First things first: RSS Feeds

rss feed symbolI thought I would start out this weblog by writing about something very essential to working on the Web these days, and that is knowing about and how to use RSS feeds. In order to access and read the vast quantities of information out there in cyberspace, you really need to know RSS. RSS stands for “really simple syndication,” and if this still doesn’t mean anything to you, then you are not alone. Keep reading . . .

You may notice two little orange symbols on this webpage that are becoming more and more common on most websites. Those little symbols indicate feed links and when you click them, you will get the option to subscribe to these feeds. Before you subscribe to feeds, however, you also need to have a feed reader. And what is a “feed reader?” This is just another program (free, of course!) that puts all of your feeds in one place. And because feeds are updated automatically, this means you don’t have to keep going to your favorite website to see what is updated. You can simply go to your feed reader.

Therefore, BEFORE you subscribe (yes, these are subscriptions, like podcasts), you need to sign up with a feed reader. One of my favorites is a blog with feed reader built in: bloglines.com. However, Google’s feed reader is very easy and nice (although it does NOT have a search feature, something a bit strange for Google, I think). I’ve also used Newsgator, which I remember as working fine. If you have any favorite news readers, let us know by commenting to this post.

Finally, after reading this quick overview, watch the RSS in Plain English video link to your right. This video really helps explain in very simplistic language what an RSS feed is, how to set yourself up to use them, and how to subscribe to feeds. After you have signed up for a news reader service (and remember, they should be FREE), you can subscribe to this weblog (either or both the entries and comments) by clicking the little orange icon and then indicating where you want your feed to go (select your feed reader.) Then, you really don’t need to visit this site again, unless you want to make a comment (which I hope you do from time to time.) All you need to do is visit your feed reader and decide which of your website postings look interesting. You can also make your feeds public or share your feeds with people, as well as tag them, to identify and locate them later. One other word of advice to Apple users: If you are using the Safari web browser and click a feed link, you will notice that Safari shows the feed on a new page but won’t direct you to subscribe to this feed. Don’t worry . . . Just copy this feed and paste it into your feed reader (you will probably need to select “subscribe to feed” or something like that in your feed reader and then paste the feed URL into that box.

I don’t want to overload you at this point. Just set up a feed reader and then subscribe to this feed. Don’t let the Web control you–you control the Web. See . . . I’ve already empowered you.

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2 thoughts on “First things first: RSS Feeds

  1. A great early topic to cover! The RSS in Plain English video is informative, efficient, and fun to watch–a perfect choice to introduce people to RSS. RSS might also be a nice thing to demo during faculty brown-bag get-togethers.

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  2. Yes, I think that showing/teaching how easy it is to set up a feed reader and let the web sites come to you, rather than doing the opposite would be a perfect brown-bag topic. Thanks for your feedback, Robert.

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