Wednesday, August 08, 2007

RSS explained for the non-techies

From JMB [Somebody Very Important in our Opinion]

Even though I am a user of bloglines, I only have a few BP people on it and mainly go through Pageflakes for BP blogs, except a few which I always go to through my blogroll. If you click through from Pageflakes, do you know how the stats are listed? What would the referring URL be?

Provided we all actually visit the blogs, I still think MyBlogLog is the best option, with 30 avatars displayed, if I can find out how to do that. So now below:

This post is a follow up to some discussion which has been going on over at Defending the Blogosphere. James asked, on behalf of those members who did not know, what an RSS feeder is.

Well, being rather low tech myself I cannot give you the exact details but, long ago, on the advice of a doctor whose blog I read but who posted irregularly, I subscribed to, a free reader service which I have found really useful. This is an extremely simple procedure in which you enroll then start to build your list of blogs that you wish to follow.

Following the blogs is easy, I added my bloglines feed page to the customize links toolbar in Windows ( also called the bookmarks toolbar). If it is not showing, look under View, then Toolbars and make sure it is ticked.

I always keep a special tab open for my bloglines feed in Mozilla Firefox, which is my browser, but if I close it I can easily open it again by clicking on the link on the links bar. All you do is drag the icon in front of the URL of your bloglines feed (shown in the navigation bar) down to the links bar.

Now to add a new blog to your feed, you have two options. You can go the and add the URL there (a very cumbersome procedure) or you can install a sub with bloglines button as below:

Internet Explorer Users

  1. To install the button, right click on this button Sub with Bloglines and select the 'Add to Favorites' link. You may see a warning dialog -- click 'OK' to continue.
  2. To subscribe to the blog or site you're currently viewing in your browser, just click the 'Sub with Bloglines' button from within your Favorites menu.

Firefox Users

  1. To install the button on your browser, first make sure that the 'Bookmarks Toolbar' toolbar is visible in your browser. Click 'View' > 'Toolbars' and verify that the 'Bookmarks Toolbar' item is checked.
  2. Drag this button Sub with Bloglines to the 'Bookmarks Toolbar' toolbar.
  3. A 'Sub with Bloglines' button should now appear in your 'Bookmarks Toolbar'.
  4. To subscribe to the blog or site you're currently viewing in your browser, just click the button.
I did the latter, being a Firefox user. Then when I am at a blog that I wish to add to my feeds (make sure it's the home page), I hit the sub with bloglines button on my links bar, a separate box comes up which you complete and Bob's your uncle, all taken care of. It will appear in your feeds with the last few posts noted in brackets behind the name. It's easy to organize the entries into alphabetical order and even into folders.

Bloglines seems to continually update itself without refreshing the page, I believe, but you can hit refresh page if it doesn't. A blog with a post or posts unread by you has a number in brackets behind its title. No number means no update since you last read.

To read a blog click on its name in the left hand column. The post will appear on the right hand side, including images. You can read it here but not the comments. As far as I know the blog writer cannot tell if you have read it or not. If you wish to go to the blog itself, click on the name of the blog at the top in the right hand column. To read a post only click on the title of the post. Either action puts you at the blog and registers your appearance in the stats etc. although the referral will show from bloglines, now I come to think of it. So maybe this isn't the answer to our problem. Although clicking and going to the blog will add to the stats.

Definitely mybloglog is a good solution, to my mind, with the thirty avatars option, which needs to be explained to me, since I can't see how to go above 10.


Ian Appleby said...

Thanks, JMB, you've said pretty much everything I wouldn't have had time to before I go away tomorrow. I would just add that some e-mail clients can also deal with RSS feeds, I use Thunderbird for both my mails and for keeping up with many blogs. It's open-source, free to download,and works on both Windows and Linux. An excellent package, it seems to me.

The other thing to note is that you can add feeds in bulk, if you have something called an OPML file - look for the "import" or "import subscriptions" button in the reader you are using - e.g. in Bloglines it is in "Additional Features", below the list of feeds you already take. Browse to the location where your file is saved.

Now Matt W deserves a vote of thanks: he has made available an OPML file containing all BP blogs and you can find it here; either open it, and cut and paste the contents into an empty text file, which you can save wherever you choose, or take the easy route, and right-click --> Save as... I recommend keeping the ".opml" file extension so that your reader can find it more easily. I can vouch that it has worked for me in both Bloglines and in Thunderbird. Cheers, Matt.

ThunderDragon said...

I use Google Reader as my RSS reader. The best thing I have found about it is that I can use iGoogle and be aware of any posts as soon as I open my browser.

jmb said...

I made a comment earlier here which has disappeared.
Second time around.
Ian, I'm afraid you've totally lost me so I shall copy this and read it again, hopefully with more insight.
When I tried to save the opml file by right clicking I wasn't given that option. So I will pursue this further. I know there must be lots of features that I haven't explored in Bloglines.

