If you’ve not heard of RSS, or don’t know exactly what it is, that’s
ok; you’re not alone. It still suffers from a fairly high geek
But I’d strongly recommend getting at least a few of the basics
down because it’s a very powerful technology that allows you to get the information
you want delivered to your virtual doorstep.
And I recommend using Google’s free Reader to view
the RSS feeds you’ve subscribed to.
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Each morning when I fire up my computer, I start my email, and I
fire up Google Reader. In
the reader, I have subscribed to many, many different RSS feeds and each
morning I get to see all the new items that have been posted to those
What’s a feed? Well, to use Ask
Leo! as an example, I have several feeds: one feed, the most common
kind, has the most recent items posted. If you
subscribe to that feed, then each time a new article is posted on Ask
Leo! it automatically shows up in your feed reader. Another is a feed
that contains newsletters only, which
shows RSS as an alternative to email: you can subscribe to the
newsletter feed, and get the newsletter in your feed reader each week
automatically – bypassing email and all the spam-related issues that
might interfere with deliverability.
What other kind of feeds are there ? A few examples: CNN has, quite literally, news feeds. Top
stories, most recently posted stories, and more. Many local news
outlets also provide similar feeds; here in Seattle one good example is
local TV and Radio station KOMO. Many technology sites have feeds. Many humor sites
(Dilbert.com, I Can Has Cheez
Burger – the home of LOLCats, for just two examples). And many,
In fact, almost every blog has an RSS feed, including sites
that you might not think of as blogs, but are built with blogging
software (again, like Ask Leo!). In
most cases, you need only look for an RSS icon () on the websites home
page, or in your browser’s address bar.)
There’s a lot more power I haven’t even touched on. For
example, I regularly use RSS feeds to keep abreast of new mentions of my
name, or my wife’s business on the internet.
The bottom line is that for every feed you subscribe to, new entries
or posts to those feeds are automatically displayed in your feed reader
without any work on your part, other than firing up the reader.
addicted and be looking for RSS feeds whenever you surf.”
I recommend Google
Reader as the tool to use to stay on top of your RSS feeds. There
are others, but particularly when starting out, Google Reader is easy
to use, ubiquitous, and of course free. Should you build up a long list
of subscriptions and later decide to move to a different reader, you
can easily export your list into a standard file format called “OPML”
that you can then import in other readers.
Even though it’s great for just starting out, you may not leave – I
didn’t. Google Reader is
one of the few web-applications that I use, and I do use it daily. I
tend to prefer PC-based applications, but in this case Reader simply
works better for me as I move between computers.
Its interface is simple and easy to use. Subscribing to feeds is
easy with just a click on a site’s RSS indicator, or by manually
entering the URL of an RSS feed.
Feeds can be easily tagged and organized, which I find incredibly
useful. Yes, I do subscribe to I Can Has Cheez Burger, but it’s tagged in such a
way to group it with other “fun” things so that I can prioritize where
I spend my time appropriately.
So create yourself a Google account. If you have GMail, then you
already have one. Then the next time you see that RSS icon on a site you’d like to
stay on top of, click it, subscribe, and start using Google Reader to see what’s
There’s a good chance you’ll quickly get addicted and be looking for
RSS feeds whenever you surf.