Follow us on your RSS reader

Photo of Andrew Taylorby Andrew Ampers Taylor

What, actually, does this mean? I am not talking about ‘repetitive strain injury’ here but a method of website article syndication. One of the many web dictionaries give the definition as follows:

RSS is the acronym for Really Simple Syndication, web feed technology that automatically detects when content on one site is updated, and through subscriber feeds and aggregators distributes it to another website or to a digital signage content player.

In more simple terms, if you need to go into many websites for updates of their articles, such as blogs, newspapers, and any other website that publishes information daily, weekly or somewhere in between, and can never remember to cover them all, all of the time, RSS could be the answer to your prayers.

There are several sites which offer to host your acquisition of articles from all over the internet. I will describe Google Reader simply because this is the one I use so it is easier for me to write about!

Whenever I fire up my Browser, it starts up with several tabs already open. One of which is Google Reader. First of all, I read three newspapers. One for news coverage, one for financial markets coverage and one is a South African newspaper so I know what is going on in my old home. I have several political blogs which are updated as the blogs come in on Google Reader, and also receive comments on my own two blogs. There are others, but this should be enough for you to get the general picture.

However, I can almost see you drawing back in horror and muttering; “How does he get the time to read them all?”

Lets just discuss the news coverage for my example. This newspaper has about fifty articles showing as unread when I log on in the morning. They are presented as one line per story, so I can read all fifty lines in a minute or two. If I click on the line, it opens up a small window with the story title and a short paragraph on what the news is about. If I click on the title it takes me to the story in full on the newspaper’s website.

However, if I am busy, I just read the one line. I leave home for a meeting knowing what is going on in the world. Do I really need to know more? If I have a little more time, I might read just the first paragraph of half a dozen of the fifty one lines, and maybe just one or two full articles. Never more!

One can also star an article and read it later. I star all those that seem interesting but are not time sensitive, and look at them on a Sunday morning.

Quite a few people in Finchley use this method, and click on the orange RSS badge on our newspaper page (on the top right) and receive the Finchley Arrow news as soon as it comes in.

How can you install this?

It’s easy. Go into the browser and type in “Google Reader” in your search box (with the quotes) and then click on the link. To make it even easier, I have added a link here for you.

Once you have set up your account (just follow the instructions) you are there. You can bookmark the page once you are in to jump straight back to it each time you want to use the Reader. Now, whenever you see the orange RSS logo on a website click it and choose Google, and then Google Reader, to begin receiving your news.

If the website doesn’t show an RSS feed, you can copy the URL (web address) and go to your Google Reader page and click it on the add a subscription button on the top left of the page. However, bear in mind that doing it this way doesn’t always work if the website isn’t geared for RSS feeds.

Don’t hesitate to add more subscriptions that interest you, and delete old subscriptions if they are too time consuming or no longer of interest.

There is a lot more to using Google Reader but I am too busy to be bothered with all of the other extras, other than star an item I might read on the following Sunday morning.

Could I live without using RSS feeds? The simple answer is no! Not only does it save me so much time, but whenever anyone talks about what is in the papers that day, I know about it and can discuss the story, after just a couple of minutes of skimming down the Reader page. I know that if you take the trouble of getting into Google Reader you will come to depend on it. And all this is free!

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