Sunday, May 31, 2015

Some Tips for Making Good Use of Inoreader

I use Inoreader to manage my class blog network, and I also use it for my own personal learning network, so that means I spend a lot of time at Inoreader! In a separate post I wrote something about using Inoreader's syndication features to create class blog hub pages, and I've also written up a post about using Inoreader to create a blog network for #Rhizo15. In this post I just want to make some general observations about how I use Inoreader, both for my classes and also for keeping up with education blogs and news.

But first . . .

Some Background. I'm one of those people who was really sad about the demise of Google Reader (I used the old Reader bundles and blogroll features extensively), and I never really liked Feedly very much because it had no syndication features, just item-by-item sharing. With Inoreader, though, I have pretty much everything I could wish for when it comes to a feed reader; it's like Google Reader and Gmail and Yahoo Pipes combined. The basic (free) version of Inoreader offers RSS outgoing syndication for folders and tags, so if you have any interest at all in opening up your aggregator space to share with others, Inoreader can do that for you. (Feedly keep promising collection sharing, but even though I have a lifetime pro account and applied for "early access," I still don't have that collection-sharing feature, which I might in fact use for some additional syndication given that Feedly has such a huge user base.)

I should also note there are LOTS of features of Inoreader that I don't use (so I have not mentioned them below), and some features I have not even explored (yet). Most of the features I use are part of the free service, although I use a few premium features also; here are more details about Inoreader free and paid plans. They are good at posting news inside the Inoreader dashboard and at the Inoreader blog, and they are also active at Twitter and Google+. In my experience, they are very responsive to bug reports and feature requests, so don't be shy to contact them with questions and suggestions!


And now, here are . . .

MY INOREADER TIPS AND TRICKS

1. FOLDERS AND TAGS. In a lot of ways folders and tags are alike, but folders really are important because you can do things with folders you cannot do with tags. You can use folders to manage rules, bundles, OPML sharing, and dashboard views; you cannot use tags to do those things (although it would be nice if you could!). So, I make sure to put every feed in at least one folder, and I often have feeds in multiple folders, which can be very handy (so I have Education blogs, and also Must-Read Education blogs as separate folders).

2. USING TAGS. Tags show up with folders in the navigation pane, and they are incredibly helpful for me in managing my reading habits. I also use tags for workflow, adding and removing tags as I process something. With student blog posts, for example, I use tags to tag a problem the student needs to fix (like when they try to display Pixabay images by remote linking, etc. etc.), and then I remove the tag when the student has fixed the problem. I also use tags for sharing specific types of assignments with students, like the stream of Storytelling posts as a page at the course hub.

3. TAGS AND RULES. Rules (a premium feature) allow you to add tags automatically to incoming posts based on various parameters of your own choosing (folders, keywords, etc.); it's very much like creating rules for incoming email (see below for more info). You can add tags manually, of course, but having automatic rules for tag assignment has been a big help for me in managing content as it comes in, syndication to send content out (tag-based RSS feeds), along with overall reading habits and workflow.

4. READ/UNREAD. I rely very heavily on the read/unread signaling in the navigation pane to let me know what I really need to read. In order to make that work, I use rules to mark most of the incoming non-school content as already read, leaving "unread" only those blogs and news sources that I am determined to keep up with no matter how busy school gets. You can set Inoreader to mark as "read" the items you scroll through in expanded view (or whatever views you want to use for scolling/reading), so that is how I manage to at least skim all the incoming student blog posts, tagging things as needed to go back and read later, leave comments, etc.

5. RULES. I use rules to separate out my students' blog posts into tag-based collections, with the tags automatically assigned based on keywords in the title (it just takes a little manual jiggling from me when a student makes a typo, leaves out the keyword, etc., but 99% of the time the automatic rule is all I need). I also use rules to mark most incoming new items from my personal learning network as "read" (see note above) since the read/unread distinction is how I manage my time spent at Inoreader. Rules are a premium feature and they are the reason why I opted to go for the "professional" service (unlimited rules). You can also use rules for other behaviors besides tagging and marking as read/unread as you can see in this screenshot of the rule creation interface:



6. DASHBOARDS. The customizable dashboard is a premium feature, and I find it very handy. You can even have multiple dashboards, although the dashboard is so easy to configure that I usually just reconfigure my dashboard on the fly rather than building separate dashboards. If you do have premium Inoreader, I'd recommend playing around with the dashboard options because they can indeed be useful, although I mostly rely on the navigation pane to do my reading/browsing.

7. STAR. I really like the starred feature which is automatically a "special folder" in Inordeader. I use that to run a "recently starred" widget in my personal blog for example (there is RSS for the star folder, and so I popped that into the RSS widget in Blogger).

8. GOOGLE+ and TWITTER. In addition to standard RSS, Inoreader supports subscriptions to Google+ accounts and Twitter accounts (it's a premium feature). This is very useful for me in creating the "omnifeed" which reflects posts from all my blogs, activity from my two Twitter accounts, and also Google+ posts. You can see the omnifeed at MythFolklore.net.

9. HTML CLIPPINGS TO PDF. My students' storytelling posts lend themselves to more leisurely reading offline. To manage that, I use the HTML clippings to display a gigantic webpage of posts (you can put hundreds of posts on a clippings page if you want), and then print-to-PDF, which gives me a nice PDF file of stories I can mark up in a PDF reader on my iPad. For example, here are 100 of the latest stories from my Spring 2015 Indian Epics class in a webpage that I can print to PDF (220 pages! wow!).

10. PREFERENCES. Explore the preferences. The options you have to configure the Inoreader environment are excellent IMO. I appreciate the responsive color coding (like "new since last visit" in addition to the standard unread), the ability to change font size (I need all the help I can get!), the keyboard shortcuts, and on and on.



And for the DML2015 preparation plan, I did a screencast: Laura Loves RSS.

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