One of the great things about blogs is that there are a lot of ways to read them. You can of course use a web browser like Internet Express (or FireFox or Opera or Safari) and the statistics for this blog suggest that a lot of people are reading it on the web. But you can also read blogs using a news aggregator. An aggregator basically checks the blogs that you have subscribed to and collects the updates in one easy to read place. This is all done using a form of XML technology using a couple of formats. One is called RSS and one is called Atom. Which one you use depends on a number of things including what blogging engine you use. There are some politics involved but I’m not about to go into that.
The biggest advantage that aggregators have is that they save a lot of time. Rather than having to visit each site on a regular basis you can just check the aggregator and it will let you know what has been updated and what hasn’t. And then you can easily read the updated articles without wasting any additional time. Aggregators fall into two basic types: web based and client. (though there are other kinds as well)
Web based aggregators are web sites that allow you to create an account and add subscriptions to that account. You can then go to that web site, log in and see all the updated articles. This has a benefit of portability – anyplace you can get a web browser to open you can read your blogs. It’s not very useful though if you have to go offline and want to use idle time to catch up on your reading.
Client aggregators are programs that you install on your computer. From time to time, usually on a schedule you set, they check the blogs you have listed and download new content. You can read this content while you are off line. The drawback is that some feeds do not include all the information and so you have to be online to read the rest and also that coordination can be difficult if you use multiple machines.
Web-based aggregators include bloglines, MyYahoo and of course MyMsn.
Client aggregators include RSS Bandit (my favorite) and FeedDemon which is actually a hybrid of online and offline.
There is a list of more aggregators than I ever knew existed here. If you are not using some sort of news aggregator you may be surprised at how much time it saves you. Oh and if you do get one please be sure to add this blog to the list of blogs you follow.