Let’s Start with the Basic Toolset
Not getting submerged by all the features available in Inoreader requires some effort. So let’s just take a look at subscribing. Basic notions. How we subscribe, and to what.
As mentioned in a previous article, in Inoreader you manage both your subscriptions — the sites or sections of sites to which you subscribe — and your articles — the contents published on these sites.
Folders are categories that you assign to your subscriptions. A single subscription can belong to several folders.
In addition to bringing some order to your collection, folders allow you to manipulate the subscriptions they contain in bulk.
Folders organize your subscriptions. Tags organize the content returned by these subscriptions, whether it is articles, videos, PDF documents, podcasts, saved pages, emails, etc.
We’ll see how to use them in an upcoming article.
How to Subscribe
Subscribing to a Web feed with Inoreader involves providing the application with the address at which the feed is located. There are several ways to do so, and they are all simple. Once it gets the address, Inoreader takes care of the rest: saving it, labeling it, fetching the most recent articles, formatting it, and scheduling its next visit to the feed.
The Subscription Area
The most complete method to subscribe is not always the most practical: using the subscription area in the main screen of the application. This text box can also serve as a search area. So you just copy the address of a Web feed, and paste it here:
Once done, Inoreader will go and check the address. If a valid feed is found, it will then confirm the new subscription and allow you to start customizing it.
You can replace its default name with a name that better suits you, assign it to one or more folders, as well as filter its contents, as we will see later. Finally the new subscription is added to the main list on the left.
You don’t enjoy a data entry session interrupting your reading? There are other methods to add subscriptions.
The Inoreader browser extension offers fewer options than manual input, but is by far the easiest way to add a subscription. Once installed in your browser (see how to install a browser extension), it allows you to have Inoreader retrieve the feed address for the site you are currently browsing (or to save a shortcut of the current page). Just a few clicks. Completely pain-free.
By using this bookmarklet you will also be able to save the current page and have the option of assigning a keyword right away. Simply drag the link from the Inoreader Preferences page and drop it anywhere on your browser’s Favorites Bar:
And it will be easy to save content on the fly.
There is also an alternative method, in case your browser already has an extension to manage RSS feeds. Then you simply declare Inoreader as your default feed reader, and you will be able to add subscriptions directly by clicking on any RSS link.
That’s about it, you should now have enough to get started. Let’s put these methods to work on a few well-known sites to board gamers.
Subscribe to What?
Web feeds are a well-established standard. But the way they are displayed on a Web page can vary widely from one site to another. A little care and practice will ensure that you always find the information you are after.
Ever heard of a site called BoardGameGeek? I will assume you have, if you’re not new to boardgaming. If you are, go and have a look, create your BGG account, and don’t be fooled by appearances — BGG is indeed the Web’s most important source of board game related content.
Such large sites, with many sections, typically offer multiple Web feeds. This is the case with BoardGameGeek. A few simple tricks will allow you to find whatever content you want without getting bogged down.
I have written elsewhere that RSS is everywhere on BGG. Each section and subsection has its own feed, just like every game, every user, every forum thread. There is also a feed on just about every search results page. The huge amount of information added each day on this site is why I recommend that you subscribe to BGG piecemeal, targeting specific content.
Let’s say you are interested in Great Western Trail, the game by Alexander Pfister published in 2016. The game page on BoardGameGeek has a series of buttons on the top right, including one with the RSS logo (click to enlarge):
Clicking on this button takes you to the Web feed for Great Western Trail. If your browser has not been configured to recognize Web feeds, you will only see one page of XML gibberish:
It doesn’t matter — what you are looking for is the address displayed in the address bar, so that you can copy it (even simpler, right-click on the RSS icon and select Copy link address).
Now you can just paste the address into Inoreader’s subscription area to save the feed. The new subscription will bring to you every content regarding Great Western Trail that gets published on BGG: reviews, discussions, photos, files, videos, sales, etc.
Too much of a good thing? Well, let’s further slim it down. You are mostly interested in rule clarifications, not in photos or reviews? In this case, always from the game page, click on the the Forum menu, then on Rules. At the bottom of the screen, you will see another RSS button. Same principle. Copy. Paste.
And you will only receive new posts about the game’s rules.
Pretty neat, isn’t it? No? You mean, there is more than one game in your collection? Really?
In that case, you should create a custom feed based on the games in your collection (you need a BGG account to do that — go ahead, it’s free). This is done easily, from the Feeds page, where all articles published on BGG in the last week or so are listed. You can access this page by clicking on the Feeds link displayed at the bottom of every page of the site.
Don’t panic — I know, you get a list of several hundred pages containing several dozen articles each. But there also are two sets of criteria you can use to filter the list: by the games of your collection, and / or by type of content. It’s right there above the list:
Let’s say you are mostly interested in reviews, blog posts, forums, the marketplace, video explanations and player aids relating to the games in your collection. It may then seem a good idea to select the following values:
But if you are like me, your collection includes dead weight, games that you do not want to find anywhere in your feeds: games you got tired of, mediocre games given to you by well-meaning non-gamers, or even some of the children’s games. The best approach is perhaps not to keep these games in your collection… Otherwise, at least, identify them clearly. By making sure they get no rating, for example. That will allow you to further refine your filter. Here I want to limit the list to the games in my collection to which I gave a rating:
That’s all. All you have to do is copy the address for the feed, by clicking this icon above the list:
and paste it in Inoreader.
