Saturday, June 16, 2007

Why I Use Google Reader in 2 Modes

I started using Google Reader four months ago, and haven't looked back since.

Now that I've had a few months of usage under my belt, I've learned that I get the most out of this application when I use it in two distinct modes, and always in the same order.

First, I go through my 'Must Read' feeds

There are two dozen or so feeds that I make a point of reading every time I log into Google Reader because they're either written by people I find interesting, or they focus on topics that I find interesting.

Although these feeds cover a broad range of topics, I tag them all as 'Cool Stuff' so they're all next to each other in my subscription tree and I can go through them quickly.

After going through the 'Cool Stuff,' I then go through the personal blogs (all tagged 'Personal') of both real-world friends and people I follow online. These are blogs or feeds that would probably not interest most people, but the content is relevant to me either because of friendships or because of the personalities involved.

Then I Switch to 'River of News' Mode

Once I've covered the feeds that I consider high priority, I click on the "All Items" link in the upper left corner of Google Reader, and that switches me into a mode which Dave Winer has aptly named 'river of news.'

I first learned of this mode of reading from Robert Scoble and I can see why it works if you follow a lot of feeds.

In this mode, Google Reader lists all the news items chronologically, regardless of the origin of the feed. It makes for some really strange topic jumps as you move from item to item, but since these items are of lower priority and I'm sure I've already read the 'must read' items, I can swim through the river quickly. It's when I'm reading in this mode that effective headlines and opening paragraphs determine whether or not the post gets read.

Every now and then, a feed in the 'river of news' proves itself to be consistently interesting. When that happens, I simply promote the feed to 'Cool Stuff.' Google Reader makes it easy to change the tags on feeds, so it literally takes only a second or two to update and reclassify.

A final note: I wrote this entry because Bryan Person recently asked people to share tips about their use of Google Reader.

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Bryan Person, said...

And "Mr. Person" is impressed with your post.

Your model of reading a couple of specific folders and then switching to the "river of news" model is a good one.

I had a must-read folder of my own at one point, but I wound up putting too many feeds in there and rendered it much less meaningful.

Thanks for another way to think about effective management of Google Reader!

Laura said...

I impressed because your so organized about this. I have my must-reads also, but like Mr. Person, I tend to want to put everything in there.

Good post!!

David Finch said...

I like the idea of having two folders, one for "must reads" and the other for "river of news." What seems to be working for me currently is using the "all items" mode and then starring the items that interest me. I then go back and read them immediately or at another time.

Thanks for sharing your Google Reader tips.