June 9th, 2009

An Introduction to RSS

If you have surfed the web in the last few years, you have probably seen the term RSS.  So what is RSS?  RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.  RSS was developed to help website users know when updates are made to a site.  The old way of following a site was to go there everyday to see what new content had been posted, which was very time consuming.  Users wanted to know automatically when a site they were interested in was updated, so e-mail alerts were born.  But many e-mail alerts coming from multiple sites to your inbox quickly became overwhelming.  RSS was then developed to allow a user to keep track of updates to a site in an organized way.
So how does RSS really work?  There are only two parts to RSS.  The first is the feed.  A feed comes from the web site you want to follow.  The feed contains the list of changes made to the web site.  The best part of RSS is the ability for sites to have multiple feeds tailored to user groups.  Our website offers RSS feeds for our library events that are broken down by category.  As a user, you can check the feed for upcoming events related to book discussions, technology programs and much more.  RSS aggregators collect the feed information for you and display it in one place in an easy-to-read format.  This way, you only have to check a single place to get the latest news from multiple sites.

On our site, we have developed a page for our event RSS feeds.  To see the list of feeds click here.  If you own a computer and want your feeds to be managed by that computer, all you need to do is click on a feed that interests you, and then click the link for “subscribe to this feed”.  Internet Explorer on your computer will now track the feed for you.  You can check the feeds you have saved by clicking on your Favorites button and selecting Feeds.

However, you’re still in luck even if you don’t own a PC.  You can use web based aggregators like Google Reader or Bloglines.  These also have the advantage of allowing you to access your feeds from any computer instead of your own.  To use a web based aggregator, sign up for the free service and then copy and paste the feed from your browser address bar into the reader.  To see if anything new has been added to any feed you subscribe to, sign into your aggregator account.

Don’t forget this blog also has its own RSS feed!  If you look on the right hand side of the page, you will see the RSS logo  .  Subscribe to this feed to get automatic updates when we publish a new blog post.

What sites do you like to keep track of with RSS? Post a comment!


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