Pages

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Connecting and Subscribing

Connecting and Subscribing

A class in Basic Internet Skills 101 would probably cover web browsers and how to click your way to interesting or useful sites. Once you find yourself relying upon the Internet for your daily dose of information, interest, and entertainment, you might wish you had a better way of zeroing in on just the sites you want to check with daily.

Those of us still mired at the basic skill level will try to rely on memory, each day clicking through the ever-increasing list of bookmarks, checking for updates and new posts of your favorite sites.

There's a better way.

Cleverly disguised as a serious writer of important information, I plan to slyly ensnare more and more of you as faithful subscribers to my various websites and posts. Along the way, you just may pick up some tips that could make the Internet less time-wasting and more effective.

Maybe.

RSS: Really Simple Syndication

It is possible to have all your websites, especially the ones that have regular updates or changing information, send their information directly to you, as soon as it is updated.

The way to do this is through RSS: Really Simple Syndication. I'll step you through one easy way to get started, but keep in mind that there are several different providers and variations. If it intrigues you, do further research using the reference links at the end of this post.

Step One: Get an RSS reader

Your email program may already have an option for reading RSS subscriptions. My preference, however, is the free reader from www.google.com.

Register with Google at this address: http://reader.google.com

Create a new account, or if you already have an account with Google.com, sign in with your email address and password.

Once signed in, Google Reader will open in your browser.


Step Two: Get a good website

As big as the Internet is, there is really only one site you should begin with: MINE.

Just kidding. Actually, we will begin with MINE, but I allow the possibility that there may be a few other websites somewhere in Cyberland that are worth reading regularly.

Maybe.

Anyway, let's subscribe to a web site!

Open a new browser window and navigate to the Internet's best website: http://miltreynolds.blogspot.com

Look for the RSS symbol and click on "Posts".

The drop-down menu shows several RSS readers. Since I'm registered with Google Reader, we'll select the option that says, Add to Google.

Google gives us two options: add to Google homepage, or add to Google Reader. My preference is Google Reader, so click that button.

Google will add the subscription link to your Google Reader account. From now on, to read my daily (somewhat semi-weekly/monthly, or so) updates, just open your browser, navigate to Google Reader and log in. Every site to which you subscribe will be listed, with options to view all the updates or past posts.

Google Reader can become your daily newspaper or magazine, customized to give you exactly the information you're looking for. No longer do you need to visit every individual website that are your favorites. All the updates from all your favorites are delivered to one website: your RSS reader. You can subscribe to sites that provide world news, local news, comics, puzzles, opinions, weather, entertainment, and much more.

Some websites do not have an RSS link that automatically adds to Google. You can still add the subscription to Google Reader. Let's try that next.

Frances Hunter's American Heroes Blog is a great blog. Frequent updates, interesting articles and photos, all about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and American history. The site actually does have an RSS link that will automatically place the subscription into your Google Reader account, but for purposes of learning, let's use a link that is more generic.

Navigate to Frances Hunter's American Heroes Blog: http://franceshunter.wordpress.com

At the top, right-hand corner there is a couple of RSS links. Click on the one for Posts.

Your browser will open a window filled with text and coded language. Don't be alarmed. This is the web site re-formatted into a version that is readable by most any RSS reader.

Copy the URL address of this page: http://franceshunter.wordpress.com/feed.

Go back to Google Reader and click on the button in the top, left-hand corner labeled, Add a Subscription.

The drop-down window allow you to paste in the URL address. Click Add, and Google Reader will fetch that page and display it in the reader pane.



You can do this with any website that offers an RSS feed. Look for the RSS link and add it to Google Reader. Enjoy!

Here are some great sites, all conveniently labeled MINE, ready for you to grab!

You might notice, if you are signed into your Google account, all of my blog sites have a button at the top of the page, the very top: Follow. This is also a way to subscribe to any Blogspot site. Click the Follow button, and it will automatically become part of Google Reader's subscription list.

Twitter

Some websites do not offer RSS, but they do offer ways to subscribe. One of my favorites is Twitter.

