Saturday, December 29, 2007

Use Feed Readers! They're Fantastic!

When Wayfarer Scientista said she lost some of her bookmarks, I couldn't resist piping in with my 'use a feed service!' comment. I used to go through lists of bookmarks to read blogs and couldn't believe how much easier and faster Bloglines made reading. I actually read more blogs now since I only look at pages that have been updated.

If you want my favorite reader, I still like Bloglines. I use Google Reader for a few blogs, but most sites I read are under bloglines and will likely stay there. I'm used to the interface and I tend to stay with what works. But as a side by side comparison, I like the easy ability to add and subtract from my list. I use the "Sub with Bloglines" button and when I visit someone new, I'll click it and add that person to my list while I decide if I want to keep reading. Then if someone starts to bug or bore me, the unsubscribe option is on the same page. It's harder (for me - I'm not sure if I'm just missing something or not) to manage the subscriptions with the Google service.

I also like to know how many people subscribe to a certain feed. I don't know why. But that information is more readily available on Bloglines.

Both are free. Easy enough to set up. And should save you tons of time.

To be fair, I think the Google site is prettier. And I should like that it links from the Gmail page since I am very pro-Gmail.

You can also set up feeds for lit searches! (See the end of that post for directions.) I've adored this feature since Friend taught me and keep up with major advances in the literature with it. People are generally quite impressed when I know about papers before they're officially published because the feeds update early.

Friend has used multiple feed readers and is much better versed in pros and cons (having abandoned both Bloglines and Google Reader). But I don't know what she's using now or why it's considerably better (though I'm sure she's right (she usually is) - I just like what I have).

Any comments on pros and cons of various feed readers I should try? Or advice for new users? Seriously - I say you should have one because I like you all. I'm very happy with mine and want you to share that efficiency (if reading blogs can fit into productivity, I suppose) and happiness.

ETA: Re: Online Lab Notebooks

When I spent time in a colleague's office, trying to figure out data analysis stuff, he kept pausing to tab over to a different page to type in notes.

"I decided," he told me, "to keep a notebook online. I tend to write things in random places, lose the papers, then make the same mistakes over and over or not remember where I put the code that solves a specific problem."

Steve wrote his own code and hosts his own site. I decided to start a private blog using Blogger and put notes there. So far, it works surprisingly well. First, I don't do bench work so I've never kept an official notebook. I do a lot of coding and data processing, which means I'm normally at some computer in some form. So I can log in on any computer, write my little notes that are then archived and label them appropriately. This allows me to have a searchable set of notes that are accessible from many locations and contain thoughts and lists on paper revisions or what's been done on certain projects.

The problem came when I forgot to make it private and included a ton of identifiable information (and journal reviews for which I'm not first author that definitely shouldn't be published online). So I had to fix that. But otherwise, I'm pleased to have found a system that I'll actually use and keep track of what I did and why I did it. (Those things often confuse me otherwise.)

6 comments:

Propter Doc said...

I use bloglines. Google reader annoyed me - things like subscribing and I don't like the interface. I tried Snarfer last Christmas when I needed a feed reader that would allow me to pop online, download feeds and read off line. It was OK but when I have good internet I don't need it.
I've started using Microsoft's onenote for keeping an electronic labbook. Mainly because I need to keep a copy of all my data because I'll be leaving the lab. I thought about blogging but wasn't sure how well it would work out for lab work. It would be nice to know how you are getting on with it in the future.

Unbalanced Reaction said...

Good idea, blogging your notebook! Coworker does a lot of coding, so I think I will recommend your technique to C.

Mad Hatter said...

I use Google reader for no reason other than that it didn't require signing up for a new account, which would involve generating yet another userid and password combination I won't be able to remember.

Works well enough, although for no rational reason I get discouraged when I see a ton of new posts that I feel "obliged" to read. It's sort of the same feeling I get when I look at the pile of journal articles I'm supposed to read.

post-doc said...

Propter Doc-
I'll let you know how the notebook works out. The only weird part is that I keep track of my blog Gmail account more closely than my other one (that gets retail email). So my calendar and reader are tied to the minorrevisions account, which could eventually be awkward. But we'll see.

Unbalanced Rxn-
If Steve does it, it's generally a good idea. :) So I hope it works for C too.

Mad Hatter-
I have a whole folder of password requests - I forget mine all the time. So your point is well taken.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

yay!!! Thanks for posting this! I was hoping you would go into detail. I think it sounds great and I like the publications one too! Thanks! You rock!

doc-in-training said...

I use Google Reader and it's only because my primary personal email account is with Google.

The idea of writing electronic notebook first came to me from my brother last week, who isn't a researcher. He gave me a link where I could download EverNote for free for a day and he thought I'd like to give it a try. The application is not quite suit for creating research notes though, so I'll look for onenote. Thanks. Could you also blog more about how you use it in more details? My Evernote notes are not very organized.

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