Ruly Timesaver: Google Reader

It’s Friday and Ruly is officially one week old! It has been a wonderful first week and I continue to appreciate your feedback publicly and behind-the-scenes.

So . . . another day and another monthly feature to introduce, the Ruly Timesaver. This feature is about experimenting with new methods or technologies to try to pick up a few more minutes in each day.

To be fair, almost every timesaver strategy is not initially a “timesaver” but an investment of time upfront for time savings to come. Ideally, the amount of time you save in the future will more than make up for the amount of time you put in to implement the new strategy. There will be a little bit of trial and error here where some strategies will be more efficient than others but hopefully we will avoid any unnecessary “time wasters.”

Lately, one of the biggest inefficiencies in my own life is keeping up to date with blogs and websites that I read regularly. My strategy in this area has progressed along the following lines:

  1. Memorize the links for websites I visit regularly and type them in.
  2. Bookmark links for websites I don’t visit regularly or where the URL is hard to remember.

Each day, I go through the same routine of typing and selecting bookmarks for my favorite sites one by one. Since not every website updates every day, there is a lot of wasted time visiting sites that have not changed.

For many people, their solution to this problem is to simply stop visiting sites that don’t update regularly and focus only on the ones that do. Websites that update less frequently can maintain a readership through e-mail or social networking updates letting readers know when new content is available. Ruly offers this service through our mailing list and Facebook fan page. It takes a little extra effort for the writer, but the reader can simply click a link (assuming the email has not been blocked by a spam filter) to keep up with all the latest updates. If a reader changes email addresses, however, and doesn’t notify the writer, the system falls apart.

The biggest challenge comes in keeping up with sites (usually personal blogs) that don’t update regularly and have no email list. How to keep up with them without wasting a lot of time stalking the site for updates? Enter Google Reader.

Google Reader is a FREE web-based RSS reader, a.k.a. a feed reader or RSS aggregator. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and essentially means that the content of a particular website can be transmitted in a standard order or format. You know a website is using RSS when you see the orange square box with the white radio waves logo, like this.


However, other websites also have RSS even when they don’t have the RSS logo on display.

When you login to Google Reader, you can enter the website addresses for your favorite websites and subscribe to their RSS feeds. Not every website has an RSS feed but most do. When the RSS feed is available, Google Reader will add the website to your subscriptions list. When new content is available from one of your subscribed sites, the site name will be bolded in Google Reader. At a quick glance, you can tell which websites have new content and which do not.

Google Reader has additional features for sharing links with friends, adding notes, organizing a long list of sites with tags and finding new sites suggested based on sites you are subscribed to. Since the basic RSS feed concept is complex enough for some people, I will not go into depth on those features here.

Google has also created a good video providing an overview of Google Reader. You can watch it below:

So now that you are tempted to give Google Reader a try, how do you get it?

1.Sign up for a FREE Google account

2.When you are logged in to your Google account, click the “Reader” option at the top left-hand side of the page.  Your Google account provides access to about 20 free services, including Gmail, Google Maps, Alerts and Calendar. You will probably need to select the “More” down arrow to select “Reader” from the list.

3.Click the “Add a Subscription” button at the top left of the Google Reader page and enter a website you want to stay in touch with.

4.Your subscriptions will appear at the bottom of the left hand column in Google Reader.

Yes, it will take you a few minutes to set it up the first time. It also is not a perfect solution. You will discover which of your sites do not have RSS feeds that you will still need to bookmark the old-fashioned way or use the tools in Google reader to make a “Note.” Google Reader will not track social networking sites like Facebook so you still need to log in to those sites separately as well. Also, the formatting of your favorite sites is not sent along with the RSS feed, just the content. If you want to see your favorite site in full color, you need to click the title of the post in Google Reader to open a new window to visit the site.

Benefits of Google Reader

  1. Spend less time visiting sites with no content updates.
  2. Access your bookmarks/RSS feeds from any computer with Internet access–not just your home computer.
  3. Stay up to date with your favorite sites, including those that rarely update their content.
  4. Don’t worry about updating your subscriptions to email lists should you ever change your email address.

Join me in taking Google Reader for a test drive!  Your feedback, positive or negative, is welcome. Have a great weekend!