RSS Readers are a convenient way to stay on top of many web sites, without having to visit the sites directly. One reader, Google Reader, stands head and shoulders above other readers in terms of popularity. That doesn’t mean Google Reader is easy to understand, though. Many users (including me, until recently) either don’t use or don’t understand three of Google Reader’s features – the ability to "Star," "Share," and "Like" an item. Here we take a look at those three features of Google Reader.
The ability to "Add Star" is Google Reader’s equivalent of a "read it later" tool. When you click on "Add Star," which is located at the bottom of each feed item in Reader, that item will be added to your Starred items. Your Starred items are accessible via a link in the left column of Google Reader. This makes it trivial to locate and read an item at a later date. I star items frequently when using my iPhone, and also when I come upon an item I want to review in more detail at a later time.
Think of "Sharing" as a social tool, allowing you to choose content that you want to share with other readers. First, before you do any sharing, you should determine with whom you want to share. Both in the sidebar, and to the right of the screen if you click on "Shared Items" in the sidebar, you’ll see a link for "sharing settings." In the settings, you can determine who will be able to see your shared items – the general public, or only people in certain groups from your Google Contacts. Thereafter, any item for which you’ve clicked on "Share" will be available to those individuals.
How do these individuals find the items that you’ve shared? Under "Find more people" (located in Sharing Settings), you’ll see tools that you can use to make other readers aware of your shared content, as well as tools that other readers will use in their browsers to find your content and other content. For example, you can customize a "Shared Items Page," and give that link out to people. Your shared page might look a bit like this:
If you have set your Shared Items to be "Public," then others can also find you by searching by name, location, occupation or interest. This search bar is also located within Sharing Settings. When readers find feeds in this manner, they can then add the feeds to their followed feeds, and the feeds will show up in their sidebar under "People you follow."
Like Sharing, "Liking" is a social tool, albeit a rudimentary one. When you click on the "Like" link at the bottom of a feed item, your name is simply added to a list of all other people who also clicked "Like" for that item. Anyone visiting that feed item in Reader is then able to see the list of individuals who "liked" an item. Your name will be clickable and will lead to your Google Profile.
This post just scratches the surface of Google Reader. What other features of Reader do you find to be helpful?