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Owning Your Reader: Your “Pet” Topics

We’ve talked about exploring the WordPress.com Reader and making it your own — customizing your topic listings, and trying new search…

We’ve talked about exploring the WordPress.com Reader and making it your own — customizing your topic listings, and trying new search terms to find blogs that speak to you. Not only is it fun, but making connections with other blogs is the best way to draw people back to yours.

Since we’re all poking around the Reader, we may as well share the collective wisdom. What are your favorite topics to follow? What offbeat search terms have unearthed hidden gems? There’s no need to horde your finds; the more readers the merrier! Here are a few of my favorites; what are yours?

Schrödinger’s Cat

I really am sorry, physicists. (Image by dantekgeek, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I really am sorry, physicists. (Image by dantekgeek, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

On one hand, I enjoy reading about quantum physics, if only to assuage the fear that a black hole could open over my desk at any moment, or that a random quantum event could suddenly displace my kidneys from my insides to the bathtub. On the other hand, looking at the “Physics”  or “Quantum Mechanics” topics results in a lot of science posts that are far more advanced than my dilettante-level science proficiency can handle.

Looking under “Schrödinger’s Cat” — the name of a thought experiment about a cat in a box created by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger* — has proven to be much more useful. Not only does it result in fun cat cartoons and videos, but it pulls in posts that discuss physics in a way that connects to philosophy, psychology, and more — posts that are accessible and rewarding for my liberal arts brain.

*Note: for any physicists reading this, I apologize for this painfully reductive explanation.

Flâneur

One of my main life goals is to engage in flânerie: the seemingly aimless strolling-about-town that allows you to take in all the sights and sounds, to be both immersed in a city yet also an impartial observer. (If it sounds like a very French thing done by Parisian dandies wearing spats, you’re mostly right.)

The “Flâneur” topics brings up everything from posts on urban planning to stunning photo essays to anthropological studies of cities and cultures around the world to meditations on the importance of leisure time. It’s a rich mix of content that never fails to inspire me (and motivate me to go out for a walk).

Lest you think I only look at fancy-pants topics that include diacritical marks, here are a few others:

Pinkwashing

Women’s health and breast cancer research are two entwined issues near and dear to my heart, so I enjoy reading about research breakthroughs and learning about successful fundraising efforts. Looking in “Health” or even “Breast Cancer” uncovers no shortage of  posts, often quite personal and moving, but can be a bit overwhelming.

Instead, I often check out “Pinkwashing,” a term that refers to the way consumer products are marketed using the pink breast cancer support ribbon (or are simply produced in pink versions). There’s a good deal of controversy and backlash against pinkwashing and whether money is put to better use elsewhere, and posts in that topic are a fascinating mix of personal experience with cancer treatment, cultural and economic commentary, and research updates.

Stereotypes

One of the things I love most about the blogosphere is the diversity of voices and viewpoints; I can always find a post that challenges my way of thinking, or gives me an insider’s view to an experience I’ve never had.

One of the ways I challenge myself is by surfing the “Stereotypes” topic. It’s helped me find lots of great new feminist reads — my personal interest — and to grow beyond that by reading posts on the immigrant experience, transphobia, education disparities based on race and class, and more. To escape from my own echo chamber, I also use it to find great content written by people I might not necessarily identify with — a conservative religious blogger who feels marginalized by feminists, for example. From harrowing personal stories to policy recommendations for level playing fields, the “Stereotype” topic broadens my horizons and helps me look beyond myself.

Pet Peeves

All reading can’t be heavy and fraught with painful insight, and if there’s one thing the internet is great at, it’s giving people a public space to complain about things. I don’t want to read rants every day, but the occasional screed can both provoke thought and lighten the mood. When I need a good laugh or having something stuck in my own craw, I check out the “Pet Peeves” topic to commiserate with fellow curmudgeons.

These topics may not pull in the same quantity of posts as a broader category like “Humor” or “Books” (which I also frequent) but they do result in a better ratio of posts that suck me in. Now spill: what are your five must-read topics? Where do you find the best reads? Inquiring bloggers want to know!

If you’ve never added a custom topic to your Reader, now’s a great time to start! To follow a new topic, scroll to the bottom of the topic list, put your term into the search bar, and hit the “+” sign to start following. You can also visit the Topics page to search for a topic (“Cognitive Science”), and then decide whether you want to follow it.

