January 4, 2011

RSS – simple!

Posted in blogging, technology tagged , at 8:04 pm by weiszguy

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and that is probably the easiest definition possible.  It’s a way to syndicate, really simply.

Not as many people take advantage of RSS as could benefit by it.  Let’s take a look at the benefits of RSS, and then a quick and easy way to set it up.

The Problem

The reason many people are not taking advantage of RSS, is because they don’t realize how powerful it can be, i.e., they don’t realize they have a problem.

Let’s take a hypothetical internet user named Merlin.  Merlin is a savvy citizen of the 21st century – he gave up television news for Yahoo News.  He particularly like the sports section and his local news section.  He also follows blogs about economics, eastern European politics, and miniature shih tzus.  Merlin visits these five news sources every day.  He has them all bookmarked in his browser.

If Merlin wants to add a new source of information, he has to bookmark it, and then visit it every day.  His list of sites to visit every day quickly becomes quite long, and visiting them all takes more and more time with each new source.  To make matters worse, sometimes there is nothing new on his blogs, and so he has wasted his time checking them out.

What Merlin doesn’t know is there is an elegant solution that combines all his favorite news sources in one place, and only shows him new information.

The Solution

An RSS feed reader is analogous to an email program.  But instead of showing emails, a feed reader shows “feeds”.  A feed is a stream of information from a particular source, published using the RSS standard.  When Merlin starts looking for feeds, he discovers that Yahoo publishes all their sports information on a “Sports” feed.  The miniature shih tzu blog also has a feed.

In a feed reader, Merlin subscribes to these feeds, and the feeds of all his other favorite news sources, and can see them all in one place.  When the Vikings win the Super Bowl, Yahoo adds a story about the miracle to their Sports feed, and Merlin reads it in his feed reader, at the same time he reads the latest economics news, and the latest news from eastern Europe.  Merlin never misses an important story, and he doesn’t waste time surfing to sites that haven’t been updated.

To his great surprise, Merlin discovers that adding new feeds is painless, and reading all his feeds takes much less time than visiting each web site individually.  With all the time he has saved, Merlin adds new feeds with reckless abandon, and is able to keep up with all of them easily.

Getting Started

You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a feed reader.  If you have a favorite reader go ahead and use it.  If you don’t have a favorite, use mine – Google Reader http://www.google.com/reader.

Sign in, or create an account if you need to.  Then in the upper left corner of the page, click the “Add a subscription” button.  Then type in the name of the site that has the feed you want to subscribe to.  Google Reader will automatically discover the feed and add it to your list.  Repeat this process with each of your favorite news sources, and soon you’ll a list of feeds that contains all the news that thrills you.  If you’re using a different feed reader, you’ll see different buttons, but the process will be the same.

After you have subscribed to all your feeds, you won’t have to visit those web sites again.  Just open your feed reader, read all the news, and save yourself all the time of visiting each sites separately.

Also, please subscribe to this blog in your reader!



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