Are you asking yourself what the heck this post is about? Are you already waiting for tomorrow’s post hoping it’s more interesting? Maybe it’s too early in the new year to cover such a seemingly complex topic but read on and I promise this “RSS stuff” will make your life easier.
Oh and leave a comment with your questions as I’m going to do a follow-up post soon on how to actually set up RSS for yourself.
- What it stands for: RSS, short for really simple syndication, allows you to consolidate content from your favorite web sites and blogs so you can check them all at once rather than go to each of the sites yourself. Online newspapers and this site, for example, are constantly adding new content. If you’re interested in certain sections of the paper but maybe not others, you can add a particular journalist or just the style section “feed” into a “feed reader” and pull information from all different sites into a one stop shop so you can easily scan the latest updates. Then if you like a particular headline, just click to get the whole story. To learn more about RSS, check out this Washington Post article, the Wikipedia RSS page or read WhatIsRSS.com.
- Why it should matter to you: Do you read the newspaper (or many) online? TIME magazine? Forbes.com? Perhaps you follow a few blogs like Wonkette? As The Washington Post site describes, “RSS is an easy way for you to be alerted when content that interests you appears on your favorite Web sites.” We’re all too busy to even remember to check all the sites we’re interested in let alone actually looking at them. RSS is really one more way to save time, especially useful when you’re looking at a dozen or more sites a day for your information.
- Why do this rather than sign up for email updates from your favorite sites: Well, for one thing (and if you’re like Paul who helped me craft this post), you want as few people to have your email address as possible. In addition, RSS lets you check in on your news/updates when you want to, not when someone else decides to blast an email your way. Email is fundamentally a push medium (in that it “pushes” information to you) and RSS is fundamentally a pull medium (in that you “pull” content when you want it), so by using RSS you’re taking back control of your information overload and deciding to get your content when you want it. Think of it like deciding between listening to the radio versus your iPod. A lot of us do the latter because we know what we like and what we’re in the mood for. It just takes a little time upfront to create the playlists but in the end you get what you want when you want it and don’t have to scan through channels looking for a song you like.
- How you set it up: I’ll let all that sink in before I walk through the steps to set up RSS for yourself but if you’re so ambitious (and maybe you already knew all that), here are the basic steps. First you need a feed reader to aggregate and display the content. There are tons of free readers out there offered as downloadable desktop software and also web-based readers, like My Yahoo and Google (click here for a partial list). I recommend the Google reader which you can add to your personalized Google page. Once you have your reader, go to your favorite sites (this one first obviously) and look for the little orange symbol in the address bar (if you’re using Firefox. If you’re using Internet Explorer, head on over to GetFirefox.com and experience the other joy that is Firefox) to begin subscribing to get your favorite content instantly delivered to you.