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What started it all for me; Bloglines

I was getting tired of trying to figure out a good way to keep track of the cool stuff I've been finding online (more and more in blogs these days), so I did a little research and found Bloglines, which showed me the value of using a feed reader, something I didn't realize I needed until I tried it.

One of the main reasons I started using Bloglines is because of their "Clip Blog" and "Clippings" features, which allow you to save blog entries you read via Bloglines to either your own Clip Blog (which you can make public to share with others) or your private "Clippings" folder.

Update: 2005.06.10

Goodbye Clip Blog, hello Furl - I've completely abandoned my Bloglines clip blog in favor of Furl, a service that does a lot more than Bloglines' clip blog, and is a much better tool for keeping track of anything (not just blog entries you read in Bloglines) you find on the web.

Update: 2006.02.02

Switched from Furl to del.icio.us for most things.

There may be others and/or better feed readers out there, but none has yet jumped out at me.  I think Bloglines could/should be stronger in the blogging department, (I have yet to figure out, for example, if I can have another Bloglines blog aside from my Clip Blog, but I've just begun learning about all this) but I'm not sure that's their focus.  They seem to be one of a small number of web-based aggregators who see the value in providing some blogging service (specifically Clip Blogging) together with aggregation.

Now you can keep track of the stuff I find online at your discretion, and without me having to constantly send you email.  It's one of the great things about the "publish and subscribe" paradigm!

Update: 2005.05.08

I inserted this section months later, after having written it as part of an article about using Bloglines to track packages.  I think it belongs here, because I didn't really cover the other uses for Bloglines before, as I'd just begun to understand all this.

Feed readers are not just for blogging!

Many people think Bloglines and other feed readers are just tools for people who are "into blogging". They are indeed a great way to keep up with constantly-changing information, such as blogs, but they're useful for much more than that. We'll soon start to see more benefits of feed readers, because RSS -- and "web feeds" in general -- are very versitile and powerful technologies/ideas. We're just starting to see innovations in how feeds can be used (for example, to keep up to date on the status of a package).

RSS newspaper icon
Feed technology is used for syndicating much of the news information on the Internet right now. News agencies & web sites have known about the advantages of syndication for a long time - think AP. But they're using syndication so their servers can exchange news information; Feed readers allow people to start realizing the benefits of syndication for all kinds of content. For example, all this incoming information generated by syndication soon leads to a need for more efficient ways to manage it, which leads to the use of feed readers to bringing it all together in one place.

To see if a web site you read provides a feed, look for the words like "Site Feed", "Atom", "RSS", or "XML" often in small orange buttons, like this: RSS icon ATOM icon XML icon. Update: A new movement has has been started to standardize on a universal feed icon that looks like this: Feed icon

Hopefully, this gives you a sense of why you'd want to use a feed reader. Most (like Bloglines) are free, and it's easy to get started!