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RSS 101 - An Intro to RSS Feeds

By vmunster     Jan 22, 2007 in Business
If you aren't familiar with RSS Feeds, here's a quick read about how you can use them to better surf the web or put your own content out. Check it out and learn about how RSS feeds can be used to benefit you.
If you aren't familiar with RSS Feeds, here's a quick read to inform you of how you can use them to better surf the web or put your own content out.
What is an RSS feed?
RSS is most commonly known as "Really Simple Syndication" or "Rich Site Summary" and is used to organize and summarize internet content to make it easier for readers to gain access to desired information. The code used to write an RSS feed is called XML and the tool used to read RSS feeds are called feed readers, (aka: news aggregators).
What is so useful about RSS feeds?
It eliminates the hassle of performing web searches! Once you've subscribed to a website's RSS feed, automatic updates deliver the newest content. You don't even have to wait for search engine crawlers to index the site updates for them to appear in web search results. RSS feeds also make it possible to aggregate the content from all your favorite blogs and news sites together in one place, so you don't have to visit multiple sites to get your daily dose of current happenings.
What are the disadvantages of RSS feeds?
RSS feeds do not guarantee good content. Finding good blogs takes trial-and-error. Often times you will come across a site that appears feed subscription worthy, when it actually only offers a few quality posts. This can become frustrating when your subscription list becomes a mile high. Much like email, RSS feeds can become cluttered in your feed aggregator, making it difficult to keep them organized and clean.
Which RSS feed reader(s) should I use?
Depending on what kind of feed consumer you are, you may want to try out some different ones before settling. The two major categories of feed readers are those that are web based, and those that are desktop-based, also known as stand-alone feed readers. These require a download.
Those who are interested in stand-alone feed readers usually make checking blogs and news updates as routine as checking email. If this is you, you may want to go with a reader that allows for integration with your preferred email client. NewsGater or IntraVnews provide Outlook add-ins, while Mozilla Thunderbird includes a feed reader as an option. Additional advantages of stand-alone feed readers, such as FeedDemon, are user-friendly interfaces, and the ability to organize and save posts.
Still, others of you may prefer a web-based feed reader, which allows for feed searches and access to your reader from any computer with an internet connection. In addition, it provides "the ability to integrate feeds with other sources of information in a portal-like fashion" (1), such as the use of toolbars, bookmarking etc. The more popular web-based clients are Google Reader, and Pluck.
The Future of RSS Feeds
RSS feeds are the ultimate tool that can be used to maximize upon the unique aspects of the internet: speed, networking, and information in real-time. Because the concept behind RSS is powerful and the level of knowledge needed for its use is virtually nil, it will revolutionalize how we consume information.
Even now, it is being adopted for many different uses, such as weather forecasts, package tracking and is rampant within podcasting, (NPR) photoblogs (flickr) and videoblogs (YouTube). It's only a matter of time before RSS feeds will take over the pursuit of information as we know it (Google). So make yourself comfortable and familiarize yourself, because it doesn't look like RSS is going anywhere soon.
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End Notes:
1Sherman, Chris. Search Engine Watch. “Choosing an RSS Reader,” September 1, 2005.
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About the Author
Veronica Mun graduated from the University of Washington where she majored in Communication and Psychology.
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