Google Reader 101: RSS Aggregation for Beginners

Q: I'm new to the Google Reader bandwagon. What are some things I should know as I begin using the service?

A: Google Reader is Google's web-based aggregator. It takes RSS feeds from your favorite sites, blogs and Twitter feeds and puts them all in one place, streamlining your media experience. As you first begin personalizing your Reader you might be tempted to subscribe to all the sites you wish you had time to read. But, like any good thing, too much Reader is bad. The Reader may expedite your consumption, but it doesn't gift you unlimited reading time.

Oversubscribing may overwhelm you. So, before you start subscribing willy-nilly, here are some tips that might help you organize your reader.

Understand that you will not have time to read every article posted. You can either ignore unread content or choose feeds that have a reasonable number of posts per week. While it may become immediately obvious which sites generate too many articles for your taste, users can check out the Google Reader Trends section, which provides statistics detailing articles posted, starred and read, for a more accurate picture of usage -- and often, a reality check. Over time you can gauge your habits and adjust your feeds and categories, unsubscribing to feeds you never read.

As your Reader grows, creating categories is another useful way to organize your feeds. The categories work like folders, allowing you to create sections that represent your varied interests. You can create and manage these folders under the, aptly named, "Manage Subscriptions" link below your reader feed.

The Reader also incorporates a social component via sharing. You and your followers (Google speak for friends) can recommend items to each other within the Reader, or you can email or employ other social media tools -- Facebook, Twitter, etc. -- to share articles.

Based on your preferences, Reader provides some options that allow you to personalize your reading experience. As you go through articles, Reader also allows you to read them either in list form or expanded. List looks cleaner, providing only the headline and opening words, but expanded allows you to read the complete post.

Tools mentioned in this entry:

More questions? View the complete Toolkit archive.

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Rebecca Greenfield is a former staff writer at The Wire.

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