Managing Your Google Reader Subscriptions Part II

If you read my last post, you’re probably well on your way to creating and naming your own folders to organize the blogs you read. I think my list is fairly self-explanatory, but I’d like to point out some interesting findings, as well as a couple of other tips, in this post.

You’ll notice I have a folder for Dead Blogs. Of the 602 that I’m subscribed to, guess how many are dead? Six. Do you find that a little amazing? Why do you suppose so few people give it up? I think it’s because blogging is a reward in itself. You get to see yourself published (besides the fact that what you have to say looks quite beautiful, combined with the nifty images you add to your posts); you are read by others. Not only that, but others comment on what you have to say.

Of the six who gave it up, five simply stopped blogging one day. They had anywhere from 2 to 63 to 653 subscribers, according to Google Reader. I’m friends with the person whose blog had only two followers. She blogged for only a month or two. I don’t know why she stopped, but in my opinion, she gave up too soon. I’m not sure if she ever reached out to others, but expected them to somehow find her. Reaching out into the community by joining crusades and challenges is the only way I know of to get subscribers.

The last one also stopped posting one day, D. L. Hammons of Cruising Altitude. He was different from the others in that he left a poignant good-bye post. After two years of effort, he decided to give up blogging as well as his writing dream.

I keep those blog in the Dead Blogs file. In the event that the writers might change their minds and start writing and blogging again, I’ll be the first to read them.

On a different note, if you look at my list, you'll see that I’ve separated my Writer Wanabe blogs into several different folders.

00 Writer Wanabe All Other
00 Writer Wanabe All Other First Tier
10 MG (middle grade) Writer Wanabes
12 Writer YA FanParaSF Wanabes
12 Writer YA First Tier Wanabes
12 Writer YA Second Tier Wanabes

The number at the beginning does not refer to the number of blogs in the folder, but only to the folder location in my List of Folders in Google Reader. The number of blogs in each folder varies enormously.

The higher the folders are in my list, such as those with the numbers 00 in front of the folder's name, the less likely I am to read the blogs within the folders. For the folder, 00 Crusader, I've already pulled out any blog that has to deal with writing for children and filed it in a different folder. All A to Z'ers who write for children have also been put into other folders.

The 00 Writer Wanabe All Other folder contains blogs by writers of everything EXCEPT children’s books. There are probably some amazing blogs in that folder, however I haven't had time (as of yet) to sift them out and put them into the folder below it: 00 Writer Wanabe All Other First Tier.

The 00 Writer Wanabe All Other First Tier folder will contain blogs by people writing for adults, and whose blogs are so exceptional that I will sometimes read them, even if they don't address the particular issues of writing for children. Currently, the only blog in this folder is Wendy Paine Miller's amazing All in a Day's Thought.

I’m not into writing for Middle Graders (10 MG Writer Wanabes), but I keep loose tabs on those writers because they'll sometimes write about something useful to a writer of YA. The same is true of the folder “12 Writer YA FanParaSF Wanabes.” (Fantasy, Paranormal, Science Fiction)

The blogs that I read most often are in the folder “12 Writer YA First Tier Wanabes.” These are by writers who are either getting a MFA in Creative Writing for Children (usually Vermont College), or are agented and/or whose knowledge level (ascertained from their blog posts) and platform-building efforts, prove to me that they are very close to being published.

The blogs in “12 Writer YA Second Tier Wanabes” are where I would place myself. We're all working to various degrees on completing or revising our WIPs, and have built our platforms to various levels as well. I’m building friendships with these people, and with people in the First Tier. It's the people in the First Tier who are more likely to have something to teach me, and so I read them first. But I also read the others, because we're all on the same journey. The First Tier-ers are just a little ways ahead of us.

You might think that I would have much to learn from the blogs in the folders 09 Writer Published; 09 Writer Published MG and all other, but the truth is, they’re so far ahead of me on the path that I don’t spend a whole lot of time reading their blogs … yet. When I begin to face the issues that they're facing, they will become a goldmine to me.

This post has gone on quite long enough. In Parts III & IV, I’ll discuss the rationale behind the rest of my folders, and how or why I read them.

Let me know some of your ideas on organizing your blog reading ... I'm a big-time strategizer, and this strategy works for me, but I don't consider myself an authority in any of this.


