i've had quite a few requests for explanations regarding using a feed reader. understand i am NO expert on the technical side, but i can give you a practical walk through the site i use called bloglines
when a blog entry is posted to a blog, a feed signal is sent out (there are lots of these, but you really don't need to understand them, and i'm not the person to explain) and picked up by programs that track the feeds and you can subscribe to them (for free) by using a website like bloglines.
it is a free service and it has made my blog reading much easier than clicking through my blogroll and trying to see if anyone has posted anything.
sign up for bloglines (it is free) and then you can subscribe to the blogs you normally read. there is a small download (totally safe - and bloglines works with both internet explorer and firefox) if you want to be notified if any blogs have been updated - not necessary to use the program.
you bookmark the webpage and then when you have time to read blogs you go to that webpage instead of your blogroll - and it would say emergingsideways (2) - that would mean that i have posted 2 times since you have read my blog last.
the left hand side of the webpage has all of the blogs you've subscribed to (you must paste and clip these into the site yourself - i'll explain how to do that next) and the blog post (or a portion of it) comes up into the frame to read. you never need to click into the blog if you don't want to comment - and it allows you to see all of the blogs you read and if they've been updated. it's a real time saver, and actually allows you to track far more blogs than if you had to manually check them every time you wanted to read them.
HOW TO ADD THE BLOGS YOU READ TO BLOGLINES:
once you log into bloglines you will see 'my feeds' as a tab option - click on that - then you will see a link for 'add' - click on that and you will see empty windows next to the text. open another window (or tab if you use firefox) and start to open the blogs you normally read.
when you are at the main page of the blog you will see the blog address in the navigation bar at the top of your web browser. if you were at my blog this is what you would see: http://emergingsideways.blogspot.com/
that is the information you need to place into the box on the bloglines add page.
highlight (with your mouse - it turns it blue) and hit control c (copy) - switch to the bloglines page and click your mouse into the blog or feed url and hit control v (paste) and then click on the grey box that says "subscribe".
the next page you click to will show you what feeds my blog has - i don't know the difference, but my blog has 3 - i find atom feeds to be reliable - so i click on that one (don't click on all three or you will have 3 subscriptions to my blog, and even i don't read me that much!) - choose one and then you will see you have options:
folder: (you can set these up - some people want multiple folders that divide their interests, i don't use this feature yet).
updated items: when someone edits their blog do you want to know that they made changes or ignore it because it's not a knew post? you have both options.
display preferences: complete entries (the entire post), summaries (if available) or just the titles, you can pick what ever you like.
monitored by bloglines notifier: if you have downloaded the notifier it sits at the bottom of your computer screen with your other tiny icons and when there is a new post it gets a little red dot on it (i read so many blogs there are always new feeds, so it's rare that my red dot actually goes away...)
access: you can make some of them private - if you are using bloglines as your blogroll there may be some that you don't want people to know you read, so you can mark them as private.
notes: anything you might want to note, duh! :)
hit that grey button "subscribe" and now you have your first blog feed subscribed to in bloglines. the default of all of those settings above never has to be changed unless you want it to be. continue with this process until your blogs have been added.
also, when you have bloglines notifier downloaded you get a little icon that sits in your 'favorites' or 'bookmarks' folder of your browser. if you click on it while you are on the main page of a blog it will automatically take you to the subscription page of bloglines and add it to your reading list.
word of warning - do not subscribe to a permalink
this is what a permalink looks like in my blog: http://emergingsideways.blogspot.com/2005/01/tammy-jo-where-did-you-go.html
it is only one single page of my blog - not the main page. if you subscribe to that page you won't know when i've updated my blog, because it's not the one that sends out updated feeds.
i hope this makes sense, please feel free to ask any questions, or if you use bloglines and i've described something incorrectly (large chance) let me know so i can fix it please.
disclaimer - i have no stock or interest in bloglines as a company, i just am a satisfied customer.
happy blog reading!