Subscription to your Subscriptions
BGG regulars know that they can, inside the site, subscribe to any item, and, somewhat like with a feed reader, get all these subscriptions on the same page — the Subscriptions page. If you’ve been to BGG for any amount of time, you’re likely to be following quite a lot of items, not just games, but also threads, geeklists, or guilds. From your MyGeek menu:
you can access the Subscriptions page containing all your subscriptions, here grouped by type:
This is an important page, since it lists your favorite BGG content. But its organization leaves a lot to be desired. Fortunately, every section of this page (Forums, GeekLists, Pictures, Videos, Files, Blog Posts, Marketplace and Auctions, Media) has its own feed. Look for the RSS icon, on the right-hand side of every section’s title:
So you just get the relevant feed addresses, and build yourself a custom BGG subscription page in Inoreader.
Being able to access and customize BGG content while discarding items that don’t interest you, and avoiding an often frustrating user experience makes it even more valuable. And Inoreader will soon make you realize that all this important content is but a small portion of the information on board games that you can access daily online.
You are on an interesting site, you have looked everywhere, but could not find any link, any RSS icon?
It does not mean that the feed does not exist. Most platforms and Web authoring tools offer Web feeds natively. So much so that it often takes some effort not to implement them. So if no sign of RSS shows up on a site, the first place to look to find a feed is the site’s address. Try appending one of the standard suffixes to it, like /rss or /feed.
An example of that is Club Fantasci website, at http://www.clubfantasci.com/. There is no visible RSS icon or link anywhere on the site. However if you enter the address http://www.clubfantasci.com/feed in Inoreader, it will find a valid RSS feed. So will the Inoreader Companion extension. Isn’t that always the case?
No. That’s why knowing that the Web feed usually hides behind a suffix appended to a site’s address is useful.
The gigantic (nearly 1 million topics) website Reddit harbors a few interesting, fast-growing boardgame-related communities that are much worth your time. But it might prove difficult to subscribe to a subreddit using its address, or the standard /feed and /rss suffixes. Even Inoreader will not find a feed under https://www.reddit.com/r/boardgames/. It’s because Reddit, as do many large sites, uses its own suffix. But since you know that Web feeds generally hide behind URL suffixes, you do a quick Google search and find that the suffix to access any subreddit RSS feed is /.rss. And sure enough, entering https://www.reddit.com/r/boardgames/.rss will allow you to subscribe to a very active and engaging forum.
We’ve seen that Google is not that fond of Web feeds. So obviously you will not find any visible reference to RSS on a YouTube channel home page. And no uniform suffix is used for feeds either. But they exist and lay behind special calls that applications like Inoreader can do. So just copy any channel’s address in Inoreader and it will create a subscription.
Are you a big YouTube fan? Last time I went on YouTube I was surprised to see that I had subscribed to over fifty board game related channels.
So if, like me, you have accumulated a large number of channel subscriptions in your YouTube account, know that it is ridiculously easy to import them, in one swoop, into Inoreader, and follow them all from there.
- Go to the Manage Subscriptions page of your YouTube account.
- At the end of the list of all your current subscriptions, you will find a button allowing you to Export to RSS readers. Clicking this button will package all your subscription data into a single file and download it.
- To import the file in Inoreader, go to Preferences, under Import/Export. Once you have selected the file, you can also tell Inoreader where to put the newly imported subscriptions. This is especially useful if you have many YouTube subscriptions and want to avoid that they end up scattered all around your Inoreader folder structure.
No Web Feed? No Problem
Lastly, the uncooperative sites. The larger among them, like Facebook or Twitter, have their own subscription system, and simply don’t include Web feeds. Inoreader offers a few solutions to remedy the situation.
Quite a trendy word these days, an integration means a way by which two distinct, independant applications can still talk to each other.
Inoreader is especially rich in integrations. It can namely receive input directly from your Twitter, Facebook or Google+ account, follow and manage everything happening there.
For instance, let’s say you are trying to enter in the regular Inoreader subscription box an address coming from Twitter. Inoreader will recognize it and will suggest the following:
You only have to authorize both sites to talk to each other and you will receive in real time, in your Inoreader feed, all the tweets coming from your account. Then you can manage, filter, sort them just like the articles of any RSS subscription.
You can do the same with Google+ and Facebook pages.
Subscription by Email
You are interested by a site, but it offers neither a Web feed nor a direct integration. Rare, but still possible. Then look around to see if the site offers some form of email subscription — to a newsletter, regular updates, etc. Most do. But you don’t want to reveal your email address for fear of getting spammed, right? Inoreader has a solution for you.
Remember the above-mentioned tags? Just go have a look at your tag list in Inoreader’s Preferences screen. You will see that every one of your tags has been given a unique email address:
What this address does is transform your tag into a inbox. For instance, I have created a tag called Inbox, and I use its email address to subscribe to various newsletters. It is very simple and risk-free. Every email sent to that address will be received in Inoreader, automatically tagged with the associated keyword, and I am able to manage them like any other article.
I do think it’s neat. It works flawlessly. Just make sure that, right after subscribing to a newsletter, you go in Inoreader, find the confirmation email and confirm your subscription.
Nothing filling up your email inbox, everything sorted and managed in one place, and very spam-proof. Now you can subscribe to dozens of newsletters. You can unsubcribe the usual way, by clicking on their Unsubscribe link, or in bulk, by simply deleting the tag in Inoreader.
We could see this feature as a last resort. But it has proven very handy in many circumstances. It goes without saying that Inoreader can save any individual Web page. At any time, while you are browsing the Web, you can click the Inoreader Companion, or the Inoreader Bookmarklet icon — or indeed copy its address in the Inoreader subscription box— to save the page you are on.
In addition to being tagged with your Inoreader keywords, these pages are automatically grouped under Inoreader’s Saved Web Pages menu item. No need to save bookmarks in your browser anymore.
Ok, now that you are accumulating all that gaming content in your Inoreader, you will soon need to bring some order to it.
That is what we will talk about next time. Until then, happy reading!