If you have already subscribed to this blog, and are happy with what you’re getting in your email or news reader, you can skip this post. A few readers had questions, here and on Marian Allen‘s blog, so I said I’d try to answer them. If you want a better idea of what it means to subscribe, what a “feed” and “feed reader” are, and how to control what you read in one, please read on!
What is a “Feed”?
Since this post is for readers, primarily, let’s start with “what is a ‘feed’?” A “feed,” or “web feed,” is created by any site that has regularly updated content – like a blog or ezine or newspaper – and is delivered to readers in a variety of ways, by subscription. For example, you can get updates from this blog in your favorite “feed reader” or “news reader” or “news aggregator” such as WordPress Reader, Flipboard, Feedly, Feedspot – which I use, myself – and others. Calling it a “news aggregator” makes it sound like something exclusive to traditional news media, but it is not. It is simply a way for you to subscribe to updates from sites you like.
Click here to see what a “feed” looks like in its raw and unformatted form: https://jahangiri.us/2020/feed
What on Earth Am I Supposed to Do with THAT?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s the best reading experience I can offer. Still, you can plug that URL into any feed reader or news aggregator you like, and it will “pretty it up” for you. It will transform whatever that is into something readable.
You can learn the feed URL for any web site using an extension like Get RSS Feed URL. This is what you’d see if you used that on my blog:
From there, you click Copy URL and go configure your favorite feed reader to pick it up.
Or you can just click the big green Follow this blog button. Follow.it is a feed reader/news aggregator. Free, lightweight, easy to use. It does have a few features I have not seen on some of the others, like the ability for readers to filter their feed by keywords or tags.
To filter by keywords, click the Keyword(s) box. Enter keyword (this does not appear to support phrases in quotation marks or wildcard searches, so use single, whole words only). To exclude a keyword, use the minus sign (hyphen) right in front of the word, with no spaces: -keyword. Choose title only or title and body of the post.
To filter the feed by tags, click the tags box. This will display tags that were used by the creator of the feed, as shown below.
Hover your cursor over any of the keywords displayed (they are shown in order of frequency of use). Move your cursor up and down the pop-up menu and click to select Must, Must not, or Neutral (clear any previous selection).
At the bottom left of the keywords, you can click Set all to neutral if you want to remove the keyword filtering altogether. At the bottom right, you can display more keywords by clicking Next > or < Prev.
Also, you have the ability on multi-author sites to follow just one author, or several. I do not recommend using this option on my site, because on the rare occasion I invite others to write for this blog, I know and trust them, and I really hope you’ll read what they have to say. If you only want to read what they have to say, you may never receive updates from this blog. It may be useful, though, on a large news site with hundreds of contributors, if you only want to follow a few of them. Using the New York Times as an example:
To filter by author, click the names of any authors you want to follow. Click again to unfollow them.
As new tags or authors are added by the feed’s creators, they will be “neutral” or possibly ignored, so use these filtering features judiciously, or you may miss updates you want to see.
Follow.it also makes it easy for you to choose from a variety of ways to read (and each feed can be customized differently). Maybe you just want to check on the dashboard – or “News page” – on Follow.it. Maybe you want a single daily newspaper (also known as a “digest”) of selected feeds. Maybe you want “breaking news” – updates delivered to your inbox within hours or minutes of when they’re posted! Or maybe you use Telegram, and want to be notified of new posts there. You can customize each feed using the Output channels to send you just what you want, when you want it.
Phone (SMS), WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and other delivery methods are teased as “coming soon.” I don’t know how soon, so let’s just say that this is it – for now.
To get back to the Filters and Output channels page, just click the Follow.it logo at the upper left corner of the screen:
Hover over the lower right corner of an article to display the icons shown above: Bookmark, Mark as read, Hide story, Share (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Email, Buffer, Telegram, or Link), and Settings. Select Settings to modify your filtering and delivery options.
Discover More Stuff to Read!
Another nice feature of Follow.it is a Member Directory. Only paid members are included – it’s a nice perk. I’ve already picked up half a dozen new subscribers this way, and I’ve only been using it a week!
You can filter the directory by Category, Location, Language, and Keywords.
Tip: Don’t use the Give me a tip what to follow link unless you’re just interested in local news. It will attempt to use your location (or network location) if you allow it. It does not appear to be customizable by interests and the location filtering is only as good as sites that provide their locations. It may be better to enter your location (city, state, country) as a keyword.
The list of suggested sites appears to be sorted by most recently updated.
Still Have Questions?
If you are a reader, see their Help Center (for Readers).