Like many of you, for the past few years I’ve been using Google Reader to subscribe to blogs and news feeds. Instead of having to go out and scan each and every one of my favorite blogs for new and interesting content, I can read; share; tag; favorite and organize my favorite posts directly in Google Reader. It saves me a valuable abundance of time.
Google Reader is not only one of the best RSS feed aggregators out there, but it can also be used as a powerful system to archive rss feed data you may want to access in the future. Anything that has an RSS feed can be backed up and archived with Google Reader for access long after the feed is gone. Here are just a few ideas on the types of data you can archive this way.
How do you know if an RSS feed is available for the site you’re browsing? Just keep an eye out for the RSS icon. Those little orange “RSS” icons are littered all over the web, and they are so common that sometimes we don’t even notice they are there. Well…start noticing them!
Archive Your Tweets
One of the primary ways I use Google Reader as an archive is for backing up my Twitter stream. If you’ve ever tried to go back and find something you tweeted last year, you’ll realize it is a slow and painful process using the Twitter interface. However, by adding it to Google Reader you’ll be able to load and browse through your timeline much quicker since the data is actually stored by Google, not by Twitter.
You can tag, search, organize, and share past Tweets exactly the same way you can with all of your other items in Google Reader. This in itself is extremely powerful. For example, maybe you’ve recently conversed with a potential customer on Twitter and you’d like to keep your statements on record and easily accessible. Simple enough: tag those Tweets with something like “prospect.” Later in time if you wish to re-visit that conversation, just go to the “prospect” tag in Reader.
Keeping with the Twitter theme, you can also archive Twitter searches. If you recently participated in a Twitter-based chat around a specific hash-tag, simply grab the RSS link from a search query for that hash-tag on search.twitter.com and you’ll be able to read the details of that chat months down the road. Anything that is search-able can be archived by Reader, not just hash-tags. You can keep a backlog of results for any search query and just archive the RSS feed of the results.
Archive the RSS Feed of Your Blog Content
Since most of what folks read in Google Reader are blog posts, it’s no surprise that it can function as an archive for your own blog. While you should always be backing up your blog database itself anyways, Reader can act as a backup to your backup. You’ll still be able to browse the content of each and every blog post you’ve written in the event of a crash.
Along with your actual blog posts, you can usually also grab an RSS feed for the comments that people leave on your blog. Once again, you’ll be able to utilize all of Reader’s features to organize, tag, search, and share past comments.
Archive Your To-Do List
In the past I’ve tried several different free “to-do” apps and recently found that Ta-Da List by 37Signals (also free) allows me to collaborate with my clients on prioritizing and completing small updates for them. This app conveniently offers an RSS feed that is updated every time a task gets added or marked as completed. Adding that feed to Reader, I am able to go back and view each and every task we’ve worked on together through time, whether it’s still listed in Ta-Da List or not.
If It’s Available In RSS, Feed It To Reader
Google Reader is free and will most likely always be free. So far there’s no limit on how many feeds you can add to it. Take advantage of that. Any RSS-enabled data that you may want to archive for future retrieval should go into Google Reader. It’s definitely an app that is useful for more than just reading blogs.
Are you using Google Reader to archive any other types of RSS-enabled data? Share your tips!