RSS and News Readers
No doubt you have seen those small orange 'XML' or 'RSS' buttons beginning to spread across some of your favourite web sites.
Perhaps you have clicked on one out of curiosity, only to be faced with a barrage of angle brackets and undecipherable code, seemingly designed to scare the heck out of anyone less than familiar with the intricacies of this new fangled technology creeping across the web.
But once you click on that button - what do you do then? This article will show you exactly what to do. RSS? It's actually Really Simple, Stupid.
The first thing to do of course is click that button. It may be an orange button with 'XML' or 'RSS' written across it; or you could see the word 'Atom'; or, less commonly, it could be blue with maybe the initials 'RDF'; or it could be a simple link with something like 'Grab My Feed'. Gets confusing, doesn't it? But what the acronyms like XML and RSS actually stand for is less than important - what to do after clicking the button is the important bit.
After clicking the button, you will see all that code - if you have ever viewed the source code to a web page, it looks a little similar.
RSS is just another language of the web, but you can actually completely ignore the code itself, just like you can ignore the source code behind web pages that you visit - you are only interested in the end product that the code is designed to produce for you, the end user.
In the case of RSS, that end product is up to date news on the topics you are interested in.
For example, if you want to keep up to date with the latest information on financial markets, or growing marigolds, or your Aunt Mildred's blog as she travels across the Antarctic, and you see a feed on that particular topic, you can 'subscribe' to it and receive messages via the feed, each time the publisher of the feed updates it.
So how do you 'subscribe' to an RSS feed? The important bit is what is in the browser address (or location) bar after clicking the feed button, i.e. the bit at the top of your browser window that usually starts with 'http://...' and tells you the web address of the page you are visiting.
After clicking the RSS (or XML, etc.) button, you need to copy that address - it's that address that you need to 'plug' into what is generally known as a 'news reader'.
News readers allow you to keep updated with the feeds that you are subscribed to. There are several to choose from - some involve downloading some software, some involve visiting a web site, some are free, and some require a small investment.
Once you have chosen a particular news reader, you simply take that address that you have copied, and, following the instructions provided with the news reader to subscribe to, or add a new feed, simply paste it in - the reader will take care of the rest, and keep you updated with your new feed. Once you have done it once, you will see just how simple it really is.
Here are 15 different news readers you can choose from, in approximate order of recommendation under each category:
Software For Windows
NewsGator (http://www.newsgator.com/) - integrates into Microsoft Outlook
NewsRanker (http://egofile.com/newsranker/) - claims to learn from your news reading to prioritize the feed items you receive
Novobot (http://www.proggle.com/novobot/) - extracts headlines from feeds, and also web sites that you are interested in
Radio Userland (http://radio.userland.com/) - blogging tool with an integrated news aggregator
Software For Mac
Software For Linux
Straw (http://www.nongnu.org/straw/) for GNOME
RSS2email (http://www.aaronsw.com/2002/rss2email/) - Python script that sends you new messages from your feeds via email
It's useful to spend a few minutes researching some appropriate choices - once you've decided on one that you believe to be suitable, you can start picking up new feeds straight away. It's Really So Simple, you won't look back.
Steve Shaw creates software and systems for effective e-marketing at http://takanomi.com. Sign up to his RSS feed, and receive important information on using RSS effectively for e-marketing - just click the following link to sign up: