosting your pictures)
  • Design Templates: After a while, you might get bored with the design of your blog. Here's where you can get free templates done by other bloggers (isn't the Blogosphere great?!):
  1. Blogger Templates (not affliated with Blogger, I think)
  2. nipo
  3. Eris
Oh, go easy on the flashy stuff, ok?

8) On writing well
. How to write killer blog posts and more compelling comments
. Why blog and what makes a blog successful?

9) Books on Blogging & Weblogs
Click here for the list (I've compiled only items in the NLB public libraries' holdings at time of this post). Please email me to suggest titles that you might like the library to acquire.

10) I still don't understand what's the hype and fuss about blogs
You need (yes, need!) to read these two definitive works (online or print version):

We the Media: Grassroots journalism by the people, for the people
NLB Call No.: 302.23 GIL
ISBN: 0596007337
Click here to check for book item availability in NLB libraries.

The cluetrain manifesto: The end of business as usual
NLB Call No.: 658.054678 CLU -[BIZ]
ISBN: 0738204315
Click here to check for book item availability in NLB libraries.

- item 3 & 7: Added recent post re: blog ethic; included link to, 8 Aug 05
- item 3: Added link to post on IBM guidelines for IBM employees, 19 May 05
- item 10: Added bookcover images linked to, 15 May 05
- item 1: Added link to my blogline subscriptions, 12 May 05
- item 1: Added Preetam's BloglineTutorial, 25 Apr 05
- Originally there were 9 points, but I added one more on how to avoid getting dooced, i.e. Fired for blogging.

- item 3: Added link on "Starting A New Blog", 11 Feb 06

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  1. I've been playing around with some free news readers for PC, and I've come to the conclusion that though it hasn't been updated for a while SharpReader is still one of the better desktop RSS readers around. Now if only the developer would get it to optionally use the Gecko Rendering Engine to display pages instead of the retarded IE rendering engine..

    Thanks for the summary; this will be a link worth passing on to my technophobic friends.

  2. Eek, why'd you switch your news feed to summaries? I've gotten so used to RSS that I find I dislike actually visiting the pages except to post/read comments...

  3. I don't know what happened either. My settings in Blogger is the same (full syndication)... I checked Bloglines and noticed a summary too. Help.

  4. Good information and a nice summary Ivan!

    ketsugi - I agree. For a free desktop based RSS reader, my preference is SharpReader. Another really good one to consider is RSS Bandit, but you have to install Microsoft's .NET Framework v1.1.


  5. Thanks. I like your how-to-do-it info; you do have a knack for breaking technical info to digestible materials, and if it works for technical idiots like me, it will work for everybody. Have tried Technorati as per recommendation; but failed with Feedburner (dunno what I clicked wrongly).


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