I know Via Negativa is probably not the first place you go for breathless tips about blogs and blogging. But I just stumbled across a new feature in Google Reader (well, new to me, at any rate) that has literally revolutionized the way I read blogs!
Remember how it was back in the beginning, when you first discovered blogs that were fun to read — the excitement of clicking on your half-dozen bookmarked blogs and seeing what was new? Then do you remember your impatience at those bloggers who would go through phases where they would post multiple times a day, followed by weeks or months of silence, and how that and the growing number of blogs you followed led you to start using a feed reader, where you wouldn’t have to waste time clicking on anything that hadn’t been updated? Now, I’ve discovered, it’s possible to have the best of both worlds.
In the Settings section of Google Reader, click on the Goodies tab, and you’ll see a “Next” bookmarklet that you can drag into your Firefox bookmarks toolbar. If, like me, you subscribe to a certain number of feeds that you only skim once in a while, be sure to restrict it to whatever label you use for the feeds you never miss.
Then go back into Google Reader, click on that label — making sure that the display is set to “new items” rather than “all items” — and click through to the first blog post that comes up. [Update: This turns out not to be necessary. Clicking on the Next bookmarklet from any page seems to take one directly to the top post in one’s queue.] Once there, you don’t have to return to the GR shell: simply click Next to go directly to the next-most-recent blog post (or other feed item) in your queue — and have each post removed from the tally of unread items in your reader as you land on it.
What this means, of course, is that you can get around the bother of having to click through to read the full posts of blogs with partial feeds, or to leave a comment; you’re already there! Best of all, for those of us who enjoy the aesthetic experience of reading unique texts, we’re no longer restricted to the dull uniformity of the feed reader. Bloggers who follow their stats will be pleased by the extra visits (though presumably puzzled by the new “came from” data failing to correspond with incoming links).
So now I can essentially surf my own blogroll without hitting the Back key. It almost reminds me of clicking the “Next Blog” button in WordPress.com’s top navigation bar (or Blogger’s back in 2004, before BlogSpot got taken over by spam blogs), except that I don’t have to go through 25 bad or mediocre blogs before finding something good.
NB: If you’re still using Bloglines, or another aggregator, and you want to try Google Reader out, importing all your feeds only takes a few minutes.