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Filing CabinetLike 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

Search.Twitter.com

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.

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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

Ta-Da 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

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!

  1. Akikonomu
    March 24, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Hi, I'm trying out your advice on google reader as a blog archive, but I have a problem - a large blog of mine seems to archive only up to April 2007, and Reader insists there aren't any posts even though there are a hundred more posts way back to July 2005.

    Any explanations, help?

    • Dave Yankowiak
      March 25, 2010 at 11:34 am

      My guess is that this is due to the number of items that actually appear in your RSS feed at the time that you added it to Reader. Most RSS feeds only got back so many days or items. See if you can increase the number of items that show up in your RSS feed.

  2. Ashu Joshi
    March 21, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Terrific post and I agree. Google Reader is a great way to archive. I use it in combination with Feedly.

    Another good thing about the Feedly+Reader condition is to collect my own saved or shared articles. Feedly has a small side-bar and you can click share or save for later. And I can do that (I think) for feeds that are not even subscribed in my Google Reader (I am about to save this article as well :-)

    • Dave Yankowiak
      March 22, 2010 at 6:41 am

      Thanks for the tip, Ashu! I will have to try that out myself.

  3. Foolish Sage
    March 9, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    You probably came across them when they were experiencing some technical difficulties yesterday. All resolved now.

  4. Foolish Sage
    March 9, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Thanks for the reply, Dave. Actually, since posting that question, I found another way. You can build an archive of the hash tag at twapperkeeper.com. Then use the RSS URL from the twapperkeeper archive as the subscription feed in Reader. Twapperkeeper pulls the entire feed into Reader.

  5. Dave Yankowiak
    March 9, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Unfortunately, Mark, it seems like Twitter only shows the 30 newest or so search items in the search RSS. Most sites cap the number of items in RSS at any given moment in time. There are two workarounds. The first is to add the RSS for that search to Reader at the very start of the hashtag conversation. Any Tweets for that hashtag will get pulled into Reader from that point on. Another option is to use an alternative search site. I mentioned this scenario to real-time search engine icerocket.com and they said they're looking into a way for users to specify the number of items to return in RSS. There may be other search engines already doing this.

  6. Foolish Sage
    March 8, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    I tried pulling in the Twitter feed for the hashtag from a recent conference from Twitter search, but Reader only pulled in about 30 of the most recent tweets out of hundreds that were posted. Is there any way to make reader grab the whole feed that Twitter shows in its search result? Thanks.

  7. Dave Yankowiak
    March 8, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Adam, you can technically add a feed to a folder in Reader, and then mark that folder as public in the sharing settings. When you view the public page for that share you can view RSS for it. However, like most RSS feeds, it appears that the RSS only goes back x-number of items or to a specific date, so it doesn't include every item in that folder.

    Ah, but of course there's a hack for that. Here's an article that describe's appending the RSS URL so that it'll display as many items back as you want: http://aleksandaraleksandar.bl... (You can do this for any shared items, not just the starred items)

  8. Adam B.
    March 8, 2010 at 6:14 am

    Is there any way to create an RSS feed an entire feed's history on Reader? It seems having an archive isn't that useful unless you can get the data back out of reader.

    • Dave Yankowiak
      March 8, 2010 at 11:45 am

      Adam, you can technically add a feed to a folder in Reader, and then mark that folder as public in the sharing settings. When you view the public page for that share you can view RSS for it. However, like most RSS feeds, it appears that the RSS only goes back x-number of items or to a specific date, so it doesn't include every item in that folder.

      Ah, but of course there's a hack for that. Here's an article that describe's appending the RSS URL so that it'll display as many items back as you want: http://aleksandaraleksandar.blogspot.com/2007/07/export-google-reader-starred-items-into.html (You can do this for any shared items, not just the starred items)

  9. Christian Brandau
    March 8, 2010 at 4:34 am

    Works great for my tweets, thanks for this useful hint. Any idea how to exclude my own tweets from the from the "All items" count and appearance?

    • Dave Yankowiak
      March 8, 2010 at 6:05 am

      I'm not sure how you could do that, Christian, but that request makes sense. It would be nice if Reader had an "automatically mark as read" feature specifically for things like archiving. Obviously you wouldn't need to know if your own Tweets had been read or not since you're the one that wrote them.

  10. Cid Sinclair
    March 7, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    I use the Google Reader bookmarklet from the bookmarks bar in Chrome when I'm surfing, watching videos, listening to online music etc...it posts to my "shared items" feed in Reader. I put a widget on the side bar of my blog that has a Google Reader "shared items" feed so readers can see what else I read while reading a post. It also posts a link on my Facebook wall feed. I love Google Reader!

  11. marcelobernard
    March 7, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Google Reader lets you create a custom feed to track changes on pages that don't have their own feed : http://googlereader.blogspot.com/2010/01/follow-changes-to-any-website.html

    • Dave Yankowiak
      March 7, 2010 at 7:15 pm

      Very cool! You could use Reader to track site revisions.

  12. marcelobernard
    March 8, 2010 at 3:36 am

    Google Reader lets you create a custom feed to track changes on pages that don't have their own feed : http://googlereader.blogspot.c...

  13. reader
    March 7, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    The problem is that it is not easy to find what you need later.
    Search does not work the same as other Google services - no error correction (suggestions), no ignoring of punctuation, you have to type exactly what was in there - very hard to find stuff.
    Instead of search, you can mark things for later in 2 ways - star them or tag them. A star gets those items into one folder, which gets filled up quickly. A tag is like a separate folder for each tag, but putting items in and out of the folder is hard work, you have to type the tag name.
    Google Reader is a great product, but Google seems to prefer social additions to its products rather than adding stuff that is helpful.
    Fixing the search should not be too hard for the search giant, arranging for drag/drop into tags instead of having to type them etc.

    • Dave Yankowiak
      March 7, 2010 at 1:39 pm

      Yes, Google's gone a bit social on us lately. :) I agree, the search feature seems to be a bit lacking (ironic) but the tags and stars have helped me keep track of important tweets, to-do's, etc. I know that Google Docs used to have a similar setup but now features folders and sub-folders. Hopefully Reader isn't far behind.

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