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A guide to RSS feeds

I’ve talked about RSS before here and here, but there might still be a bit of confusion about its value to you.  I’m hoping this definitive guide will help end the confusion.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.  A definition of ‘syndication’ is: Selling (an article or cartoon) for publication in many magazines or newspapers at the same time.  However, in this case it’s not actually selling anything.  It’s providing information instead, for free.  RSS provides you with the information of your choice, all at the same time, from multiple websites.  Whenever they update their sites, that update is delivered to you by RSS.

In order to receive those updates, you need an RSS Reader.  There are plenty of them out there, and they’re often called ‘newsreaders’ or ‘aggregators’.  Most RSS Readers, or aggregators, come in the form of a free program that you download onto your computer. 

You use these programs to subscribe to the RSS feeds of the websites you’re interested in, and instead of going to those websites to see IF they’ve updated it recently, all their updates will automatically be sent to you, saving you the time and hassle of visiting the sites yourself.

Some of the most popular RSS Readers are:

There’s also BlogLines for all web browsers.  Instead of using a program on your computer, this allows you to access your RSS feeds on any computer.

This list does not show all of the RSS readers available.  You might want to do some searching to see if there’s something out there that you prefer over what I’ve listed above.

RSS Feeds deliver updates to you.  These can be in the form of either headlines, headlines and a snippet of content, or headlines and all of the content.  It depends on how the website’s RSS delivery has been set up. 

RSS-enabled websites will have an address for their RSS feed.  You can access this address by clicking on their RSS button or link, and then copying the URL in your browser’s address bar into your favourite RSS reader.  Some RSS readers will ‘auto discover’ the RSS feeds on sites you browse, so you don’t need to do any cutting and pasting.  The documentation for your favourite RSS reader will give you the relevent information.

How does it help?  Very good question.  As I mentioned above, subscribing to RSS feeds allows you to receive immediate notification of website updates, as soon as they’re updated.  You get the information much faster than if you had to browse for it yourself, and you also get the updates from many sites via the one RSS reader.  The greatest benefit is the time-saving aspect of it. 

Use RSS to help your web searches.  There are websites that will allow you to search for a particular topic, and you can then subscribe to the RSS feed of that search, allowing you to receive immediate updates when new information relating to a topic of interest is published, from whatever source.

If you would like to subscribe to this site and receive further updates via RSS, click on Subscribe at the top of this website. It will present you with the option of subscribing to varous web-based RSS readers of your choice.

If you would like assistance in using RSS feeds for yourself, please contact me.  I’d be only too happy to help out.

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