This post is prompted in part by my realization of how out of date my blogroll is. (I hope to update it later today, but only after I get some work done.) But I've been thinking about reading practices and blogs for a while.
When I first started reading blogs (and writing my own) last May, one of the aspects of blogging that really appealed to me was the ability to design your own look, or at least to tweak the templates provided by Blogger. The colors and layout style of the blogs I read regularly soon became part of the "voice" of that person, part of what I associated with them. Some seem lively, some are more elegant, some are wacky. Whether those designs really represent some aspect of that writer's personality, or were simply a random choice from preformatted templates, I of course don't know, but since in my blogging I'm interested in learning about people's lives and connecting with them, thus I interpret those visual cues as aspects of their personality.
About 2 months ago, maybe a little longer, a good friend recommended that I try Sage, the RSS feed reader for Firefox. I've been using it ever since, although mostly as a super-powered blogroll checker. When Sage indicates that one of the blogs on my list has new material, then I'll go take a look -- first through the Sage viewer, but I'd guess that 8 or 9 times out of 10, I click through to the blog itself. Certainly, you have to do that to leave or read comments, which for me are an integral part of the blog text. Sometimes I'll skim a few sentences in the reader to decide if I want to read the whole post. If I do, then I usually click through. And part of the reason is that I want to "see" the "person" who's "talking." Which means seeing their design, rather than simply reading their "information" or text.
I realize that I'm using feed reader technology in a half-assed archaic kind of way, because my goals as a blog reader aren't the same as those of someone using a feed reader to skim several news feeds, or other kinds of informational feeds. (And I've avoided putting those onto my reader, because I don't have that many hours in the day.) My goal isn't to read 200-plus blogs quickly, but to read 15 consistently and relatively deeply, and maybe 40-50 others semi-regularly.
What has changed since getting Sage is that I don't have to keep hopping to actual blogs all the time to check for updates. It does save time in that regard. And since I have a few blogs on the list that I only look at once in a while, it's easier to catch up or skim this way. I'm more willing to add a new blog to my feed list for a while (since it requires zero effort) to see if I'm interested.
The down side: my visible blogroll in my blog is way out of date, since I don't use it any longer as a guide to reading. If a blog doesn't have a feed, I rarely look at it, unless I'm following a commenter's name back to her blog. If you don't have RSS/Atom feeds activated yet (if you're on Blogger, it's easy to do, and I expect ) the same is true for other services/software), you should. Not because the loss of me as a reader is going to be so tragic for you, but because I imagine that increasing numbers of other blog readers are also relying on feed readers.
Am I right, dear readers? do you use a feed reader? has it changed anything about how you read blogs?