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What Is RSS?

By Ng Wai Loong (1 video included)What-Is-Rss

Do you want to keep up to date with my latest insights on Wailoong.com?

There are a number of ways that you can use to subscribe to this site and receive updates. The main one that my readers use is the Main RSS feed.

But what is RSS?

What is RSS?

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

In the good ‘old days’ folks keep track of updates on a website by recording a ‘bookmark’ of websites in their browser and manually return to them on a regular basis to see what had been added.

Chances are, you may have been already doing this!

Here Are The problems With Keeping Bookmarks…

  • You as the web surfer had to do all the work
  • It can get complicated when you are trying to track multiple websites at once
  • You miss information when you forget to check your bookmarks
  • You see the same information over and over again on sites that don’t update very often
  • You don’t want to give away your private email address and want to stay completely anonymous

RSS Revolutionized Everything!

What if I can teach you how you can know every time that a website has update? Exactly this what RSS can 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 massive amount of time by helping you get the information you want quickly after it was published.

RSS stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’. Many site owners describe it as a ‘news feed’ that you subscribe to.

The ’subscription’ description is kind of helpful. It’s a lot like subscribing to a magazine that is delivered to you periodically – but instead of it coming in your physical mail box each month when the magazine is published, it is delivered to your ‘RSS Reader’ every time your favorite website updates.

I shall not go deep into the technical aspects of how RSS actually works, which is probably best left to many other resources which I can point you to at the end of the article. Perhaps for day, it’s best for you to understand why it’s good and how to harness its power for almost anything you care to track about!

You don’t have to be technically expert to use RSS. You don’t need to know how electricity works and yet enjoy the benefits that electricity brings right?

I’ve found a video “RSS in Plain English on YouTube that I think is very helpful for lay folks to understand and put RSS technology in perspective:

RSS in Plain English

(Note: If you cannot view the above video, it means you do not have Flash plugin installed for your web browser. Head down to http://www.adobe.com/shockwave/download/ (Windows users) and download it immediately!)

How to Use RSS

Get an RSS Reader – The first thing you’ll want to do if you’re getting into reading sites via RSS is to hook yourself up 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. There are many others to choose from but to get started either of these are fairly easy to use and will help you work out the basics of RSS.

Both feed readers work a little like an email client. 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 will be 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 to start subscribing to some feeds and give it a go! Both comes with helpful help sections to get you quickly up and running.

Note: Other options to tracking websites that you might already be familiar with include using pages like MyYahoo, MyGoogle 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 Browser

On Site Subscription
Over the last few years you may have noticed a lot of little buttons and widgets appearing on your favorite sites 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 on the top of my blog:

RSS Buttons For Feed Subscriptions

Attention Advanced RSS Users!

Warning! This is for advanced users only! Beginners may be confused (Just kidding!).

#1: My News Aggregator Secrets

If you think you’ve already know all that is of RSS, then I believe I might have something advanced to share. First of all, I don’t like to use web aggregators (RSS feed readers). I prefer standalone applications that I have control and archive over the feeds that I’ve downloaded.

At the moment, I’ve been enjoying standalone application readers such as FeedReader (you can find the download link at the bottom of this page). The advantage is I can archive outdated feeds on separately encrypted folders where I can keep it from prying eyes. This can be really useful if your computer is shared.

Furthermore, I can run the reader application off a standalone flash drive – all together with my archive feeds! This is especially useful for folks who are on the move but does not want to keep all their private information online.

#2: Google RSS Secrets

Google probably has the largest index of organized information on this planet. Why not leverage on Google’s Power? In fact, Google had RSS support for its news. Unfortunately, you can only see the link on news.google.com. On the left bar, you can find a RSS feed which you can use to watch your desired news!

If you’ve been observant enough, this works only on domain “news.google.com” and not “news.google.com.xx” (where xx is your country’s top domain). Also, the “&output=rss” code is added to the end of the URL.

It’s nothing secretive, but just some interesting note that you may want to try in the future should Goggle decided to expand its RSS capabilities across its services.

#3: Tapping Into The Powers of EvilRSS (Private Use Only!)

I’ve found this incredible baby while doing a little research writing this article. To use this weapon, you must have access to a web host and have permission to run PHP scripts.

A word of caution though – scraping Google’s web results may be against their terms of service. Use the code at your own risk!

Once installed, EvilRSS will return Google search results to you via RSS. It’s an incredibly useful feature that Google should have built themselves. Both Yahoo! and MSN offer feeds, and Google even offers one for their News Search and Blog Search.

Download EvilRSS

I haven’t try this yet, maybe when I’m less busy. Do let me know if the script works for you!

RSS Feed Reader Resouces:

Interesting Feeds To Get You Started:

Do You Have Additional RSS Tips or Secrets To Share?

Comments are most welcomed!

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About Insights, Inspirations, Tranquility, Peace and Harmony

Ng Wai Loong

Wai Loong is an electronics engineer by profession. He currently resides in Singapore, a thriving hub at the heart of South-East Asia. When he is not so stress out on the computers or laboratory, he enjoys value reading, jogging at his own pace and blogging in his spare time. Other times, he likes to catch up with some close friends over a cup of latte or teh tarik. As a gift from this friend, you are invited to interact freely with him on his personal blog.

PS: May the person reading this blog transforms his/her businesses, finances, relationships and life for ALL to WIN!