Saturday 29 December 2012

Following a blog with Google Friends Connect

Several people have asked me questions about using Google Friends Connect in connection with comping. I'll try to answer the ones I've been asked here - please comment (with our without using Google Friends Connect!) with anything you would like to know that I haven't covered.

Note that anything I am saying here about following blogs and viewing them in Google reader ONLY applies to blogs hosted by the Blogger platform. Blogs using other platforms such as Wordpress are not able to offer the service.

How do I join?

When you enter a competition on a blog, very often one of the tasks, or even a condition of entering, is that you follow the blog using Google Friends Connect, or add the blog to Google Reader. To do this, you will need to be registered with Google. You probably already are, if you have ever wanted to refine a search, contribute to a newsgroup or use a Gmail email address, but if you aren't, simply go to any Google page such as  and register.

The blog will probably have a "Join this site" button in the left or right margin, with some photos of existing members below it, just like the one  in the right hand margin of this blog. To subscribe using GFC, simply click on the button,  log in to your Google account if necessary, choose whether to follow publicly or privately and then click "done".  The difference between following publicly and privately is that your photo may show in the "Join this site" area if you follow publicly but not if you follow privately. If you follow some blogs publicly and some privately, anyone who looks at your profile through following the link on a blog you follow publicly will only see those you follow publicly, not privately.

If the blog owner doesn't have a button showing,  their post asking you to join may include a link to a sign up page, which works in just the same way.

Why should I join?

Well, first of all, because you want to enter the competition! But there are lots of other reasons for following a blog:
  • When you comment on a post, your Google name shows next to it, so you don't need to give your name and email address or post anonymously. If you are entering a Rafflecopter competition, it makes it easier for the blog owner to check that you have actually commented when you say that you have.
  • If you win a competition and the blog owner hasn't used Rafflecopter, which collects your email address as part of the entry procedure, they will need a way to contact you. It isn't a good idea to EVER leave your email address in the text of a public comment on a blog, as there are "robots" out there combing millions of sites and blogs every day looking for email addresses to send their nasty spam to. But if you have commented using your Google profile, the blogger can contact you through that ans long as you have included your email address in your profile.
  • Once you have followed a blog, you can keep up with everything that happens on it without actually having to visit the blog! Every time a new post is made, it will appear in your Google Reader. You can visit it at and see every new post that has appeared since your last visit by selecting "All items" from the left hand menu. I love to sit down with a cup of tea in the morning and read through the latest posts on all the blogs I follow (about 300 of them!). The titles of the posts are listed, so it is easy to skip over one that looks as if it won't interest me and open and read the others without leaving Google Reader. Then if I see a post I would like to comment on, or one that contains a competition I would like to enter, I can just click on the title and it will take me to the actual blog post where I can interact with the blog owner.
There are lots of other ways to follow blogs, and lots of other ways to use GFC and Google Reader, but this is a basic introduction that should help you to get started. Why not give it a try by joining THIS blog?

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