Why RSS is my friend

Comments Off by in General
February 13, 2011

You may already know oodles about RSS, in which case you’ll probably find nothing new here. However, if you’ve seen those little red and white icons but have never really considered what they mean or what they are for then this little entry should be enough to bring you up to speed.

RSS stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’. RSS documents are written in XML, a web language which is widely used to encode text documents into machine-readable form. To sign up to an RSS ‘feed’ you need an RSS reader (I use the one that comes free with googlemail).

What are the benefits?

Subscribing to an RSS feed enables you to receive summarised updates from your chosen website, whenever that site is updated. Via your reader you can usually browse through or search for feeds based on selected keywords. So if you’re a keen gardener you might search for feeds from gardening-related sites. A good reader will also display the number of subscribers and frequency of updates to allow you to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Some readers also provide ‘bundles’, groups of associated feeds, to make your life even easier. For example, Google have a news bundle which includes feeds from the BBC, Sky, Znet, the Telegraph, the Guardian and C4. Alternatively, you can create your own bundles.

Once subscribed, you only need to fire up your reader and click on the relevant feeds. A good reader will usually show you how many unread updates are available, together with a neatly presented summary of those updates.

I find RSS invaluable for projects where I need a steady supply of subject-specific content without having to trawl through numerous unsuitable websites first. I just choose a good source or two, create a bundle and that’s that.

Have a productive week!