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 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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.