Next

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.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

14 Comments


  1. Thanks, Dave! I’m trying it out. Where can you set “display” to “new items”?

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  2. Main column, right under the title of whatever’s on display, to the left of “Mark all as read,” you have the option of either viewing all posts (which is a really handy feature sometimes), or only viewing those you haven’t read yet. You must also have checked the box for Scroll tracking in Settings > Preferences. (I can’t remember if that’s opt-out or opt-in; I think the former.)

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  3. This is good and helpful. Thanks, Dave.

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  4. very cool. solves a number of problems. this may be what finally moves me off Bloglines.

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  5. The “next” icon oughta come with an exclaimation point after it.

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  6. I regret my negativity in that statement, but I think there is something going on here. This increase in ease of management is commensurate with a blog that is more disposable.

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  7. I have been using google reader for a while line. It works great for me. It has streamlined my reading blog hopping!

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  8. Dave, are there other reasons you prefer Google Reader to Bloglines? I’m considering making the switch but am typically loathe to try new things. (Yes, I’m that kind of stick in the mud…)

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  9. Yes. There are simply a lot more ways to view and display feeds. That dynamic blogroll of latest posts in my sidebar is generated by a line of GR-supplied javascript, for example (in WP.com you’d have to put the feed into an RSS widget, as with the Laupeology feed). A more popular approach is to display the feed of shared items within GR, for something like my former Smorgasblog. So there’s this whole social bookmarking feature of GR that bloggers can take advantage of. But the Next bookmarklet is really revolutionary, i’m telling you.

    My dad, the retired reference librarian, tells me that Bloglines’ blog searching function is by far the best way to find stuff in the blogosphere, better than Google or Technorati. So obviously it’s still a very good service.

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  10. Okay, I’ve imported my BL feeds & have tried the “Next” button: omg! How wonderful!

    I’m not sure I’ve wrapped my head around the other stuff (sharing, social bookmarking, and RSS feeds: oh my!) But the “Next” button is super-cool, so maybe one of these days I’ll have time to play with the other stuff. In the meantime, thanks for the heads-up.

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  11. Isn’t that cool? Glad you’re liking it.

    I should add that I, too, am a classic stick in the mud. So I respect your willingness to try this.

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  12. OK, at your suggestion I’ve set this up. I love it! Now, if you could just recommend how to keep my fingers from constantly straying up to the little “Next” word in my Bookmarks bar when I’m supposed to be doing respectable things, I’d surely appreciate it! It’s altogether too tempting!

    Reply

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