About a week ago, I got up in front of a room full of people and promised them that I would post about resources for new bloggers and blog readers. If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that I motivate myself to get stuff done by telling people in a public forum that I will do it. And also, that I have a tendency to over-commit. I still get my stuff done (and well if I do say so myself), but every once in a while I feel tortured with nobody to blame except myself and my Type-A personality (guess my dad takes some responsibility for that one).
Anyway, instead of reviewing a bunch of blog services, tools, readers and aggregators, I’m going to give you some links so you can check them out on your own and some tips on how to decide what is right for you. I’ve thought about this and there is no “best” blog tool or news-reader. You have to figure out what works best with your style. So let me start with news-readers and aggregators.
For people new to the blogosphere, these are the tools you use to read blogs. These tools use RSS technology to deliver new blog posts. A serious blogger or blog reader can read 50 to 100 blogs regularly (I read a lot of blogs, but just scan for interesting content). Aggregators are the tools or sites you go to that grab content (via RSS) onto the site from other s blogs and info sources. They can be dedicated to a specific subject matter (like Technorati) or let you search blogs by subject or domain. News-readers are tools that you set to deliver blog posts to you (again, using RSS). Think of aggregators as “push” technology and news-readers as “pull” technology. You add blogs of interest to your news-reader and it lets you know when a new post shows up on each one.
So far, I have tried out NewsGator and Bloglines (my current favorite). My tip here would be to figure out where and how you want to read blog posts. I found that having posts delivered into a folder in Outlook (via NewsGator) wasn’t the best thing for me. I like that Bloglines dropped an icon into my systems tray…it’s always there and visible and lets me know when there is new stuff to look at. RSS is the most ubiquitous, but you’ll also find other syndication technologies like Atom…consider news-readers that support multiple subscription protocols. I also recommend you look at additional features offered by your news-reader and think about how you might use them in the future. Things like clip-boards and the ability to manage your own blog from your reader. Of course, ease of adding and deleting blogs is key as well.
So here are some to check out:
Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com/) Lets you create a clip blog that includes links to posts you find interesting. Stand-alone, web-based, free.
NewsGator (http://www.newsgator.com/) Runs in Outlook and allows you to sort like you would with e-mail. Free for 2 weeks, then a small charge.
Feedreader (http://www.feedreader.com/) Aggregator that works with Windows. Free, taskbar alerts.
Pluck (http://www.pluck.com/) Allows you to monitor searches. Folders can be shared. (This looks interesting…if anyone starts to use this, I’d love to hear what you think)
RSSbandit (http://www.rssbandit.org) Focused on a more technical audience. Does more for those that are technically inclined (that’s not me).
Newzcrawler (http://www.newzcrawler.com/ ) Supports multiple syndication techs. Customizable, but otherwise very basic.
Sharpreader (http://www.sharpreader.com/) Supports categories. Allows you to adjust feed settings
Blogging Tools and Services
Blogging tools are the actual publishing devices. Blogging services generally include the tool (UI) and also the server to house your blog. For anyone new to blogging, you’d be searching for the services (unless you have some tech folks with a server that will support your blog tool). Regardless, the discussion of blog tools is important because it will help drive your decision to select a service (I'm using .Text). Things you want to think about here are 1) cost (some charge a small fee), 2) syndication technologies supported (RSS is most common) 3) whether the service supports categories (let’s you publish by topic) and 4) templates available (I’m a visual person so I care what the blog looks like to my readers). Also, when looking at a service, find out if it primarily hosts personal blogs or if there's a good mix of professional blogs as well. One rule of recruiting is that similarly skilled candidates hand out together. Same with blogs. I personally think you are more discoverable sitting on a server with other professional bloggs, mainly because many blog services offer a search function on their main page and that people use blog domains in Boolean searches. OK, here we go...
Blogger (http://www.blogger.com/start) very simple. Ubiquitous. Good place to experiment.
Modblog (http://www.modblog.com/)- appears to be home to lots of personal and GenX/Y type blogs
Bloggar (http://www.bloggar.com/) Tool that publishes on multiple blog services. Does not support multiple categories.
Dasblog (http://www.dasblog.net/) built on the .NET Framework
Typepad (http://www.typepad.com/) Some great blogs hosted here. Different levels of service offered. Might be a good choice for a corporate blogger.
Livejournal (http://www.livejournal.com/) Appears to be home to lots of Gen X/Y personal blogs
MoveableType (http://www.movabletype.org/product_overview.shtml). Popular publishing tool
.TEXT (http://scottwater.com/blog) This is the tool we use at Microsoft (we host our own blogs) developed by Scott Watermasysk.
One additional point I want to make is about support. When you are picking any reader or service, keep in mind that there could come a time when you need support. I don’t want to get into a discussion of commercial versus non-commercial software here but keep in mind that the type of support you will get from a commercial product is different than you will get from a non-commercial product and you need to think about that.
There are a ton more resources out there and trust me, I don’t know it all. Thought this would be a good starting point for anyone looking to start reading blogs regularly and/or start a blog of their own. I’ll post later with some tips more related to content and process (relative to corporate blogging).
If you’ve got questions, don’t be shy. Ditto if you have opinions or recommendations.