January 09, 2009

10 Ways to Maximize Your Google Reader Link Blog

I've been sharing articles I've read in Google Reader for the better part of two years. I don't know exactly when I started, but I'm fairly sure I'm nowhere near finished. And while I admittedly started sharing to a link blog without having a clear goal in mind, I'm finding that this massive shared items repository is becoming an incredibly versatile information hub that benefits me, the authors of articles I've shared, and the consumers, be they friends in Google Reader, or in many other locations.

I believe that while Google Reader has grown in visibility, arguably becoming the most popular RSS reader on the Web, the utility of shared link blogs is less known. Here are ten ways you can maximize your Google Reader link blog - most of which I'm doing, and probably didn't anticipate when I first started sharing items into the ether.

1. Act as a trusted information filter.

Regardless of how fast a reader you are, there is no possible way you can read every single news source and blog on the Web. Neither can anybody you know. And regardless of how closely your feed match percentage is on Toluu, there are feeds you read that your friends don't. By sharing the best items of what you read every day from Google Reader, you are hand-selecting the best of the Web and "endorsing" those items to your link blog subscribers.

Do so with some regularity, and you might be surprised as to how people come to rely on your manual intervention and news discovery. I first became cognizant of this in February when "SeekGround" reported "I discovered that I had shared more of louisgray's shared items than anyone else's in the last 30 days". In May, Duff's Device similarly wrote: "I saw another article that I received from Louis Gray'sGoogle Reader Shared Items again. Thanks for keeping on top of the world for me Louis. :-)"

As of tonight, ReadBurner reports I have nearly 8,500 articles shared on my Google Reader link blog. While there are others who have shared more total items, I know that I have shared those items I believe are most interesting to me, and others I believe are following along.

2. Share your items with Google Friends.

Though Google hasn't nailed the "what is a friend" issue, you can add friends through GMail and Google Talk. If they are also Google Reader users, and share items, you can opt in to seeing their Google Reader shares, and they can see yours. If they subscribe to your shared items, your shares are mixed in with all the other feeds on their list. Of course, if you don't want to see their lists, click "Hide" next to their name, or "Show" to bring them back.

3. Embed your Google Reader link blog to your own blog or Web site.

When I first started sharing to my link blog, I had this odd feeling I was sharing posts and nobody knew about it. After all, the link blog URL isn't the most intuitive on the planet. But you can embed a widget on your blog to display a subset of your recently shared items, and visitors to your blog can click out to items you've shared.

4. Add your Google Reader link blog to your Google profile

Your Google profile is a fairly blank slate, for you to add or delete as you please. While it's very common for people to add links to their Twitter page, their blog or their LinkedIn profile, I'd suggest it's just as important to add your link blog to the page. Mine is here.

5. Share items to Facebook, FriendFeed or Socialmedian.

2008 was the year of personal news aggregators, which took updates on your services from around the Web and put them all in one place. While this trends was best exemplified by FriendFeed, Facebook also offers the option to feature your Google Reader shared items, and Socialmedian will pull them in as news, going so far as to check the shares by topic to place them in the right categories.

You can see my Google Reader shares on FriendFeed here. And to avoid duplication of items, if I share items from louisgray.com, I manually delete them from FriendFeed. Takes seconds, and reduces the noise. (My Socialmedian page is here...)

6. Add your share count to ReadBurner, RSSmeme or Feedheads.

Feedheads, the pioneer in tabulating popular Google Reader share counts, was joined by ReadBurner and later RSSmeme, in early 2008. As some people are turning to ReadBurner and RSSmeme as a democratically sorted Digg or Techmeme, sharing items you like will add your vote to the list.

Be sure to add your feed to ReadBurner here.

7. Replace your bookmarks with Google Reader shared items.

At the end of the year, I said that RSS Has Practically Eliminated My Need for Browser Bookmarks. As I thought about it more, it's my Google Reader Link blog that is essentially my rolling bookmark list, highlighting those items which are the best, and which I will want to return to. While Delicious is also a good Web-based bookmarking system, the link blog is a good way to find recent items of interest.

8. Expand the visibility of lesser-known sources.

Sometimes, I get in a routine of reading my RSS feeds and then sharing, without thinking about how the shares are effecting the downstream author. But I've gotten e-mails saying the shares have generated attention beyond what I expected. Last month, one blogger wrote, "When you pop an article on (the linkblog), I'll get 60-70 hits and get pumped to the first page, that is pretty averge for the support you give me." Earlier this week I got a similar e-mail from a second author, who wrote an e-mail titled "Thanks yet again", adding "Your Google Reader share really lit up that discussion."

In a tech blogging world where there are so many different sources of news, and so many people writing about the exact same thing, you can make a difference by choosing lesser-known sources of news, and highlighting the best content, not just the loudest. I've tried to share items from those who have done original reporting or are thinking differently than the echo chamber, and it in turn can deliver greater visibility.

9. Use your linkblog as your "to comment" list.

As part of my online new year's resolution, I said I would be making more time to comment on other blogs through the year. But as you know, my full-time job doesn't work all too well with browsing the Web and making comments throughout the day. Instead, I've found I'll go back to my own Google Reader linkblog, and open the items in a new tab, and go through to add comments one by one, left to right, so I've given the authors feedback and participated.

10. Create your own leaderboard of news sources.

Google Reader tracks statistics on what your most-shared news sources are over the last 30 days, which can report on who you've found most interesting in the last month. Given each person's individual tastes, the results can be very different than more public leaderboards which tend to feature those who are most popular and have a deeper subscription base. While my own link blog does tend to feature popular sites like TechCrunch, Scobleizer and ReadWriteWeb, I can see that I've also shared a high number from lesser-known sites, including TechWag, Regular Geek, The Future Buzz, Andy DeSoto and Chuqui 3.0. And if you're stat-oriented like I am, you can check in and see how this changes over time. (See my blog leaderboard from last July)

So... are you sharing your Google Reader items? I am. You can find mine here. For the betterment of the community, it'd be great to see your shared item links in the comments.

DISCLOSURE: I am an advisor to ReadBurner.