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RSS feeds: Keeping yourself up-to-date

RSS feeds: Keeping yourself up-to-date

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RSS —Really Simple Syndication— feeds are, according to Wikipedia, documents used to display information in a standardized way and are identified by the icon: RSS Feed Icon

To make it simpler, think of an RSS feed as a list with the most recent entries of a website (this entries could be articles, posts, products, recipes, etc.). Typically, this list only displays the 10 newest entries, although some websites may display up to 20 or more entries.

A typical RSS Feed address includes, and is not limited, the following:

  1. http://domain.com/feed.xml
  2. http://domain.com/rss.xml
  3. http://rss.domain.com/feed.xml
  4. http://domain.com/feed/
  5. http://domain.com/rss/
  6. http://rss.domain.com/feed/

Remember, RSS feeds are not meant for “human” reading but for web services and/or applications. This is how an actual RSS feed file looks like:

Veodesign RSS Feed example

Use of RSS feeds

For profiting of RSS feeds you will need an RSS feed reader/aggregator. These readers/aggregators can be online-based or software installed in your computer.

In my opinion, the best online reader/aggregator is Google Reader, but there are other websites providing a similar service, such as Bloglines or MySyndiCaat.

Before you install a new reader/aggregator in your computer, consider the following:

  1. All major browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and MS Internet Explorer 7 and above) have some sort of RSS reader included.
  2. Mail clients, like MacOS mail, MS Outlook or Live Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, also include an RSS feed reader.

If you would like to install specialized software to handle your RSS feeds, you may consider:

  1. RSSOwl (Windows, Linux, MacOS)
  2. FeedDemon (Windows only)
  3. FeedReader (Windows only)

Personally, I would recommend the use of online readers/aggregators over software installed in your computer; online readers collect information from your favorite sites independently of having any application open or whether you have internet access or not. Keep in mind, any software that you install in your computer will need to be open and connected to the internet in order to record any new content.

I have a reader, now what?

Let us assume that you are a sports fan and you frequently check online newspapers, magazines or even your favorite team’s website craving for news just to find out that there is no new content to read.

In our hypothetical scenario, we visit the following sites: The Montreal Gazette, Canoe, ABC, NBC, CNN, Fox, ESPN and, why not, the official site of the Canadiens. Thus, I will need to copy to my RSS reader the following RSS Feeds:

How much time do you think you could waste by visiting those sites individually while looking for information that is relevant to you? Would not be easier just to access your RSS reader and see all the updates for all the sites that you usually visit?

Another benefit of using RSS feeds, besides being a time saver, is that it can help you to build an archive of items that you like; for example, let us assume now that you are baking aficionado and you frequently visit several recipes, baking and cooking websites but, for some reason, you have not been able to visit them as much as you want and maybe you have missed several good recipes or tips. There is no need to worry, online readers/aggregators will save the updates in your RSS feeds, thus you will always be up-to-date and without missing a thing.

If knowledge is power, imagine knowledge plus efficiency.

About the author

Emilio Ochoa is a Senior PHP developer located in Sweden with several years of experience in web developing .

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