My sister asked that I write a post on RSS feeds so here it is. Not the most thrilling topic, but hardly one that you can escape in this blogging day and age.
Let me first address the definition of an RSS feed. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary. Simply put, an RSS feed brings the content of your favorite websites to you through the use of a feed reader (we’ll go over various types in a minute). I think RSS feeds and readers are a great invention because I can choose which websites I want to follow or subscribe to (aka read). Once subscribed, the new posts automatically get put into my reader and I can read the posts without having to go to the blog. This saves me from having to constantly check all my friend’s blogs to see if there are new posts for me to read (which I’d never do!)
So, what feed readers are out there and how do I set it up? First, let’s start with a reader because if you don’t have a reader, you can’t subscribe to a feed!
You may be lucky in that you have a mail program that allows you to set up rss feeds. I use Mac Mail and it does have an RSS feed reader (new versions of Outlook do too). I just go to File->Add RSS Feeds… and type in the URL of the feed I want to subscribe to. It’s super easy and since I use Mail for my email, it will pull in new feed data each time I check my email. You may not have this option in your mail program so here are two other options for you (please note that there are many options out there, but these are the two I recommend).
- Google Reader (http://www.google.com/reader): I love Google Reader because it’s free and easy to use. I also have Gmail and a Google Calendar, so why not a Reader as well? Plus, there are a lot of free Android apps that will sync with your Google Reader account so you can read your RSS Feeds on your smart phone. Google as has an extensive help section for the Reader (http://www.google.com/support/reader/?hl=en). The downside is that you still have to go the Google Reader website in order to see what new information has been posted on the blogs that you’re following. This is somewhat of a pain which leads me to option 2.
- Feedmyinbox (http://www.feedmyinbox.com): I love this website because it will send you emails instead of requiring you to use a reader such as Google Reader above. In short, you tell it the RSS feed you want to follow and your email and that’s all! You’ll receive updates from your favorite websites in your inbox. This is by far the simplest approach to subscribing. The downside is that you will get a lot of emails that you’ll have to wade through. You may be like me and like having your website updates separate from your email. But this is a great option for those of you who don’t want to use a RSS reader.
- FOR BLOG OWNERS: There’s a third option out there, but it depends on the creator of the website you want to subscribe to. So if you’re a blogger, I suggest using Feedburner (http://feedburner.google.com) to set up your RSS feeds. This will allow you to keep track of who is reading your blog from a distance. You can also set it up so that a user can receive email updates instead of needing to use a reader to receive your updates.
So how do you subscribe to a website that you like? Well, if the owner of a website has done his/her job, it should be fairly easy. Let’s take Tidy Tangle for example. At the top, right-corner of the website under the search box are 2 icons. The one on the left is the RSS feed icon and the one next to it is for subscribing via email (this option doesn’t require the use of Feedmyinbox as we’re using a service called Feedburner through Google to do this for you – see option 3 above). If you click on the RSS feed icon, it will open a new window with the Feed Address in the URL bar along the top (http://feeds.feedburner.com/TidyTangle). This is the address you want to copy and paste into whatever program you choose to use whether it be Mac Mail or Google Reader or some other option I haven’t mentioned.
Alternately, if you prefer to get updates via email, you can click on the mail update icon. When the next screen comes up, you simply type in your email address and that’s it!