I've decided to use this upcoming adventure with #CCCWrite to document some basics of using Inoreader! For more about this great new initiative from CCC@One here: Welcome to the Reflective Writing Club! ... and be sure to check out the CCC@One Canvas Support Portal too.
So, today I will start from the perspective of someone who is just starting from scratch with Inoreader and wants to explore! Today I'm going to start with a "Reading Blogs with Inoreader" post that shows what the reader experience looks like. Then, in the next post I'll explain the different ways you can add subscribe to blog feeds (and other online content! more about that later) in Inoreader. I'll use this tag: InoreaderTutorials.
Bundle to play with. And if you want to play along, I've created an Inoreader bundle of my own blog posts that you can access and view, switching among these different views just to see what it's like. Anybody at all, even without an Inoreader account, should be able to view and browse this blog bundle which is just my own blogs aggregated. I don't use Inoreader bundles a lot, but they might be something useful to you; I'm thinking a bundle will be a great way to share #CCCWrite blog posts later on for example (that will be a fun experiment to try!): Laura's blogs all in a bundle. Confession: Yes, I have a lot of blogs. I run all my class content in blogs. Some are actual content blogs and some are content-incubation blogs. Basically, I blog everything! Anyway, you can use that to play along with the different views below, clicking and exploring on your own! No log-in required; it's a totally open bundle viewer.
And now, on to the details:
And just what is Inoreader? Inoreader is a "feed reader" or an "RSS aggregator" (although it boldly goes where no feed reader have ever gone; more about that in future posts). Basically, it gives you an interface that looks a lot like an email inbox (but better) in order to let you read the contents of lots of blogs in a single space. The free Inoreader is very useful for reading, and you can remove the ads for $15/year. There are more advanced features for more advanced plans at $30/year and $50/year; I'll say more about why those are useful in future posts; yes, I use the $50/year plan because I absolutely love this software).
THE FIVE VIEWS. We don't have a lot of #CCCWrite posts yet, so for these screenshots I'm using my class blogs as an example (and maybe that will inspire people to use Inoreader to manage a class blog network). People use Inoreader in lots of different ways; of these 5 views, I really only use 2 of them, list and expanded, but I always use the magazine view when displaying blog streams in Canvas (more about that later). I've taken screenshots of all 5, though, so you can see how the same content can be viewed in different ways based on your needs/preferences:
List: This is the view I use the most. You will see it looks a lot like an email inbox. These are all read; unread items are bolded. I use the star to indicate blogs where I have left comments; you can use the star however you want. When I subscribe to the blogs, I rename them (the students give their blogs all kind of wild names, which is fine with me; for my purposes, though, I need to rename them here), with MF or IE indicating which class the student is in. When you click on one of the items, it opens up the post for reading (see below for screenshot of what it's like to read a post).
Expanded: I also use this view a lot. I will set it to display only UNREAD articles (you can toggle between all/unread) so that I can quickly skim all the new posts that have come in. This view gives you the whole thing: text, images, embedded media, etc. As you scroll through, it marks the posts as read.
Column: This view is really cool looking, kind of a combination of expanded view and magazine view (see below). But I don't ever use it. I'm guessing it could be very useful, though!
Card: I actually don't like this view very much because it is too much image and not enough text for my tastes, but it could be useful, especially if the blogs you are following are image-oriented.
Magazine: I don't use this view for reading online, but it is the key to embedding the blog stream in lots of different contexts, like here in Canvas (click and see!), or here in my class directory. It gives a thumbnail image (sometimes kind of awkward, especially for portrait-style images as opposed to landscape...), plus the opening lines of the blog post.
READING IN INOREADER. When you click on an item in Inoreader, you see the full contents of the post right there in Inoreader. I do pretty much all my blog post reading in Inoreader and that way I don't have to adjust to all the different color schemes and fonts that my students might be using at their blogs — it's great that they customize their blogs, absolutely, but I am very near-sighted and need to control my online reading environment for my own needs.
Browse by folder, tag, or blog. I usually am browsing through the blogs by my classes which I put in folders, but I can also browse by specific assignments (I do that with tags; more on that later), or I can switch to a specific blog. So, for example, if I am reading this post by a particular student, I just click on her name and I can see all the posts in her blog. That can be very helpful if I want to put the post in context (like when I read their story for the week, I can quickly check and see what their reading notes were like as they prepared for the story):
Go to the blog itself. You can also click on the link to go out to the student's actual blog. I try to do this periodically because it is fun to see what the blogs look like!
You can also display the actual blog inside Inoreader. It's a little weird, but just click on the globe icon. That displays the actual blog-blog inside the Inoreader frame. It can be a bit disorienting, but it's a quick way to take a look at the actual blog with just a single click, not even leaving your browser tab. Just click on the globe icon again to return to the post view.
Then, own at the bottom of the post view is where the REAL Inoreader magic begins: tags! You can add tags manually or you can use rules to add tags automatically... and you can even use those tags to drive IFTTT behaviors if you are an IFTTT user. Plus lots more; I'll save discussion of these features for a future post:
Please ask questions! So, that's it for now, but please ask any Inoreader questions at all here in the comments and that will help me know what to talk about in future posts. I hope to have some good Inoreader tutorials here up and running before the first official #CCCWrite blog prompt coming our way on January 26! My next post will be about Subscribing to Blogs with Inoreader.
And one final thought — as I see it, the genius of Inoreader is that it does what we SHOULD be able to do with all digital content: repurpose the content in all kinds of different ways for different purposes. My frustration with LMSes in general is that they do not think in terms of reusing and repurposing content in open-ended ways that the USER defines (and by users I mean both instructors AND students). If the Canvas engineers have an afternoon to sit down and play with Inoreader to see what they are doing with the simple power of RSS, they might get some great ideas for content reuse inside the Canvas ecosystem too. It is without doubt the most fun and powerful software I have used in my 20 years of live on the Internet. :-)
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* NOTE: I was going to also document Feedly side by side, but when I sat down to try to use Feedly even just for reading blogs, I was so frustrated by its limitations that I decided not to even try to document it. But I know there are happy Feedly users out there, so maybe they will create a CCCWrite bundle for people who want to compare how the two systems work! If somebody wants to do that, I'll be glad to share the OPML file I'm using with the actual RSS addresses; it was fun for me to see how RSS works at Weebly blogs, for example. That was new to me!