September 2008 Archives

Google Reader Mobile - Mark These Items as Read
Image by Josh Bancroft via Flickr

What’s RSS and why should I bother?

RSS (Really Simple Syndication – or so they say) is a way for you to subscribe to a website and be notified as soon as new information is published there without messing about with email.

It is supposed to be a standardized format but, as always, there are a number of variations though nothing to bother yourself about.

RSS feeds are usually indicated by the orange XML or RSS buttons like the one at the start of this sentence which allow you to locate feeds quickly.

But they also come in various shapes and sizes – not usually as odd as the big guy with the newspaper to your right – that’s my personal variation to grab your attention.

To know when new material is published you need to use an RSS feed aggregator or reader. This allows you to collect all the information you are interested in directly in your own reader without having to visit lots of websites.This is very convenient and saves you lots of time.

Here’s a great video I found on YouTube to help you better understand the whole process.

The Google, MSN, Bloglines icons in the right sidebar allow you to add the RSS feed directly to your personal page on the respective sites (if you have a personal page, of course).

So, just like an aggregator, all the feeds you are interested in appear on your personal page just like your own personal newspaper.

How do I subscribe to a feed?

Just log in to MyMSN, MyYahoo!, Google Reader or Bloglines and click the relevant button:

These four services are the only ones you really need to care about. The benefit of using them is two-fold:

  • A web-based service means your favorite feeds will remain available when you change computers
  • Search engines (will) provide tools to organize feeds by topic and relevance rather than by site and date

Myself, I highly recommend Google Reader for two reasons. One, it has a list function so you can just scan the headlines to sort out what is interesting to you instead of having to read the first few lines of every entry.

Secondly, if you use it with Google Mail which, again, I highly recommend, then they are both available on a single screen within your account.

The drawback is of course your loss of privacy. If you dislike the idea that Google knows more about you than yourself, then use something else. But as I’m not doing anything shady or illegal I’m happy to use the powerful tools that Google provides.

  • Try news readers one by one if you have time to waste; or
  • Download Firefox and install a News Reader; or
  • Internet Explorer  has an RSS reader built in.
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