The internet is awesome, isn’t it? I mean, we have all sorts of things to keep us occupied, like hockey blogs, and hockey podcasts, and… other hockey blogs! But clicking around the internet is tedious work, and disappointing when you visit a site over and over only to find it looks exactly the same as before.
Or what if the site itself just plain looks bad, makes it hard to read (fonts too small, bad color choices, eye straining or distracting flash banners and ads), or is so chock full of advertisements that you can barely tell the ads from the good stuff. An unreadable site isn’t going to keep you coming back, even if the writing is amazing.
This post is completely devoid of hockey content, but may help a few of you. From delivering content to you automatically to making the web easier to read, use any of these tools freely available to make reading hockey blogs simpler and more enjoyable. Even the experienced among you may find something new.
If you have something that helps people read hockey blogs, feel free to stick them in the comments.
The absolute simplest way to read hockey blogs, or find out when new content is available, is to use RSS. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (or Rich Site Summary, but what’s the fun of that?), and it really is simple. RSS will deliver content to you, as it is updated. You don’t have to do anything special for the content to come to you. What could be easier? If you see this symbol on a website, or even in the address bar of your browser, that means the site has RSS available:
Note that the color of the symbol may be a little different from site to site, or browser to browser, but it looks relatively the same. Click on that, and you are on your way to the easy days of reading content.
Very few blogs, podcast, or websites that are dynamically updated (as in, new content producing sites) turn off their RSS feeds. Your browser should automatically detect if the site you are on has a feed available, and will show you the feed icon, making life super easy for you.
Some sites (like my sites) put the full content of their site into their RSS feed, and some only put a summary of their content into the feed. This is at the discretion of the site owner, but even so, you know that new content is available, and don’t have to waste your time going back to a site over and over to see if there is something new.
Now that you know about RSS – and how simple it really is – what do you do with that RSS feed? Stick it in an RSS reader, of course.
And RSS reader – or feed reader – updates periodically and checks for new content at set intervals. It’s much the same as the iTunes podcast feature (you do listen to podcasts, right?) in that it brings the content to you. There are a bunch of feed readers out there, some online and some as desktop programs. There are even readers for mobile devices. Here are but a few:
Google Reader – This is widely the most popular online reader, thanks to the google name. It’s also super easy to use, and has plenty of organization to keep your feeds in good shape. Best of all, it’s free. If you tell it the URL of a site you want to subscribe to, it will find the feed for it automatically, making it even easier to deal with RSS.
Bloglines – another popular choice.
Here’s a Google Search that will help you find more options.
Endo – I use Endo for my desktop feed reader. It’s easy to use, I like the organization, and it keeps things fairly organized. It’s not as well supported as it could be, but it works, and works well.
NetNewsWire – A popular choice.
Times – Not my favorite, but an interesting interface, and some people like it. Not as user friendly to set up, but once it’s set, it’s good to go.
Here’s an article with more mac based options.
Feedreader – Simple and efficient. I think this is what I used when I was PC based.
FeedDemon – From the same people as NetNewsWire.
Keep in mind that most browsers (Safari, FireFox, etc.) can act as feed readers, as can many email clients. I like using a program dedicated to the task, but with all the options you have, it’s all about how you like to read your content.
Instapaper is a game changer. It’s a web based… it’s hard to describe. In fact, it’s so simple, it seems like it should have less impact than it does. But here goes.
Instapaper will save online content for you to read later. With a simple bookmarklet (a bookmark that sits in your browser and executes a function when you click it), Instapaper automatically saves the page for you to read when you feel like it, be that in an hour, a day, or a year. Think about it this way. With one click, I can save something I would normally have skipped over and forgotten, kicked to curb in a fit of tl:dr (too long, didn’t read).
This is from the Instapaper FAQ:
From a personal perspective, I appreciate great writing, but I’ve become frustrated with the quick-consumption nature of many devoted blog readers. Authors are encouraged to cater to drive-by visitors hurrying through their feed readers by producing lightweight content for quick skimming.
There’s no time to sit and read anything when you’re going through 500 feed items while responding to email, chatting, and watching bad YouTube videos.
As a result, popular blogs are now full of useless “list posts” with no substance or value.
Well-written content is out there, and we do have opportunities every day to read it — just not when we’re in information-skimming, speed-overload mode. But we can all read while waiting in long lines, commuting (although please not while driving), or sitting on the goofy chairs in the shoe area and being supportive while our wives are shopping.
The times we find information aren’t always ideal for consuming it. Instapaper helps you bridge that gap.
And how. Again, it’s amazing how a simple little button can change how you read on the internet, and how easy it is to come back to good writing. If something is too long to read in the moment, or you don’t have the time or mindset to read it right now, click the link, and move on. It’s that easy. Try it out for a while. Instapaper is free, and it may work for you too.
This is something new I found, and it’s helping me read more and more content, with less distraction and less aggravation. Readability takes a blog page, or other websites, and strips out the BS. It formats a page to bring you only the content, and eliminates sidebars, ads, images, footers, and headers. It changes the font and background into a more readable style. You didn’t go to that website to watch ads, did you? You didn’t start reading hockey blogs so annoying flashing banners would tell you about things you could care less about, right? You don’t have to watch the videos on the sidebar, or have rollover popup ads get in your way. You don’t have to squint to read unbelievably small font sizes, or suffer through poor site design choices just to get to what you really came for. Readability is the best thing to hit my browser in a long time. And again, it’s free.
Key commands on a Mac:
Two small helpful tips for Mac users. Command + and Command – will make the font size of a website bigger and smaller. Command 0 restores it to default (that’s command plus, command minus, and command zero).
Also, for a cool trick, try command-option-control-8. That turns the screen color negative. Instead of black type on a white screen, you get white type on a black screen, which can help take the strain off your eyes for a while. The same keys change the screen back.
Everything I posted here is free. Every program, every site, every trick, it’s all free. It’s designed to help you get to the content other people are producing, and get that content easier, better, faster, and in a more enjoyable fashion.
You want to read hockey blogs, right? You want to make it easier to get to those blogs, and the people who write the blogs want you to read. Why else publish it on the web? So pick up a few tools and start subscribing. You will find that you can read more in less time, and enjoy the experience even more.
Good luck, and get to reading.
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