18 April, 2006 1 Comment
Time for a tech/geek rant.
RSS is simply awesome and is quite possibly one of the best time saving techniques for internet savvy users that frequently browse a number of sites. I love it.
What? why? where? how? I’ll tell ya…
RSS has several meanings, but generally stands for Really Simple Syndication and encompasses a group of file formats that allow internet content to be easily and quickly shared.
What? If that didn’t help, think of RSS as a small file that contains a bunch of links and summaries to content on a website. Every time new content is added, the RSS file, or feed, is updated also.
The point here is that downloading the feed is much faster than visiting the site, so in a matter of seconds you are able to grab several feeds and see if your favourite sites have updated or not. Then by reading the summaries you can pick and choose where to visit directly, thus saving browsing time. Sweet!
More and more sites are implementing RSS feeds for their users. The most common examples are news websites or blogs (including this one!) Feeds are also an important part of pod/video-casting, but more on that later…
To use a feed, you need a reader – a program (or website) designed specifically for importing and regularly checking feeds. Firefox has this functionality built in (as will IEv7) via it’s LiveBookmarks. I prefer a separate program to manage my feeds, while some people use online tools.
Up until recently I exclusively used the most excellent FeedDemon (available for US$29.95). However, I now recommend a free program called RSSOwl which is just as feature rich and even more customisable (it’s open source and platform independant so you Linux fanboys can use it too).
If you want an online RSS reader, then there’s also a range of options. I haven’t used any, but head over to TechCrunch for a good summary.
Depending on your setup, some readers will automatically import a feed when you click a link to one in your browser. Otherwise, simply copy the feeds URL and add it manually to your reader of choice.
Sites that employ RSS feeds usually have buttons/logos linking to the feeds. Keep a look out for some of the most common ones,
Buttons to feeds that automatically import into online readers vary a bit. Check out Duct Tape Marketing and look in the left column under “Subscribe to my blog via RSS” for an example.
I regularly check over 25 feeds to see if there’s updates at my favourite sites (including new podcasts). To get started, add the feed for my blog, then your reader will let you know when I update this site. Most readers will check at least once per day or every hour depending on settings.
If you regularly browse a number of sites but haven’t used RSS, see if those sites have feeds and give it a try. RSS has streamlined my surfing, and might just benefit you too!