A Twitter account allows you to send very short messages, only 140 characters (including spaces).

A good overview of how Twitter works can be found here: http://twitter.com/about.

I use Twitter nearly every day. I often will post interesting (to me!) quotations that I come across. I'll post what I'm doing when I think I'm doing something noteworthy (such as, cooking lunch, fighting a cold, watching American Idol, laughing...you know, those important milestones in a person's daily life.)

Twitter allows you to follow other Twitter-users...you'll receive their daily posts and updates. A few of my favorite Twitter-users I've linked to my cell phone, so that I get their posts immediately as a text message.

In my never-ending quest for world peace and betterment, I will now guide you through the steps to setting up a Twitter account, helping you to begin following my Twitter site as a favorite, and linking my site to your cell phone.

First, navigate to http://twitter.com.

Click on the button on the button: Sign Up Now.

Enter the required information, agree to the Terms of Service, and click on the button: Create My Account.

A message sent to your Twitter account is called a tweet. Sending the message is called tweeting. Type your message in the entry field, under the general question, What's happening? and click Update.

Your first post!

Now, let's find another site (MINE) and mark it as a favorite so you can start following ME.

Navigate to my Twitter site: http://twitter.com/miltreynolds.

Click on the button labeled Follow. All my updates will now show up on your Home page of Twitter.

Now, let's make it easier to keep up with my news. Let's link your cell phone to your Twitter account.

Click on the link in the upper, right-hand corner labeled: Settings.

Click on the link labeled: Mobile.

Follow the instructions given to link your phone to your Twitter account.

Now, go back to my Twitter account: http://twitter.com/miltreynolds

There is a green checkmark next to the title: Following.

Immediately following the title, Following, there is a small, gray icon that is supposed to represent a cell phone. Hover your cursor over this icon and you see a warning: Updates are not sent to your mobile phone. Click this icon and it will change to green: Updates are sent by SMS to your mobile phone. Success!



Now, you'll get a text message as soon as I send an update to my Twitter account. You'll never be out of the loop!

You can follow as many other Twitter users as you like, and link any of them to your phone. Here are a few of my favorites for you to consider:

Facebook

Finally, the social networking website that perhaps has the most potential to devour all of your idle minutes: http://www.facebook.com.

Facebook allows longer postings (420 characters), and you can post photos, music, links, games, events, and a bunch more. It truly is a bazaar, or a marketplace, for meeting, greeting, joking, ranting, questioning, deciding, changing, renewing, and surfing.

An account with Facebook is easy to register, and you can learn how to send messages and follow other users quickly by following the basic instructions. I'll point you to the place to start, lead you to my Facebook page, and then I'll tie all these three elements together.

First, navigate to http://www.facebook.com

Sign up by following the instructions and then visit my page: Facebook: Milt Reynolds.

Click on the button: Add as Friend. I'll get a request to allow you to follow me (which I will approve if I know you) and then all my updates to Facebook will appear on your News Feed page of Facebook.

Just like with Twitter, you can request as many Friends as you like. The more you request, the more people will start requesting to be friends with you, and your network will grow.

Putting It All Together

I've linked my Twitter account with my Facebook account. Everything I tweet shows up on my Facebook page as well as on Twitter.

I've also linked my primary blog site, miltreynolds.blogspot.com, to Facebook. Everything I send to my blog also shows up on Facebook.

Why?

Here's the unvarnished, unashamed fact of the matter: I like to have attention paid to me. I like to imagine that my thoughts and opinions (rants, raves and redundancies) bring interest, or a smile, or an insight to others. I'm a fairly quiet person...I don't talk a lot and I don't talk easily...I write much more, and better, than I talk. So, this is my equivalent of calling people and talking to them on the phone.

I dream of one day being able to stop working 12-hour shifts, rotating days and nights, manual labor. I dream of one day earning my living by writing or creating (art, books, crafts, whatever...I just want to create). My various blogs and websites are my attempts to keep that dream alive, hone my writing skills, and express myself.

Come join me!

Reference Links: