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October 31, 2006

FeedBlitz Version 2.0 – Reading Blogs in Email

Disclosure:  I am an investor in and a board member of FeedBlitz.

Last week FeedBlitz released Version 2.0 of the world’s largest blog to email service (technically RSS to email).  You can find all the details on the FeedBlitz blog.  This post is about my favorite new feature:  the smart use of the tags most of us bloggers put on our posts (for example, this post is tagged “FeedBlitz” and “Weblogs”). 

Tags are useful both to publishers and subscribers in FeedBlitz 2.0; in this post I’m talking about the use of tags by subscribers because I’m already taking advantage of that feature.

When I first invested in FeedBlitz I thought it was mainly useful for those readers who only look at a couple of blogs per day.  Blog addicts, I thought, will continue to use web-based feed readers like Bloglines and Newsgator.  Wrong, at least for some of us!  I found that I was spending too much time on blog-reading and switched my favorite blogs to email subscriptions.  I live in Outlook, anyway.  Why not get my favorite bogs there?  Getting blogs through email has the additional benefit that I can read them when I’m offline (still does happen, unfortunately).

Now, with smart tags, I get an automatic way to arrange the incoming posts AND a way to filter for subjects I’m particularly interested in or NOT interested in.

I’m about to describe a bunch of things you DON’T have to do in order to receive blogs as email using FeedBlitz. In fact, I recommend that you DON’T do any of them if you’re just starting to use FeedBlitz. It works fine without my tweaks and takes just a few seconds to set up. But, if you’re a tweaker….

Let’s start with the filtering.  When you log on to FeedBlitz, the dashboard lets you click through to a list of your subscriptions.  If you click on the underlined title of a particular subscription, you get a dropdown menu with “Subscription Details” as one of the options. Choose that and you get a page which includes the fields below:

Filter_1

Suppose you’re a nerd and you only want to read the posts in Fractals of Change which I tag with “nerding”.  OK, then, put “nerding” in the include box and that’s all you’ll get.  If you’re a normal person who hates my nerd posts, put “nerding” in the exclude box.  Simple.  Now you get the emails you want and you don’t get the one you don’t want.

How do you know what tags a blogger uses?  With my blog it happens to be easy because they’re at the bottom of each post.  For blogs that don’t have this, hold that question and see below.

Now for some Outlook customization.  Different mail programs are different but I’m just covering Outlook here.  First thing I did was make a rule to automatically move incoming blog emails from FeedBlitz to their own blog folder.  You don’t need to be a nerd to do that.  Here’s how:

  1. Create a blog folder by selecting “New” and then “Folder” in the File menu.
  2. Click on the “Create Rule” icon in the menu bar.Ruleicon_1

  1. Select “From FeedBlitz” and “Move e-mail to folder:” in the dialog below.  You’ll also have to click “Select Folder…” to select the blog folder you created in Step 1.

Ruledialog_1

  1. Click “OK” and you’re done.  How’s that for easy.

Now a little customization of the blog folder doesn’t hurt. Mine looks like this.

Folder_1

You do this customization or whatever suits you by choosing “Arrange By” and then “Custom…” in the View Menu.  Notice that now I can see the tags (Outlook calls them “Categories”) for each blog email.

Not really a lot of work and it lets you keep up with what is relevant to you from your favorite bloggers. But, remember, you don’t have to do any of this customization to use FeedBlitz. It’s just capabilities that are there when you need them.

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