Jun 232013

No Google ReaderIf you haven’t switched from Google Reader to another option recently, you’ll need to do so soon. Why? Earlier this year, Google announced it is discontinuing this service on July 1st:

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

If you have never used Google Reader and haven’t a clue what it is (or why you should care), it is what is known as an aggregate reader, a tool that keep tracks of the sites you read by notifying you when a new post appears. It is different from a bookmark in that you can read all of the posts from all of the sites in one location without having to skip from one Web site to another.

July 1st, of course, is less than a week away. If you have not selected an alternative to Google Reader, make sure you back up your data with Google Takeout right away. According to Google, the following information will be backed up:

  • List of people that you follow
  • List of people that follow you
  • Items you have starred
  • Items you have liked
  • Items you have shared
  • Items shared by people you follow
  • Notes you have created
  • Items with comments

Better yet, choose a reader platform that automatically imports the Internet sites you follow from Google Reader. I don’t pretend to be an expert on what the best reader might be, but the following posts may help you make an informed decision. Be aware that some readers are free, while others are not.

This post, besides recommending some Google Reader alternatives, provides information about how to use Google Takeout:

Interestingly, none of the posts listed above recommends Bloglovin,’ the blog reader that I use to not only follow favorite blogs, but also Web sites and YouTube video channels. This reader is easy to sign up for, easy to use, and convenient. I managed to import all of my Google Reader sites into Bloglovin’ through the sign-up process. When you sign up for Bloglovin’, you can do so either through your Facebook account or your e-mail address. You can click on this image to get to the sign-up page.

Some of the features I appreciate about Bloglovin’ include the following:

  • Bloglovin works on your computer, iPhone, Android and iPad. I have used it on both my computer and iPad, but prefer the computer because it has more features.
  • You can sort the sites you follow by name or date.
  • You can organize the sites you follow into customized categories, as I have done.

  • You can choose to browse through unread posts, a category or a specific blog.
  • You can mark posts as read or unread (useful if you want to continue reading the post once you exit the reader), like a post (which adds it to a list of favorites), and share a post on a social network such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

  • You can discover new blogs by clicking on Popular Posts or Top Blogs. You can also choose a specific category of post from a drop-down menu beneath Popular Posts or Top Blogs.

  • When you are browsing through new blogs, you can select the country whose blogs you want to view.

  • You typically read posts within a Bloglovin’ frame, from which you can comment, share, and mark as read. Blogs still record your visit as a view, even though you are visiting them through this frame.
  • You can add a button to your Web site so that readers can follow your blog through Bloglovin’. Mine is located in the left side bar of this site—or you can simply click on the image below, and that will enable you to follow me.

Follow on Bloglovin

  • New posts on Bloglovin’ are kept for a minimum of two weeks, but you can keep a post visible indefinitely simply by liking it.
  • You can protect your privacy. If you don’t wish others to see the blogs or sites you follow, you can mark them as private under the “Manage blogs you follow” section of your account. You can also ask to be notified by e-mail who is following you.

Obviously, there are many more alternatives to Google Reader than I know about. If you have had a good (or bad) experience with a particular one, please feel free to share in the comments below.

© 2013 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Feb 112012

In my previous post, I promised I would offer another alternative to Google Friend Connect, a widget commonly used by bloggers to enable their readers to follow them, but which is being discontinued for non-Blogger users at the end of this month. If you consider the blogs you visit, there are actually many ways to follow them: e-mail or newsletter subscription, RSS feed, Google+, and the list goes on. Because everyone has his or her favorite way of following a blog, and because you’re not likely going to please everyone, I highly recommend offering more than one way for your blog to be followed. So, here is one more blog management tool that is easy to use, easy to manage and offers many options. It’s also free, which is a plus.

Just one week ago Brent Riggs of Linky Tools launched Linky Followers, a service tested by “mom bloggers” that Brent promises will remain free to use. According to Brent in his post NEW SITE: LinkyFollowers.com, “Bloggers need a good ‘follower’ tool and one that is not tied to a million other services (seems like Facebook, Twitter and Google are linked to everything else on the Internet).  It needs to be simple, fast, easy-to-use and reliable.”

Within a few days after the service became available, a couple of thousand users had already signed up. So, does this tool live up to hype? I decided to create an account and check it out.

When you sign up for Linky Followers, you are provided with code that you can copy and paste into your site, whether that’s Blogger, WordPress or some other blogging platform. I copied the code and pasted it into an HTML widget for this Web site and saved it.  The process took less than 2 minutes. Easy!

Then I decided to visit a few blogs that already had the same widget installed. I clicked on Follow Me, wondering what would happen if you didn’t already have an account. The Follow A Blog screen appears as shown below, offering you the opportunity to sign up for an account, or to sign in to an existing account if you have one.

When you sign in to your account, you are taken immediately to the Dashboard, which is the heart of Linky Followers. The screen is a bit cluttered because of the tips, demos and links collected collage-style on the screen, but they also don’t seem to get in the way of using the Dashboard. Here are a few things I learned about Linky Followers within a quarter of an hour:

  • You can upload a picture of yourself and complete a profile that will enable other users of Linky Followers to learn about you.
  • You can organize the blogs you follow, as well as your blog followers, into categories. The default categories are General, Check Every Day, and Favorite, but you can create as many custom categories as you wish. I created a few sample categories such as Craft Community, Tutorials, BBEST Team and Blogging Business Artisans. The latter two categories are Etsy teams to which I belong.
  • You can follow blogs without a Linky Followers account by entering them manually into your Dashboard.
  • A blog reader is built inside the Dashboard so that you don’t have to leave your account to read posts. However, you still have the option to go directly to a blog from your Dashboard.
  • The information about the blogs you follow and your blog followers is organized into columns that you can rearrange simply by dragging the header at the top of the columns. This means you can organize the information so that it makes sense to you.
  • If you have multiple blogs, you can create a customized widget for each one, and each blog will have its own set of followers, all managed by your Dashboard.
  • You can visit any of your followers’ blogs right from your widget, simply by clicking on their thumbnail.
  • There is a Linky Followers Blog Directory, so if you are looking for some fresh new blogs to read, as of today there are 129 pages (and growing) you can explore.

If you are looking for a relatively easy-to-use blog management tool that gives you the option to organize blogs and blog posts for easy access, then Linky Followers is a great option. You’ll find the widget for it in my left side bar, as a matter of fact, which represents my endorsement of this product.

© 2012 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.