How to find and follow blogs
I had a request the other day for an article about how to follow a blog. In order for this post not to seem entirely self-serving, I going to also talk about ways to find good blogs. While most of you are probably regular blog readers, I imagine you have friends and colleagues who are not. I hope you will be motivated to share this information with them.
You don’t have to read everything
This is out of order, but it’s very important. Just because you follow a blog, doesn’t mean you have to read every word of every article published. You get to choose which posts to read, when, and how much. My typical steps are
- Scan the titles of new articles. Maybe one in four will grab me.
- Skim the first paragraph of interesting posts. Again, maybe one in four are something I want to finish.
- Read the entire article. By now I am down to one article out of a starting list of sixteen.
- Save it. If it’s particularly good, I will save it to my Delicious account – or blog about it myself.
Finding interesting blogs
- Blog or RSS – an RSS feed is a standard way to publish regular news items. All blogs have them. If you run into something interesting that is available as an RSS feed, don’t worry if it’s not called a blog. It’s all good.
- Referral – One of the best ways to find good blogs is to have them referred to you by friends. If you have colleagues who follow blogs, ask which ones they like. If someone sends you a good blog article, make note of its source.
- Association – many magazines, agencies, and societies have blogs. Check the websites of entities you are interested in. You may find multiple blogs on different topics. The Chronicle of Higher Education has fifteen different blogs, for example. The American Society for Engineering Education has two blogs, and the National Science Foundation lists fifteen RSS feeds.
- Directory – there are a number of directories of blogs, but Technorati is the biggest. It also gives each blog an “authority” rank, which indicates the blog’s standing and influence. Aggregators like Google Reader, discussed below, often incorporate a search engine as well.
Reading your blogs
- Visit – perhaps the most obvious way to read a blog is to visit the website regularly. That’s fine if you only follow one blog and it’s easy to find. It’s less practical if you follow a dozen blogs and they publish at different intervals.
- Email – another solution is signing up to receive an email whenever a new post it published. If your blogs only publish a few articles a day, this may be just the ticket. With too much volume, this strategy will clog up your inbox.
- Reader – folks who regularly follow many blogs use a tool called a reader or aggregator. Enter the addresses of the blogs and feeds you want to follow, then it goes out and aggregates the articles into a single list. There are three flavors:
- Website – a site like Google Reader. I use this; it lets me access my list of articles anywhere I have access to a browser. It also talks to other applications.
- Email client – RSS or “news” functionality within Apple Mail or Microsoft Outlook lets you read new articles as if they were email.
- Browser – use integrated functionality or an add-on like Feedly
Let it flow
Once you get set up, make a point of checking your reader regularly. If you find there are more articles than you want to sift through, then eliminate one or more feeds. There’s no law that says you have to subscribe forever. The one good article that made you subscribe to the blog, may turn out to be a fluke. Every few weeks I look at my list and eliminate any feeds that have not produced many read-worthy articles.
Following a few good blogs can help you keep up with news in your field. I get lots of great ideas from blogs. I also follow a few just for fun – humorous blogs, as well as topics that interest me and have nothing to do with work.