Depending on whom you ask, RSS stands for "really simple syndication" or "rich site syndication". It is a text format based on XML. You've probably been to websites and noticed someplace to the side or bottom a reference to RSS or XML. Usually, these sites contain a button similar to the following:
Part of the problem is few websites tell you what RSS is or how it can help you. Ironically, some sites reference this syndication in such a way that you think you must pay for the content.
Bottom line is a RSS feed allows website content to be viewed and manipulated using a newsreader. In other words, you don't have to visit these websites to get the content. Instead, using a newsreader you could pull the headlines from many sites and have them display in one window or web page. This works well for people that watch many web sites or have dial up connections. If you see an interesting headline, you click the accompanying URL to see the contents. Using one of these newsreaders, I can easily monitor 200 sites. That's 200 websites where I don't have to type a URL or subscribe to an email newsletter.
Two of the easiest ways to understand RSS and its benefits are News is Free and Yahoo!. News is Free provides a free web-based news aggregator that links to over 11000 sources. Toward the top of the page, you'll see a link labeled "Top News". If you click the link, you'll see current headlines sorted by various newspapers and wire services. You might think of this site as a custom news portal.
My Yahoo! - Where would we be without our customized Yahoo! page? Taking customization one step further, Yahoo! has a beta program where you can add RSS feeds to your page. You can either manually add feeds, or some web developers provide a Add to My Yahoo! button. We opted to make the process easy and added a button on our update notifications page. When you click the button in the Web Monitors section, Yahoo! starts a wizard that will step you through the process of adding our feed. This is an ideal solution for people that aren't quite ready to get a dedicated newsreader. Now, when you access your My Yahoo! page you'll see if we've added any stories.
Yahoo!'s approach is simple, but effective. Instead of showing you the story lead in as with most newsreaders, it simply displays the story headline. To find more information, you only need to click the story headline to be taken to the full text.
Not all websites offer a RSS feed, but the number is rising daily and is in the tens of thousands. There are also various directories such as Syndic8 where you can search to see if there is a RSS feed on your interest.
As with many programs, RSS newsreaders come in many varieties. For example, News is Free is web-based as is Yahoo!, but there are other stand-alone applications that offer more features or integrate with your email program.
Suggested RSS Programs:
FeedDemon is a simple and elegant newsreader created by Nick Bradbury. It has an easy interface and provides the user with some sample feeds. This is the program we used to create the 4 minute demo.
Our other favorite program is Newz Crawler. One of the features it provides that many newsreaders omit is the subject. The subject column allows us to further refine what we watch. As example, when we create the RSS feed for this site, we categorize each story by subject such as term to learn , email and so on. This allows the user to hone in on relevant stories.
Last Updated (Saturday, 19 June 2010 15:15)