Managing Your Google Subscriptions Part I

I mentioned in my last post that I'd show readers how I manage my 600+ RSS Subscriptions in Google Reader. If you use Google Reader, down at the bottom of the Reader Page, on the left (see screen shot above), you'll see the phrase, "Manage Subscriptions." That takes you to a new page where you can do a number of things to streamline blog reading. 

The top of the new page looks like the screen shot below. The box to the right called "Change Folders" is where you do most of your work. When you open it, you get a drop down menu that allows you to Create New Folder or to select a folder you created at an earlier time.
There are other things you can do from this page as well. You can trash the blog, as long as you only RSS'd it. If you dropped your picture into the Followers widget, then in order to remove your picture from the blog, you need to go into your dashboard (if using Blogger) and delete it there.

Until you do that, your picture remains on the blog as a follower. I read recently (from Stina Lindenblatt, if I recall) that Blogger allows you to follow only up to 300 blogs this way, and so if you're getting close to that number, you might need to actually go in and start removing your picture from some blogs, in order to follow others.

I haven't reached that limit yet, and so all I've done is to stop following them at this level. Which means, when I go back to the blog reading page, that blog's subscription no longer appears as a blog that I'm subscribed to. But it does still show up on the Settings page, and it's very easy to resubscribe, should I want to.  

I like to corral everything into a folder, and so, as you can see above, I do have a folder called "00 No Longer Following." Though I dumped the subscription, and I am not receiving it in my Google Reader, if I were to go to Writing in Flow, my picture still shows up as one of Beverly Diehl's followers. Why did I follow her blog in the first place?

I suspect Beverly was part of Rach's Platform Building Crusade. As writers interested in building our own following, we were encouraged to follow each other. I'm happy to lend following support, but because Beverley Diehl writes erotica, and I have no interest in that, her blog's presence in my reader does not support my efforts to streamline blog reading. Nothing personal against Beverly!

You can also rename a blog. Because blogs are most often listed by the blog's official name, and I generally want to remember the person who writes the posts, I will often add his or her name to the blog title in the Rename option.

I promised to tell you how I actually name and organize my folders, so take a glance at the screen shot below, which I will further explain in my next blog post!


Why Organize Google Reader?

If you’re like me, Google Reader (or some other blog-reading platform) is a lifesaver. I currently subscribe to 605 blogs, which is down from an all-time high of 728. A friend who isn’t yet into blogging asked me if I read them all every day. God, no. For me, that’s not what blogging is about. For me, the purpose is to build my online network. It’s equivalent to my online Rolodex.

Because I’ve made so many connections, there needs to be some organization to them, or what I’ve painstakingly collected over the past 18 months is about as worthless as trying to find a tiny gold coin in a pile of straw.

Or maybe I should say a pile of gold—blogs really are a treasure chest full of intelligent, informative, freely-given, golden thoughts—but you know what I mean. Sometimes we’re looking for a specific coin with a specific date stamp and location on it. That’s why we need to be organized about it.

So, in Google Reader, I’ve slotted my gold into 22 different file categories. It not only makes finding specific categories of blogs easier, but it also automatically prioritizes my reading. For me, that is the golden key.

I work full time, and I try to write for 15 hours each week, besides having a life brimming with grown kids, grandkids and friends. No week goes by when I’m not going out to dinner or a movie with friends, going to writerly groups and conventions, celebrating holidays and birthdays with family, flying somewhere with my husband, or simply babysitting the grandkids. My cup runneth over.

But like everything you want to do in life, if it’s important enough, you will find time to do it. It’s about priorities. Of my 600+ blog subscriptions, I read only about 10% with any regularity. Because they’re categorized in Google Reader, I can scroll through the folders speedily. In any given week, if pressed for time (and when am I not?), I probably won’t look in many of the folders. Some, I almost never do. But it's there, at the ready, when I need information.

If I want to comment on someone’s post, it’s so easy to drop in on them via Google Reader. If I haven’t kept up with someone for a while, I can always scroll backwards in the reader and catch up on everything they’ve written, if I so desire, since their very first blog post. When I as first blogging, and I had absolutely no idea what blogging was all about, I actually did that with a couple of blogs.

For my friend who is thinking about setting up a blog but doesn’t know what to write, it’s often instructive to see the progress of someone’s blog. It’s interesting to see what was on their mind at the beginning and what’s on it, now. It’s exciting to watch their stepwise progress toward publication.

So, this post has run on long enough. I'm adamantly opposed to long blog posts. Who has time to read them? So, next post, I’ll begin to show you the categories I’ve split my blogging Rolodex into.

