What’s an RSS Feed? What’s it for?
Well, to explain it really simply, it’s a way for you to find out when your favourite web sites have been updated – and even better – have their latest articles sent to you. It’s like having your own personal web site assistant who reads the web non-stop. Now how handy is that?
What you have to do is set up an account with a News Reader, sometimes called Aggregator. It’s pretty easy; the hardest part is choosing the one you want because there are lots of good ones out there. So, let’s start off easy, with a free one that is hosted on the web. Popular ones to try are: Google Reader, Bloglines, and NewsGator.
When you’ve signed up with your News Reader, you then load it up with your favourite web sites. That’s called subscribing to the site’s feed. There are a few ways to do this. If you are on a web site that you like, first you have to see if it offers RSS feeds. Look for the standard orange button like the one above, or a feed labeled ‘XML’, ‘RSS’ or ‘Atom’. Sometimes there will be a button specifically for your particular feed reader – like Bloglines or Google Reader. Some browsers, like Safari and Firefox, will show the orange symbol right in the address bar.
Click on any of the above, and either it will take you to the appropriate subscription page, where you follow the instructions there, or you can copy and paste the URL that shows up in the address bar into your reader. The URL to copy will look something like this: http://feeds.feedburner.com/bittertonic/dose. Usually there is a field on your reader that says ‘Add Web Site’.
With some news readers, like the Google Reader, you can type in the web site’s actual URL, e.g. www.bittertonic.com, and the news reader will find the site’s feed for you.
Once you are set up you will find that you can subscribe to the big newspapers like the New York Times, to any of the millions of blogs out there, and even to yours truly, Bitter Tonic.
Next time you Log In to your Reader and start the program, it will search all the sites you’ve subscribed to, check for new articles that they have written, and gather them together so that you can read them all from one spot.
You’ll find it’s the best time saver going and ridiculously convenient. We hope you don’t get addicted to it like we here at Bitter Tonic have. They say addictions are bad for you. Hmmm.
Don’t believe us? You can learn more about RSS here.
Irene wrote The RSS Cheat Sheet for Beginners here.
and there’s another easy to follow article about RSS on Copyblogger’s site.