What is RSS and how does it work for users?

Device saves time and effort as information is 'pulled' to subscriber

Al Harper

RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication.  It is a format for distributing and gathering content from sources across the Web, including blogs, magazines, and newspapers.  A feed reader (or aggregator) is client software that uses web feeds to retrieve syndicated web content. (An RSS feed was first made available by Rye Reflections in its April, 2007 edition.)

Feed readers reduce the time and effort needed to regularly check websites for updates, creating a unique information space or "personal newspaper" on your desktop.  Once subscribed to a feed, a feed reader is able to check for new content at user-determined intervals and retrieve the update.  The content is sometimes described as being "pulled" to the subscriber, as opposed to "pushed" with email or Instant Messaging (IM).  Unlike recipients of some "pushed" information, the feed reader user can easily unsubscribe from a feed. The feed reader  provides a consolidated view of the content in a single browser display or desktop application.

Such applications are also referred to as RSS readers, aggregators, feed aggregators, news readers or search aggregators.  A list of current feed readers can be obtained by searching the internet at "RSS Readers/Windows/" and will include the following: Aardvark News Desk, Active Web Reader, AggRead, The All Headline News Reader, Anchorman, The Big Feed, Blog Navigator, Chaos Wallpaper, Constructive IT Advice RSS Aggregatot, Cross-Desktop, Custom Reader, DeltaSpy, ENewsBar, FireANT, FireDragon, FM Radio(FMR), I'M Instant Media, infoRSS, MyNewsToGo, NY Times Reader, RSS Bandit, and many others. You must select and install a RSS reader as the first step in this process.

After installing a reader, you are ready to subscribe to RSS feeds.  Many sites provide a variety of RSS feeds.
For example:  Boston.com provides the following:
RSS news feeds: Updated local news from around New England, as well as                       world and national feeds.

RSS sports feeds:  Info on your favorite local teams, including the Sox, Pats                        and Celts.

RSS arts & entertainment feeds:  Catch up on the latest movie reviews or                       entertainment news.

RSS Boston Globe section feeds:  From the stories appearing on the front page                       of The Boston Globe to the A-Z list of articles.

RSS columnist feeds:  All of your favorite Globe columnists in one place.

CNN provides: Top Stories, World, U.S., Sports, Business, Politics, Law, Technology, Science&Space, Health, Entertainment, Travel, Education, Video, Ofbeat, Most Popular, Most Recent, I-Report Topics, and a number of Blogs.

How to subscribe: Simply look for the orange XML graphic on the page and elsewhere on the site. Mouse over the image, right-click, and copy the URL. (Choose "Copy Shortcut" for Internet Explorer, "Copy Link Location" for Netscape and Mozilla, or "Copy Link Address" for Opera).

In your news reader, select the option that adds a new feed or channel, then paste in the URL and click OK.

You will find RSS an exciting way to keep current with your interests.

May, 2007