Technical Help: How To Read Blog Feeds With Google Reader

You might have noticed the little orange button in the upper right hand corner of CommercialSource.com.  It’s labeled “Subscribe”.  If you look around the web at most blogs – or at any steady sources of updated information – chances are you’ll see that little orange guy.

So what does it do?  How does it “subscribe” you to anything?  And why does it show gobbledygook to you sometimes if you click it?

Let’s take a look at what a blog feed is to get some answers.

What is a Blog Feed?

Once upon a time on the web, we had to rely upon ourselves to locate new information.  When a website posted new content, the only way we knew about it was to click over to that site by hand and look ourselves.

This took a lot of time, especially as the number of quality sources of content grew over the years.   Worse, when websites would change their layouts, we would get lost in our hunt for new content.  It wasn’t a great situation.

Then someone figured out the solution: instead of making the user come to the content, why not have the website itself send out notices to interested people that new content had appeared?

Early attempts at this included email notifications, but that was messy.  It involved people giving up their email addresses and all the headaches associated with email – subscribing, unsubscribing, spam traps, and then getting deluged with notices.  There had to be a better way.

That better way came in the form of syndication. Without getting too technical, syndication means that a blog or site can publish a special link that leads to a machine-readable summary of all content at the blog.  That machine-readability meant that you could obtain free software to read and display that summary (the machine doing the reading in this case is your own computer or smart phone).

With the right software, called a feed reader, you now had content coming to you instead of forcing you to trudge over to ten different websites hunting for new content.

So How Do I Use A Reader To Read Blog Feeds?

There are lots of ways, and smartly enough, they’re all well-integrated into your web browsing experience, be that on a computer or on a mobile device.  Let’s take a look at one of my favorites.

Google Reader – The king of web search has an excellent feed reader available for free in your browser.  All you need is a Google account to get to it.  Google Reader can be told what sites to watch and how to display the alerts/links to new content.  You do this by “Adding A Subscription” to a site you want to stay on top of.

So let’s say that you want to tell Google Reader to tell you when CommercialSource.com adds a new post.  Easy enough – just follow these steps.  First, open a new tab in your browser and do the below steps in that tab.

1) If you don’t have a Google account, you can get one here.

2) Once you have the account, go to the Google Reader page.

3) Now you’ll want to Add A Subscription to CommercialSource.com’s blog feed.  Look for the button labeled “Add A Subscription” see the below image for help.  Click on the image below to enlarge.  Click the button and you’ll find a little space looking for you to add a feed address.  The next step will show you how to go get the feed address for our blog.

How to find the button for "Add A Subscription"

4) Now here’s where we conquer the gobbledeygook (nerds call that “machine-readable text”) under the little orange subscribe button. To the right of this post, in the upper right, click on the little orange button labeled “Subscribe”.  This will bring you to the feed page and the aforementioned gobbledeygook.  But you don’t care about the gobbledeygook – you care about the link location – the web address of the blog’s feed.  This you can read in the white rectangle above the page in your browser.  It happens to be https://www.commercialsearch.com/feed/ .

5) Click and drag that address text and right-click “copy”.

6) Switch over to the tab containing Google Reader and paste the feed address into the little form and click “Add”.

You’re done.

In the lower right and in the main window, you will see references to CommercialSource.com, and its posts. In other words, you told Google Reader to stay on top of new content at CommercialSource.com for you.  Now, when we add a new post here at CommercialSource.com, a title and link to that post will appear in Google Reader.

Now here’s where syndication gets really powerful: repeat this process for other sources or blogs covering commercial real estate – and soon your Google Reader page will be a one stop shop for all the latest CRE information from all over the web – the REALTORS®, lawyers, the data content providers, the brokers, lenders, colleagues, competitors, regulators and servicers.

But don’t forget where you learned how to do that! 😉

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