Stay Current Efficiently with RSS
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (or sometimes RDF Site Summary) and is a standard for providing updates to web-based content. Web content providers use RSS to publish "feeds" to which readers can subscribe to collect and monitor information via RSS readers or news aggregators. RSS allows you to stay current with a lot of information easily.
Many sites, from Yahoo! to personal blogs offer RSS feeds. You can tell a feed is offered when you see the following sorts of graphics or links:
As mentioned earlier, you will need a news reader (or aggregator) to collect and monitor feeds. Here are a few good readers:
- SharpReader (www.sharpreader.net/): If you use Windows, SharpReader is a nice choice. It's freeware and supports all versions of RSS feeds.
- NetNewsWire (netnewswireapp.com/): If you have a Mac, NetNewsWire is an excellent choice. It comes in a Lite (free) version and a Pro (shareware) version. You can read feeds either in NetNewsWire, or set it up to launch the feeds in the web browser of your choice.
- Bloglines (www.bloglines.com/): If you prefer to keep track of your feeds on the web, Bloglines is a good choice. You set up an account, tell it what blogs you want to monitor, and Bloglines creates a personalized list for you. It's handy as it can be accessed anywhere - all you need is a web browser.
- Google Reader (www.google.com/reader/): Another option if you prefer to keep track of your feeds on the web.
Note: you will often see buttons offering Atom feeds. Both RSS and Atom are based on XML (which stands for eXtensible Markup Language). Most news aggregators can read both feeds, but RSS is more common, and more widely accepted by more aggregator applications. Once you have a news aggregator, if you click on a feed link the aggregator will open and ask if you want to subscribe to the blog.
Podcast is a word that is a combination of "iPod" and "broadcast." A podcast is an audio blog. You can listen to a podcast in a couple of ways:
- Most simply, you can just click on the link to the audio file and play it in an application like Windows Media Player or Quicktime.
- Since it's an audio blog, you can also subscribe to a feed and use an aggregator to gather the podcasts then play them at your leisure.
While the first method is very easy, it means you have to be at your computer. If you use an aggregator to gather and download the podcasts, you can copy them to your MP3 player and listen to them whenever you like: riding the bus, walking the dog, working out at the gym.
You can use a news aggregator like NetNewsWire or SharpReader for podcasts, but an even nicer way to go is to download an application like iTunes (a free download for Mac or Windows), which allows you to subscribe to podcasts, then play them in iTunes. Check out this page for a good explanation of listening to podcasts using iTunes.
There are a lot of podcasts out there, so you might want to use a directory like iPodder's to find some that interest you (iTunes also has a podcast directory, available from within the application).
Podcasts use RSS feeds just like blogs, but they specifically use RSS 2.0. RSS 2.0 feeds end in .xml, like this: http://infoblog.infopeople.org/index.xml (yes, Infopeople has podcasts!). When you click on a link like this, it will give you weird looking code in your web browser. BUT if you paste that link into an aggregator application like iTunes it will take the link and automatically try to subscribe you (you can always opt out).