Saturday, May 5, 2007

How to use a news reader

This post includes step-by-step instructions and examples (as of today) of Extension blogs that demonstrate how blogs can be used by Extension professionals.

Why use a news reader
My first tip in Tips of a New Blogger is that you should first start using a news reader. Beth Kanter lists using news readers as step 5 in Extension Web 2.0. She indicates you should first find people and blogs that you want to keep up. Larry Lippke says that the online world is already using news readers so let's join them.

The use and popularity of wikis, blogs, and syndication feeds has become the norm through which many people retrieve the information they are looking for. They use Google to search for what they want, not someone's prescribed navigational structure. They use Wikipedia to learn about subjects, even though Wikipedia itself may not be the real repository of the information, but a "tour guide" of sorts to finding it. They subscribe to syndicated feeds of content to keep abreast of recent developments.
Aggregating your news in one place makes for an efficient way to read news. Lee of Common Craft explains it best in a short video called RSS in Plain English. The news reader provides for quick glance and allows you to make a decision to read or not read the posts. Kevin Gamble explains that he uses a news reader so he can greatly increase the amount of information read in a short period time.

...most of the time they say, "I don't know how you have the time to read all that stuff." Of course, the answer to that question is easy-- these tools save me time. I'm a knowledge worker, and these are the tools of the trade. How else could you possibly keep-up if keeping-up is a major part of your job?

"...I can condense all that reading to a single feed and save a bunch of time." The smart knowledge worker is thinking, "I can create hundreds of these feeds with intelligence, and triple or quadruple or exponentially increase the amount of new information I'm processing." And that is huge!

Google Reader as my news reader
I happen to choose Google Reader as my syndication feed reader. You can choose any reader, such as the Internet Explorer 7 reader or another online feed reader. I chose Google Reader because my news feeds will always be available to me. If I use the IE 7 reader, I have to be at my computer in my office to read the feeds. There are other readers online (e.g. If you feel compelled, try them out.

I am using Google for lots of things--blogging (, hosting my domain (, and storing, editing, and sharing online documents (Google documents and spreadsheets). Therefore, Google Reader is my choice.

Using Google Reader
1. Create a Google Reader account on

2. Now open a blog that you would like to keep up-to-date on the news and information represented from that blogger.

3. Look for the subscription address for the blog of your interest. The feed url can be found by looking:

a. for the orange and white wave feed logo, Subscribe (Atom). Click this button to load the feed page. You will copy the url from this feed page.

b. for words that say "Subscribe to me", Click this link to load the feed. You will copy the url from this feed page.

c. for the orange and white wave button in Internet Explorer 7. This button is usually located between the home and the print bottom on the IE toolbar. Click on orange and white wave button. Sometimes you are given a choice between Atom or RSS feed. I usually choose Atom feeds. You will copy the url from this feed page.

d. for the words "Subscribe to: Posts ...." Click on this link. You will copy the url from this feed page.

4. Copy from the subscription address (the feed web page) url of the feed web page.

5. In your Google Reader account, paste the url in the "Add subscription" box.

This feed will display in the area below the subscription box. The posts that you have not read will be displayed in bold on the right window of the page. You can decide quickly to read or not read the post. After reading the posts of interest, select "mark all post read" to clear your reader of the news items you are not wanting to read.

For the most interesting posts that you might want to remember and refer to later, mark with a "star". You can also share posts. I will not go over the details of sharing in Google Reader because at this time I use to share my bookmarked pages. Also, you can manage the feeds into categories that make sense to you.

Example Extension Blogs
Here are a few suggestions of some blogs that might interest Extension professionals. With each blog, I have given a hint as to where to find the url that you will use to copy into Google Reader subscription.

Larry's Ponderings about how Extension can use social networking and other technologies. Look for "Subscribe to ATOM feed or Subscribe to RSS 2.0 feed?"

Anne's Spot about tips for using technologies and whatever else I think the Extension community might find interesting. Look for the orange and white Syndication Feed logo.

Scouting Around about scouting and whatever technologies John Dorner wants to talk about. Look for the orange "Feed" button.

HighTouch about using social networking technologies. Look for the orange and white wave Syndication Feed logo.

Lead2020 shares his visions on leading. Look for "Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)" at the bottom of the blog.

Trends and Issues in Extension about University Extension, Outreach and Engagement. Use the IE7 orange and white wave syndication feed button.

At Home with Extension FCS News from Polk County about family consumer science information in Polk County, North Carolina. Look for the box "XML" button under the calendar.

Shepherd's Notebook is a blog for the sheep and goat industry authored by Susan Schoenian, Sheep and Goat Specialist for Maryland Cooperative Extension. Use the IE7 orange and white wave syndication feed button.

Master Your Garden about home horticulture information for the mountains of Western North Carolina. Use the IE7 orange and white wave syndication feed button.

Extension Daily is the Alabama Cooperative Extension News blog. Use the IE7 orange and white wave syndication feed logo.

If none of these blogs seem to interest you, look for news feeds from popular news sites (CNN, MSN, etc.) or look for blogs of interest in Technorati and follow Beth Kanter's Steps 1 through 3 in Extension Web 2.0.

Disclaimer about the blogs listed above. I've listed these for the purpose of demonstration. Extension professionals should be reading information from lots of sources.

One more hint: Many people after hearing my description of using a news reader will exclaim that they will forget to go to the reader page. I have made Google Reader my "home" page so it is the page that is displayed when I open my browser. Now I look over my reader items before I read email each morning when I arrive to work.


My mom wants a feed reader

Extension Web 2.0

eXtension Recordings on Using Feeds

Promoting Web 2.0 for Extension (examples of Extension using social networking tools. Add your blogs, wikis, etc. here)


Unknown said...

Thanks for the mention. Nice Post.. something I can use to encourage others on my team to start blogging!

Unknown said...


NC State Extension should be proud that you have two blogs at the county level that serve as demonstrations for other Extension professionals. I hope someone at NC State has congratulated them on their innovativeness--being early adopters.