How to get started reading blogs

On New Year's Day 2009, I was running with a group of friends in the driving rain of Portland, Oregon. On the drive back home after some hot coffee and cinnamon roles, I heard a discussion on the radio about blogging, and how some blogs have become the center for important discussion in global politics and pretty much every other topic interesting to the human race.

This being a radio call-in program, one listener asked, "How does someone get started in finding blogs to read?"

The experts on the show gave the obvious answer: Use Google. This is both true and manifestly unhelpful.

Even though I have been writing my blog for years, I remember how hard it was to get started finding the blogs that were interesting and relevant to me. So here are some suggestions on how to get started:


  • Use a general aggregator - An example of this would be popurls.com/. This shows a collection of links to today's most popular blog entries, Flickr photos and YouTube videos. This is like the front page of a newspaper which shows you the day's headlines. If you register with the site, you can customize the kinds of information it shows you and the order they are presented. From this, you can figure out what kind of blogs are good for you to follow.


  • Use a topic aggregator - One great place to start is with a web site that collects blog posts for a particular topic and presents them. An example of this is alltop.com, launched recently by industry vet Guy Kawasaki. This site acts like an "online magazine rack" of popular topics. So instead of Googling the topic "wine", you can go to wine.alltop.com and browse through about 130 different blogs about wine. Although this still seems like a lot to imbibe (so to speak) it gives you a start and you can find a subset of these to read in your chosen topic.


  • Figure out what others are reading - if you have a friend who reads blogs, get a few links from them. Often blog writers will give a "blog roll" on their blog's home page, showing links to the writers that they like to visit. This helps you to grow the pool of interesting blogs to visit.


  • Follow people on Twitter - The micro-blogging service called Twitter has in some ways helped the quality of blog posts by taking simple topics which can be expressed in 140 characters into individual "tweets". Many Twitter users send out blog links in their updates, which also gives you ideas of blogs you might want to follow yourself. Of course, then you need to puzzle out who to follow on Twitter. Fortunately, you can start with some of the luminaries of Twitter like Josh Bancroft or Guy Kawasaki. (I'm not a luminary, but you can follow me at twitter.com/davest). From here, you can see who these users are following and build up a nice list of Twitter-ers to follow.


  • Organize your blog reading - the final mystery of course is, how do I know when someone has updated their blog? You really don't want to have to visit some blog's URL every day in hope that they have something new to say, do you? The best solution is to subscribe to a group of blogs through an RSS reader like Google Reader.


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