How to use RSS

I have been wanting to do a post about RSS and explain this wonderful technology in a way that maybe my mom could understand. Until yesterday, I was not sure how to get going on this, but I saw a great video that explains the basics of RSS.

Watch the video and then continue reading to see how you can make RSS work for you.

Now that you know what it is, why would you use it? As was explained in the video, you can have your newspaper “feed” the information to you. If you like reading blogs, then using an RSS reader can really be a help in getting your information in one place instead of surfing to each blog. Then when you see a post that interests you and you want to comment on it, you can go to the blog to make your comments. This saves a lot of time and makes sure you don’t miss anything.

How does it save time? The reading software will constantly be checking for updates to the websites you are “subscribed” to. When you open your feed reader you will have all the latest news and blog posts. You don’t have to load up 6 different blogs and news sites. Also, you won’t be wasting time if the site has not been updated since your last visit. This is particularly helpful for sites which don’t update often. It is easy to just stop going to look for updates if there has not been one in a while.

It keeps you from missing anything because the reader will pull all the information together in one place. You are less likely to forget a site for a few days (which happens if you individually surf to sites) and miss something important. Again, especially true for sites which don’t update often.

You can get stand alone reader software for your computer, or you can use an on-line reader. I have accounts with Google Reader and Bloglines. Both are on-line readers, but I use neither. I have the accounts, but only occasionally visit the sites. That is because I primarily use one computer and have reader software installed on the computer. The software I use is small, streamlined and fast.

You may want to look at one of the on-line offerings if you move from computer to computer, or you have a good Internet connection negating the “slow as molasses” page loading problem that some of us experience.

There downside of using an RSS feed reader as opposed to visiting the site directly is that you are not exposed to all the ads that the blogger or news site imposes on you. Also, you don’t get “counted” as a page visit unless you actually go to the website. Neither of these issues is a problem for you as the reader, it only affects the page host.

If you want to use an on-line reader, I recommend both Bloglines or Google Reader. I have not used either enough to know which I like better, but they both work. For a stand alone solution, you will have to look around. I use Akregator, but that is only available for Linux. My wife used to use FeedReader when she was on Windows. I have not really searched for one on the Mac. When I am sitting at the Mac, I just use Google Reader. But, I only use the Mac when I am handcuffed and forced to watch a TV show since the Mac is in the TV room. My use of RSS on that machine has been limited.

Do you have a favorite reader that you use? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

I have not touched at all on how to subscribe to a site. Many sites will have a nice little button that will allow you to subscribe right into Bloglines or Google Reader. That makes those options more appealing.

6 thoughts on “How to use RSS”

  1. I use Sage and Foxmarks to keep my feeds synchronized between work and home. I could probably fiddle with my Google Reader but with Sage, if my wife is logged into her Google account, I can still hit the refresh of my Sage and see if there is anything new.

    I tried bloglines, but I just didn’t get used to it, because I have to remember to login each time with Sage I do not. Although, Sage doesn’t have a browse button on it to search for new content on the web, but Sage will check a website for RSS feeds. This way, if I go to a Blogger site, for example, I click the feed search button and Sage will detect the feeds available, if any. If I add the feed through Sage, it sends the feed bookmark to my bookmarks and then Foxmarks syncs up each time I close Firefox and I don’t have to enter RSS feeds in nice.

    But all in all, RSS makes me lazy, I mean, more productive as I don’t have to spend time checking to see if there is new content. Except for the few that have the RSS feeds off so they check to see if there are any stalkers coming to their website. As for me, I rarely check my website stats. So, I could have some stalkers out there and not even know it.

  2. Another thing that my RSS feed does for me is trigger my mo(bile)blog plugin ‘Cronless Postie’ to check my special email account for email to be included as a post on the blog. It’s pretty cool…

  3. I played with Sage in the past and could not remember why I did not care for it. I tried it again today and remember very clearly why. It could have to do with the fact that my Internet connection, though “high speed,” is still only 8% as fast as the average broadband in the US. Sage works very slowly for me.

    I am going to try it for a few days though. I have imported all my feeds from my main reader software. I have not found a way to quickly mark all feeds as read. I subscribe to 43 feeds and it is taking me about 13 seconds per feed just to load them up the first time so that I can really start using the software. In contrast it takes 4 seconds to mark all 43 feeds as read in my current software.

    My current software is all client side. Therefore, it grabs the feed headers every 10 minutes (or whatever time I set) and then I have them on my end, I don’t have to wait for the headers to load from the web each time I look at the reader. The individual posts are loaded on demand, but not the headers. With Sage, everything is loaded on demand, therefore slowing you way down if you don’t have a quick connection.

    Sage seems easy enough to set up and subscribe to a feed though. That is a huge plus.

  4. One thing I did not mention in the original post, but is worth noting, RSS is the technology behind how podcasts work. iTunes, or other podcatching software, is a fancy RSS reader that looks for new content within the RSS feed that contains a media file. It could be audio or video. iTunes also picks up PDF files enclosed within an RSS feed.

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