I’ve been having a hard time following blogs. I like podcasts because I can listen to them while I’m doing other things, but I can’t do that with blogs (some might argue I could use a text-to-speech software of some sort, but I’m not sure that would work on posts that have source code, images, and stuff like that. I don’t know… haven’t really looked into that yet).
Currently I subscribe to a dozen blogs or so. They’re all related to software development (haven’t had a chance to go look for blogs related to other areas of interest).
One problem I have is to find the aggregator that works best for me. A few years ago, I’d just go read posts on the browser, by going to the blog’s website. Of course this just doesn’t work well. At some point I got a trial version of Newsgator. I liked it because it integrated in Outlook. However, I wasn’t following blogs that much, so I didn’t feel like purchasing that tool.
Eventually I got into Onfolio, mostly because of its capabilities of storing webpages and other things offline, which I can then share with others, and can also take it on trips so that I can read it on the plane or places where I’m not online. OnFolio has a blog reader, so I decided I might as well use it. And so I did for a little while (probably about a year). I had two problems with it, though: one is that it wasn’t integrated with Outlook (it works as an add-on for Internet Explorer); the other is that I didn’t know a way to easily synchronize both my laptop and desktop computers so that I’d have the information available on both.
When I migrated to Outlook 2007 I saw there was an aggregator built into the product. I decided to give it a try. This was cool, because I could setup my feed subscriptions, and since this stuff got stored in our Exchange server, it was automatically available on every machine where I have Outlook set up. It was also cool because I’d set up a special folder where I’d move interesting messages to it, and then sync up that folder with my PocketPC, so that I could read them on the small device, which comes in handy when I’m bored in certain places.
I’ve used it for a few months, but gave up on it. There problems were: A, I kept seeing posts getting duplicated (actually not only duplicated: it just kept downloading the same posts over and over again), and it’d also keep downloading posts that I had already deleted (I’m not a "keeper"; I use the delete key more often than not).
Oh, there was another core problem with Outlook 2007: we have a bunch of private blogs at the company, and they require Windows credentials. I could never get this to work. Sometimes, if I opened the feed through Internet Explorer, authenticated, and then opened Outlook, it’d download the feeds. However, this wasn’t consistent; sometimes it’d work, something it wouldn’t.
I was then told that FeedDemon was a great aggregator, and decided to give it a try. It does seem like a great product, but it isn’t integrated with Outlook, so that was a deal breaker for me.
Talking with some co-workers, I ended up taking a quick look at Google reader, but didn’t like it that much because it’s browser-based (and apparently it also doesn’t work with our internal blogs). Another co-worker pointed me out to IntraVnews, which I’ve installed and have now being using for a few weeks. So far, so good. This is what I’m liking about it:
- It integrates well with Outlook 2007
- It works with our secured internal blogs
- I’ve set a folder under my Exchange account, and set the subscriptions on my desktop computer, which keeps downloading the posts. Then, with my laptop, I easily get everything just my syncing up Outlook (I don’t care about downloading the posts when I’m using my laptop; I just want to have posts available to read when I’m offline).
- It’s free! (even though, if this product continues to work out well for me, it’s the kind of thing I don’t mind paying 30 bucks for).
Windows Sidebar Feed Headlines Gadget
One thing I tried for a moment but ditched almost right away is the Feed Headlines gadget available on the Windows Vista Sidebar. That thing is useless for me. First, because it’s distracting. When I’m getting work done I don’t want to be seeing any headlines popping up. Heck, I even turn off the little "you got new email" bubble thing in Outlook 2007. Again, trying to get rid of little distractions like that. Second, I see two or three lines on the headline… how would that be useful? It’s like "Congress approves…", or "LINQ allows you…". That’s one gadget I won’t be using. 🙂
Now I’m working on catching up on the unread posts of my current subscriptions. As soon as I get there (I think I may be able to in a couple more days), I’ll probably consider subscribing to a few more blogs. As long as I can be productive managing and following blogs, this is definitely something I want to do (there’s just too much good information to let it go by unnoticed…). 🙂