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RSS? How does it work?

So what exactly is RSS?

This post is going to outlineĀ RSS for those who do not know. If you know all about RSS just skip to the bottom for some RSS goodness.

Did you see the abbreviation tooltip on RSS above, what about <- that one? RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.

Really Simple Syndication?

Really Simple? Syndication?


Once understood RSS can change the way you access online information, and it is really simple.

The syndication bit in the abbreviation is there to describe the nature of RSS. RSS is a format of outputting data in a standard way so that it can be syndicated (distributed to multiple recipients). This format can be imported by lots of different programs and used in a variety of ways (News would be display as latest/breaking news etc.). Meaning content can be read and seen without visiting the website in question. Links to the full posts and content are available to go to the website in a conventional manner.


News stories, blog posts, articles and web posts of any kind; are the sort of thing that work well as RSS “Feeds” (RSS content is often described as a feed).

When a post is made the RSS will include that new post. Your RSS/Feed reader (more about readers below) will notify you of new content (much like email) for you to peruse at your pleasure.

How simple does that sound? I would say Really Simple šŸ˜›

What’s needed?

So you have come across a feed you want to “subscribe” (having a RSS feed that you read is called a subscription, totally free though…) to, you’re going to need a “Reader” (or as they are properly known, aggregator) of some sort.

A feed reader is much the same as a email client. It will manage your subscriptions to feeds and display them for reading (with links to actual content).

See this list for a comprehensive list of aggregators

Like email clients, feed readers can be applications on your computer (like Outlook, Thunderbird etc.), or they can be web based (like Hotmail, Yahoo etc.).

Google has some excellent free applications you can use including Google Reader. When you setup a Google account, all the different applications can be setup and used. I would definitely recommend them. They are easy to use and having it all under one login is a bonus. Also being web based it can be accessed from any internet connecting browser/application.

When you setup a Google account you can have a customized Google page (iGoogle) which can be tailored to include RSS feeds and gadgets. See below for mine…

My iGoogle Homepage - Styling matching my Firefox theme...

My iGoogle Homepage - Styling matching my Firefox theme...

Signup now…

Do you do Firefox?

The popular alternative to Internet Explorer (and much better, make the switch now if you have not already), Firefox has built in RSS bookmarking behaviour. Instead of having an “inbox” for content, Firefox can subscribe to feeds as “Live bookmarks”. So when new feed content is available the bookmark will update with the new content. Look for the feed icon in the address bar for notification that the page has a RSS feed.

Oh, and if you still use Internet Explorer, download and install Firefox anyway (or another modern, better alternative). It is safer and full of excellent features and add-ons to make using the internet a lot better.

See some testimonials and experiences of people who have made the switch for the better.
(There is no real excuse not to if you value using the internet and your computer…)

I could not recommend Firefox enough…

The power of RSS

The adoption of RSS as a fully featured delivery method has made it indispensable.

RSS is used as the mechanism for delivering podcasts. For those who have no idea of what a podcast is, it is a media file (usually audio, but can be video too) that are released as episodes, with RSS managing the subscription to the podcast, so when a new one is available you are notified and can download it.

The BBC offer lots of podcasts of their radio shows and audio content, with handy links to subscribe via your favourite aggregator.

Lots of people are making podcasts and distributing RSS feeds of their content these days. All the big news corporations and media big players will have RSS feeds to subscribe to. Keep a look out for the “standard” feed icon (The big orange icon at the top of this page) to keep right up to date with the latest the “information super highway” (Is the internet still called that by some people, I haven’t heard it for a bit, that’s why I used it…) has to offer.

Some RSS/Podcast Goodness

Skipped here for the goodness? Read the full article and want some goodness?
Either way here are some RSS feeds and websites utilising them to great effect that will Inform, Entertain and possibly Educate… I will break it into said areas.

– Can you get more Informative than the British Broadcasting Corporation? I doubt it. Browse the full site for specific feeds in different areas.
– Want lots of world news feeds? Look no further…
– The free news source that even you can write…
– Google providing a “mashup” of news aggregated from many sources.
– Interested in Science? Masses of science news to read and assimilate…

– Hilarious AND cute? Yep.
– I know it is similar to lolcats… but I cannot stress how funny it can actually be… It has hurt me with laughter before and will again I think…
– Want some funny comic goodness? “The Champagne of Comics” has got what you seek…
– Indulge on geeky/cool (delete as appropriate) news/entertainment.
– This is a bit of a cheat. The top 100 blogs/entertaining websites. I would call that entertaining by proxy… Go through the list and find some new passion.

– Open university news feed for all thing OU related…
– Word of the day to expand your vocabulary…
– Article of the day for topic knowledge expansion…
– Good blog about education and technology
– Educational podcasts available for Zencast (software for subscribing downloaded off the website)
– The guardian’s educational feed

Enough linkage. Hope this helps with RSS needs. Any questions use the comments below. Post up some good feeds for those who might read this (and me…)

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