28 Comments

  1. This is going to sound a bit sad, but because I live in the land of the collie, I sometimes search ‘greyhounds’ to connect with other people who love wimpy 40mph couch potatoes that can’t herd sheep :-)

  2. I haven’t used the reader for some time since it has been filled with posts that don’t interest me or bloggers that stuff the internet with hundreds of posts a day. Granted I could unfollow them, and am in the process of doing just that, but it would be nice to have more control over our readers. I think this is a great idea. I’d love to be able to sort by bloggers as well as topics.

    1. I agree. I wish I could have more control over who gets to read my blog. I think that would be difficult to do though.

      1. I would say impossible. Besides, part of the joy of blogging is that you meet the most interesting people. If you knew who they were to begin with, you wouldn’t need to blog! You could just send emails to all your friends, or do FaceBook. The unknown adds another dimension to it. I just read yesterday that WP is making changes to their reader. Maybe they heard us! :):)

      2. As a brand-spanking-new blogger (just now drafting my fist blog, though extensively published otherwise) I have thought about SEEKING readers, but not about LIMITING them. What would be the benefits, perhaps other than reading disagreeable comments over & over?

      3. Let me put a question out to experienced & well-followed bloggers. Assume you are starting today, first blog ever. Given the wisdom of hindsight, do you acquire a blogname totally different from your own? It’s very common in crafts…. thanks so much for the guidance….

      4. I actually quite enjoy meeting others, that’s not the issue. The issues are hackers, trolls, and identity thieves.

      5. What do you mean by “blog name other than your own”? I use my name as the blog tittle (and the website link) because I post copyrighted material on my blog like poems, parts from my book that I am writing, and my art (and other things I can’t think of right now). Sorry if I scared you with my previous comments. It’s possible that some person can do those things but it is rare. I put my name out there because I am writing a book and I am an artist.

  3. I follow a lot of interesting people. When I have free time, I tend to search for the DP tags, then I would go for writing and writers, poems, movies, books, photos and travels. These are my main interests when I have down time. If I am working on my weekly series, I might take that term to see what others blogged about it.

  4. I added the FLÂNEUR one, that seemed to be my bag, I don’t really use many search terms myself, none that are niche anyway. it’ll be interesting to see what pops up in comments.

  5. Karate! It’s been a HUGE part of my life and I love to read stories that I can relate to immediately. Additionally, I love to read success stories (OK, there are failures out there, too) regarding home education. They can either serve as serious motivation or a heads-up in curriculum avoidance! =) Great article! Thanks!

  6. Anyone want to start or collaborate on a new topic: ANYTHING CHOCOLATE?? or perhaps that should be, EVERYTHING CHOCOLATE . . . Doesn’t yet exist in the Reader list. :-)

  7. Fantastic tips. I don’t have many bloggers in my Reader, but I love that it lets me know when Kandice (http://raisinemreal.com) or Rob (http://humansareweird.com) had a thought and wrote a few hilarious or thoughtful paragraphs about it.

    Should I be tagging my musings with Pinkwashing? I do think Angelina has done more for breast cancer this week than all of the pink crap in the world…

    http://eastmeetsbreast.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/the-importance-of-angelina-jolie/

  8. I am learning all this is very new to me. I am a woman trying to figure out what I like and don’t like. I have searched using words I want in my future like love, humor, happiness, and peace. I have mental and physical problems that I want views on how others handle the illnesses. Examples are PTSD, menopause, depression. I clicked on freshly pressed and recommend blogs. Now, my reader is all over the place because silly me thought I was suppose to click follow just to be nice. When I read from my reader now I look for the bloggers name and pic that I have liked everything I have read from them. All this made me realize my niche I am into at the moment is blogging and making my blog better and improving my writing skills. Blogging tips and writing tips have my attention when searching my reader. Happy blogging!

  9. I love my reader just to catch up on the blogs that I subscribe to and they come in as they are written. Then a few hours later they will show up in my email. Lol.

  10. While my list is alphabetical, the first five are the ones I look at the most:

    Adoption
    Advertising
    College Football
    Huskers
    Nebraska

    The vast majority of blogs I follow (and actually read) came from those topics.

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