From many of them, over the next several weeks, I'll create separate posts highlighting what I consider the Top Ten in each ... Or maybe the Top Twenty.


Blog Awards!

For everyone who entered the A to Z Challenge, Author Elizabeth Mueller has given us the following award. Thanks, Elizabeth!

For everyone who finished the challenge, an award's being given by its fantastic hosts: Arlee Bird, Jeffrey Beesler, Alex J. Cavanaugh, Jen Daiker, Candace Ganger, Karen J Gowen, Talli Roland, and Stephen Tremp. Thank you to the hosts!

Also, C.J. Ward at Random Writings passed some awards to me. Thanks, CJ!!! This is the first time I've gotten the Versatile Blogger award, and so that is very cool indeed. Both awards ask that you

1. Link back to the awarder (which I’ve done above)

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

3. Award this to 10-15 newly discovered bloggers

4. Tell said bloggers they have an award waiting.

Seven Things about Me:

1. I'm left-handed.

2. I'm a morning person.

3. In addition to writing, I have a passion for scrapbooking, although I haven't done much of that lately, as I'm finishing revisions on my YA manuscript. But when that's done ... in August, I plan to take annual leave and lock myself in my scrapbooking room for a week.

4. My daughter once said there'd be a sign at the end of our road pointing to the "Ensley Library." I've made every effort for that not to happen--and though I am by profession a librarian and have access to all books--the books just keep multiplying in my home. One or two a week arrive in my mailbox from Amazon. Blast that "Buy with One Click" button. Last fall, I finally did set up a library in our storage room.

5. Like C.J. who gave me the awards, I have an office supply fetish. The things I can absolutely never, ever have enough of are 3-ring binders, page dividers and page protectors. Every time I turn around, I'm buying more.

6. I love my electronic gadgets: my 3-G wireless modem; my tiny voice recorder; my 250 gig portable hard drive (that fits in my palm); my cell phone; my Netbook computer and my laptop computer. Because I spend more time away from home than at home each week, how would I do without these dandy little devices?

7.  I love all my electronic devices, and yet I have no interest in owning a Kindle or a Nook or a Sony Reader.

So now I'd like to present the awards to 10 blogs I discovered via the A to Z Challenge. I discovered MANY really cool blogs, but I'm on my lunch break and don't have time to acknowledge you all in this post, so ... Catch you next time around!

Shelli at A*Musings
B. Miller at B. Miller Fiction 
Carla at Carla's Writing World
Shellie at Chapter Writer
Katie at Creepy Query Girl
HowLynn Martin at HowLynnTime
Sharon at Sharon the Librarian
Melissa at The Guardian Writer
Lindsay at Adventures in Writing


The End of a Challenge, and Was it Worth It?

I could keep you in suspense and answer the question at the end of the post, but I'll start with it instead. Was the A to Z Challenge worth the time and effort? Oh, yes it was. It was the best online experience I've had to date.

Why? I had the opportunity to blog about something that's been close to my heart for years, the Enneagram. I always wanted to post about it, but before the challenge, I'd never figured out a way that made sense.

 I was also happy to get a nibble of some new blogs and to begin to make new friends. As time goes on, I'll continue to visit their (your) blogs and strengthen connections. I acquired quite a few new followers as well, 73 who dropped their picture in the Followers widget. I wasn't aware of my Feedburner stats before the challenge, nor those who follow my blog through Google Reader, but I'm sure they've grown as well. I love that as I visit blogs I'm beginning to recognize many names and faces in the comments. Way cool.

So now it's May, and while I loved blogging about the Enneagram, it was a bit of a challenge to have posted almost every day (except Sundays). Several days, I posted more than once. Now, I'll return to my twice weekly blogging routine. Plus, I can blog about whatever I want, however there was so much interest in my Enneagram posts that I'm sure I'll continue to contribute new information about the subject that is endlessly fascinating to me.

Best of all, though, as far as the A to Z Challenge--there are now so many people I can visit and get to know better over time. Without the challenge, I wouldn't have known they (you) exist. It was the connections made that caused all the time spent to be more than worthwhile. And honestly, the month's worth of posts didn't take as much time as you might think. I think I spent about 40 hours collecting images, information, writing and then uploading posts and images. The time spent commenting on other people's blogs was about 16 hours.

In celebration of a very worthwhile challenge, and for everyone who made it through to the end, have a virtual cupcake with me ...
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