Matt, I ran both Bloglines and Google Reader for a while but opted for Bloglines, probably because I was more used to it. I don't know what iGoogle is so will have to check that out, but being aware of posts when you open the browser sounds good to me. Although I leave Bloglines open all the time in a tab so it's easy to see what has come in.

Now as usual, I am not being inundated with advice on how to change the display on MyBlogLog from 10 to 30. Do I have to beg? Please, pretty please. Take pity on the old lady. Yes I am prepared to go into the html as long as it's pretty obvious.
I hope this comment sticks.

Graf von Straf Hindenburg said...


# Go to MyBlogLog in your sidebar.

# Click on View Reader Community.

# Under your own name at the top, select Widgets. A panel with colour choices and otehr things comes up.

# Go down to the options underneath the colours and after you have got your colour choice done, look at these options.

# Select a width which will fit your sidebar exactly [this is important because the wider, the more boxes will fit in].

# Show screen names - NO.

# Select Full size next [Default].

# Rows - scroll down and selct "10".

# Make sure the header is as you want it to read.

# Click Preview and Get Code.

# When the new window comes up, check and if not happy, use your browser reverse [not MyBlogLog's].

# Get it right and click for code again.

# There you are - 30 faces smiling out at you once you put this in your sidebar.

Hope it helps.

Ian Appleby said...

JMB, click on the link in my first comment, and you should open a page filled with what looks a little like HTML code. Select it all, and press Control+C, or whichever method you prefer for copying text.

Then, open a new file in Notepad, or your preferred text editor, and copy the text into this. Add nothing.

Now save it as, say, "blogpower.opml" (not ".txt"), in a memorable location. Mine is currently on my desktop.

Then, go to Bloglines - or wherever - and choose the "import" option; this will ask you to locate your OPML file, so simply navigate to the location where you saved it, and select it. Follow whichever instructions ensue, but I recall it to be very straightforward. Good luck.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Jmb, you are so clever! Very clearly explained - thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am still trying to work out what a round up is....

jmb said...

This place does not like me. Second comment disappeared.
Thanks again to James, his instructions worked like a charm.

Thanks to Ian, I had got so far as to save the file to Notepad but didn't see how to make it an opml file since it was just offering text. I suppose I just type it in as the extension.
Anyway I will continue with this later.

If you are serious mutley and not just pulling our legs, which I could believe, I'm assuming it's like Colin Campbell's Carnival of Cities, where people submit posts (which I have done, others, not my own) and the editor writes a few sentences about it and makes a link to the post. Many of these roundups have themes and the editors can be very funny tying the posts into the theme.
So Matt, I'm expecting great things here for the first one. No pressure, mind you.

Ever hopeful, she types the cachtpa and presses publish.

Graf von Straf Hindenburg said...

Mutley - you're hopeless.

Matt W said...

On the OPML file, you can import it directly from here:

No need to make a local copy.

>So Matt, I'm expecting great things here for the first one. No pressure, mind you.

I trust he means him-Matt not me-Matt.

I'm up at some god-forsaken hour finishing off a chapter for Mr Dale's book in a vain attempt at self-publicity (yes BP will get a mention, and not in connection with Aspirin).

A story currently worth blogging is the chainsaw massacre in our towns. See link on my name.

James and I are trying to make sure this is still live come the autumn. More bloggery coming.

jmb said...

Second time at trying to make a comment.
So Matt w, I imported the subscription to bloglines, typed in the URL you gave. Hit import. Message no subscriptions added. May take a few hours to update.

Many hours later, nothing.
In the feeds window, nothing appears but if I go into the Edit window a folder shows Blogpower (A-Z) with nothing in it. Going out of edit mode into regular display, zip.

I'm sure Ian Appleby got it to work but he's away. Anyone else get it to work? Any suggestions?

jmb ( a little old lady, no He)

Matt W said...


Sorry - it just worked on my bloglines account.


Ian Appleby said...

JMB, I'm now back... Yes, your idea is right, simply delete the .txt extension that Notepad offers as a default, and save the file as "blogpower.opml", or whatever (watch that it doesn't try to save it as blogpower.opml.txt... Do you have a drop-down menu called "file types", or "save as type", or similar? If so, choose 'all files'). That should help.

Incidentally, as Matt was suggesting, it is possible to set live bookmarks in Firefox; this extension lets you import them from an opml file, and seems to work well.

jmb said...

I just want to report that I have finally imported the opml file into my bloglines feed using Ian Appleby's method of copy and paste into separate file, etc.

Using Matt's method of using the URL he quoted did not work at all for me, I don't know why.

However I never give up until I succeed and finally I did. Thank you Ian, wherever you are, on vacation still.

Dana said...

This is off topic, but did you leave a comment on my blog? I was a bit delete happy with my spam this morning as I was growling at everyone who thought I'd be interested in Levitra.

I don't know how important it was...