Years ago, when I posted a tutorial for My Favorite Knot, I thought it was a comically common thing to tutorialize. But, as that knot has made my sewing much more pleasant, I figured, "Why not. It's bound to help someone." To my surprise, that knot tutorial has sparked the most passionate feedback. Most of you probably already knew how to tie a tidy knot, but for those who didn't - ah, what a lifesaver!
Today, my March of the Tools tool is similarly basic. And though quite well-known amongst bloggers, it shouldn't go without lauding: Aggregators. There are bound to be a few dozen of you who don't know what you're missing out on. This post is for you.
If you find yourself tediously entering and re-entering the URLs of your favorite blogs throughout the day, just hoping that someone has posted a new entry, read on. You need an aggregator. I currently use Bloglines.
Bloglines is a free, online service that allows you to organize and monitor your favorite blogs. When you are logged into your account, you are able to see when new entries have been posted on each of the blogs you 'subscribe' to. Subscribing to blogs is free and many blogs have a "Subscribe in Bloglines" or "Subscribe to this Feed" button in their sidebar to make the process even easier. (I just fixed my Bloglines button - it wasn't working right for months -- yikes.) Otherwise, you can click on a blog's RSS feed icon in your browser's address bar (usually looks like a little square with three curved 'sound' bars radiating outward - example to the right). The RSS icon will take you to the blog's RSS feed, where there are usually some subscription options, including Bloglines. Here is what my RSS feed page looks like.
There are many similar services to Bloglines, such as Google Reader, My Yahoo, NewsFire, and many others. I've only ever used Bloglines, so I'm not too familiar with the alternatives. All such blog-subscribing services are called aggregators (or feed-readers, rss readers, news readers, etc.). Using an aggregator is an absolute life-saver if you're following a long list of blogs on a regular basis. An aggregator enables you to compose a virtual daily 'personal newspaper' of all of your favorite blog 'articles' (aka rss feeds or posts) which you can read one after the other right there under your account -- or you can click on a link to each post if you prefer to read new posts in their original setting within a blog (my preference).
A lot of info? Let me just say it is totally worth looking into. The time you spend learning your way around Bloglines or another aggregator will easily pay off in spades. One hour learning how to use an aggregator could easily gain you three hours more free time in the next week or two alone.
I knew about Bloglines long before I set up my own account. The day I finally did I was completely kicking myself for not doing it sooner. A seriously good tool.
(I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here. If you already use an aggregator, help me convince everyone else how great they are! If you recommend a different aggregator than Bloglines, tell us about it.)