Using RSS to simplify your life

You’ll notice over to the right a link you can click on to subscribe to this blog using RSS. For those of you who know what that means, you know the power of this. For those who don’t, this post is for you.

RSS is basically a very cool and powerful way to automatically stay on top of those things that are of interest to you. It’s kind of hard to explain from the ground up in just a few words, and I am probably ill suited to make the attempt but that’s never stopped me before and it surely won’t now, either.

Basically, much content on the web that is regularly updated is formatted as “feeds”. This can include blogs like this one and most others, or news sites. Then you can get “feed readers” that can “subscribe” to those feeds and then automatically tell you when there is a new entry. So, for example, let’s say for some crazy reason you actually like coming back here to read my random rantings. Some days you come back and there’s a new entry. Cool. Some days you come back and I haven’t gotten off my butt and posted anything new. Bummer. You just wasted your time checking here for nothing.

This is where RSS makes your life easier. You download and start using a feed reading application and in it you subscribe to this blog. And any other blog you read, or any news site. The feed reader application will then automatically inform you when there is an update, and it will directly link to it so you can quickly and easily read it.

I’ll give you an idea of how I use RSS. I use a Mac and one of the most popular and powerful Mac feed readers is called NetNewsWire. In it I subscribe to literally about 100 different feeds. For example, I grew up in Tucson and love my Arizona Wildcats, so I subscribe to the Arizona Daily Star’s sports page. I get EVERY headline from the sports page of that day listed in my feed reader and I can take about 15 seconds and select the ones I want to read and they are then automatically displayed with the full text. I don’t have to go navigate to the site and manually and visually search to see if there’s anything I’m interested in. It’s all delivered to me. I have a folder I created called Health that subscribes to the feeds of several different publications, including the New York Times Health section, Yahoo News’ health section, and Reuters Health eLine. It would take me a fair amount of time to navigate separately to each one of those websites, but my feed reader brings it all to me automatically.

I HIGHLY encourage you all to check this technology out. If you enjoy getting information from the web, navigating to sites manually is like sipping water out of a glass. Using a feed reader is akin to pumping it through a firehose. You can process FAR more information FAR more quickly and easily.

Here’s a nice link that summarizes RSS. Check it out, and if you have novel ways of using RSS technology or a favorite feedreader you particularly enjoy using, let us know about it!

http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/feed101

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