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What's this RSS thing all about?

4.3.2009

What's this RSS thing all about?

What is RSS? Here at Ponty.net, we're regularly asked this question and thought it might be worth putting together a page to define RSS and hopefully shed some light on the topic.

Do you want to keep up to date with the latest articles on Ponty.net?

RSS is a method of subscribing to this website and receiving updates.

What is RSS?

RSS is a technology that is being used by millions of web users around the world to keep track of their favourite websites.

RSSCapture.jpg

In the 'old days' of the web, to keep track of updates on a website, you had to ‘bookmark’ websites in your browser and manually return to them on a regular basis to see what had been added.

The problems with bookmarking

  • You, as the web surfer, had to do all the work
  • It can get complicated when you are trying to track many websites at once
  • You miss information when you forget to check your bookmarks
  • You end up seeing the same information over and over again on sites that don’t update very often

RSS changes everything

What if you could tell a website to let you know every time that they update? In a sense, this is what RSS does for you.

RSS flips things around a little and is a technology that provides you with a method of getting relevant and up to date information sent to you for you to read in your own time. It saves you time and helps you to get the information you want quickly after it was published.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (or Rich Site Summary). Many people describe it as a 'news feed' that you subscribe to.

We tend to find the 'subscription' description helpful. It’s like subscribing to a magazine that's delivered to you in the post, but instead of coming through your letterbox each month as the magazine's published, it's delivered to your 'RSS Reader' every time your favourite website updates.

How RSS actually, and technically, works is probably a lesson for another day (maybe when another of our League games is frozen off!) but the key today is for you to understand why it’s good and how to use it.

You may not believe this, but at Ponty.net, we're not the most technically savvy blokes around - but even we can use RSS. At first it was a little strange to make the change from bookmarking to RSS but we found that when we started, we couldn’t stop!

How to use RSS

Get an RSS Reader - The first thing you’ll want to do if you’re getting into reading this site via RSS is to acquaint yourself with an RSS Feed Reader.

There are many feed readers going around with a variety of approaches and features - however a good place to start is with a couple of free and easy to use web based ones like Google Reader and Bloglines. Either one will do if you’re starting out - as we say, there are many others to choose from but to get started either of these is fairly easy to use and will help you work out the basics of RSS.

Both of these feed readers work a little like email. As you subscribe to feeds you’ll see that unread entries from the sites you’re tracking will be marked as bold. As you click on them, you’ll see the latest update and can read it right there in the feed reader. You are given the option to click through to the actual site or move onto the next unread item - marking the last one as 'read'.

The best way to learn how to use either Google Reader or Bloglines is to simply subscribe to some feeds and give it a go. Both have helpful "help" sections to get you up and running.

Note: other options to tracking websites that you may already be familiar with include using pages like MyYahoo, iGoogle and MyMSN.

Find Some Feeds to Subscribe to - there are two places to look for a site’s feed:

  1. On the Site
  2. In your Internet Browser

On-Site Subscription
Over the last few years you may have noticed a lot of little buttons and widgets appearing on your favourite websites and blogs. Little orange buttons, 'counters' with how many readers a blog has, links called RSS, XML, ATOM and many more.

They come in all shapes and sizes. Here are a few you might have seen:

 rss-buttons.gif

There are plenty more - but any time you see any of these buttons or anything like them, it means that the site you're viewing has a feed that you can subscribe to. In most cases it’s as simple as either copying and pasting the link associated with the button into your RSS Reader, or clicking the button and following the instructions to subscribe using the feed reader of your choice.

Questions? E-mail us directly:

Happy RSS'ing! 


 

              

 

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