Friday, November 27, 2009

Not for geeks only: RSS Feeds

RSS feeds are your best friend.

We all have sites that we like to visit on a regular basis; local news, Facebook, etc. So we sit down at a computer and bring them up one at a time. Wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to go to one website and see all the content you want to see? Of course.

And that’s what RSS feeds do. They mine the sites that you have specified for new content and deliver it to your reader. Sound good? Let’s set it up.

First you have to choose a reader. There are many out there, and your choice is probably going to be based on personal preference. There are two basic types: program based and web based. If you only use one computer and don’t get internet on your mobile phone, then maybe having a program on your computer to read them is fine, but if you use a phone or multiple computers at all, you will want a web based reader. I personally use Google Reader ( If you already have a Gmail account, this is easy: just sign in with your Gmail account information. If not, set up a new account.

Now that you have a reader, we need to find content to have delivered to it. This is as easy as the website makes it, which can be either easy or hard.

Blogger is probably the easiest. At the top of the person’s blog, click the “Follow” button. Other times you will see a symbol that looks something like this:

When you click that button it will usually take you to a page that lets you choose your reader and subscribe.

The third way can be slightly harder and is usually on websites that either are intended for geeks or don’t know what they’re doing. You’ll see the link for the RSS feed and get a page of gibberish that looks something like this:

The first time I saw this, my response was “What the heck am I supposed to do with this?!” It’s actually simple: copy the URL (the thing in the box at the top of the screen) and go back to Google reader, click the "add a subscription button and paste it. Viola.

There is one downside to most web-based readers, such as Google Reader: they do not yet support password based feeds. For example, they don’t naturally let your friends Facebook statuses come thru. The solution to this is easy. Go to and paste the URL of the RSS Feed along with your username and password. It gives you a new rss feed that you paste into the “add a subscription box” in Google Reader. Done.

Most modern websites that are worth their salt have RSS feeds now. I currently follow 24 websites on a daily basis. I couldn’t keep up with this if it weren’t for RSS feeds. All it takes is a second between other activities and I’ll look at whatever has come in. It allows me to keep up with the content I want to keep up with without wasting time hither and yon all over the internet kingdom.


Jaime Kae said...

Google Reader has a "Subscribe" button that I dragged to my toolbar, so now it's really easy to add stuff to my RSS feed. :)

Joshua said...

Wow, didn't realize you had started up blogging again.

Jeffrey Bean, Jr. said...

Interesting. I'll have to try it. I haven't used feeds before.

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