Okay, okay, even as great as it is, RSS probably can’t actually help you lose weight. That was just a catchy tabloid-style title for this post and, hey, it got your attention, didn’t it? What RSS can help you lose, however, is WAIT.
Yup, RSS will save you time and open you up to a vast array of new content on the Internet.
What’s This RSS Stuff?
RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a format for delivering regularly-changing web content. RSS isn’t new, having begun at Netscape back in 1999, but it has really taken off in the last couple of years. A rapidly-growing number of websites (online newspapers, weblogs, and such) now offer their content in this format – known as RSS feeds – to make keeping up with your favorites sites much easier. RSS allows you to easily stay on top of the latest web content and saves you loads of time since you no longer need to visit your favorite sites individually.
In addition to scouring the Internet for new content, RSS also takes care of presenting that information in a standardized, easily readable format arranged in a convenient organized list, very similar to your email in-box. You can easily scan headlines & brief article descriptions, and decide whether you want to read the article right there, mark the article read & skip it, or tag the article for later reading.
What Can RSS Do For You?
Using RSS, content from web sites delivered & constantly updated via an aggregator or feed reader application. You simply subscribe to a site’s feed and the RSS reader automatically monitors to see when updated content has been posted. And RSS content distribution has been further adapted to reach far beyond the original basic purposes envisioned by it’s designers. You can subscribe to RSS feeds to monitor eBay auctions, track FedEx or U.S.P.S. packages, and even get weather updates.
The clever guys at Common Craft created an excellent 3½ minute video called “RSS in Plain English” that does a fantastic job of explaining RSS:
Getting Started With RSS
A variety of RSS readers are available but to be honest, ever since Dede nudged me into trying the browser-based Google Reader, I’ve never looked back. Among the numerous beauties of Google Reader is that it stores your settings with your Gmail account. So anywhere you can get to an Internet connection (at home, work, library, Starbucks, or even the lobby of a salon where your wife is getting a pedicure), your feeds travel with you, right there, ready to pick up where you left off reading.
As you surf your favorite websites, you’ll notice that many sites feature an orange button labeled “RSS” or “XML” or the now-standard RSS icon. This indicates that the site is setup with feed capabilities and be subscribed to for viewing and constant updating.
Wrapping Up & Shameless Plugs
I certainly don’t claim to be an authority – this RSS stuff is still a little new to me too – so some of you more savvy surfers may be able to add more to this, or correct me where I’m wrong. But what I do know is that using a RSS feed reader can really boost your productivity on the Internet and I am sure that you’ll end up keeping tabs on many more websites, but in far less time than before.
Another great feature of Google Reader is that you can share feed posts with others. Here’s a sample of shared items from my account. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you can subscribe to the 2Dolphins RSS feed or subscribe to our Russian Adoption Journal RSS feed to stay current with our new posts. And be sure to leave a comment if you know of other RSS feeds that’d be worthy additions to our Google Readers.