Information, Technology & Consulting

A Really Simple Story about Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

You may have asked yourself: What are RSS feeds, exactly—and why should I use them?

RSS, short for Really Simple Syndication, is a way of distributing content from one website or blog to a news aggregator (also termed news reader and RSS reader). RSS content can also be syndicated across websites: if you have a blog associated with a website, you can use RSS to have blog updates automatically appear on your website’s homepage.

Christina Dulude, Information Architect/User Experience Designer in Dartmouth Computing Services, is an RSS feed fan. She sees the advantage of having her 150-plus news sites delivered in one place instead of having to spend the time browsing through the various sites and blogs that hold her interest:

“I subscribe to a lot of technical articles and The New York Times, The Valley News and miscellaneous blogs," Christina says. "I read food blogs, friends’ blogs, Dartmouth Now. I keep them separated into categories to keep track of them.”

She adds, "I can read the articles when I have time, and I don't have to visit each and every site. RSS readers usually display a headline and a summary of each story, so you can quickly scan the headlines and only read the full text of articles that sound interesting."

The one downside of using an RSS reader, she says, is that it can become a time sink. She limits her checking to once in the morning to once at night.

She also cautions users from subscribing to too many feeds, as it can become overwhelming.

Dulude’s current RSS reader is Google Reader, whose impending July 1 shutdown caused an Internet uproar when it was announced back in March.

In the meantime, she’s considering other reader options, and is leaning toward Feedly.

How to subscribe to RSS

When subscribing to RSS feeds, the process depends on which reader you use. But generally, you just copy and paste the URL of the RSS feed into a "Subscribe" text field and that's it! Very often, you don't even need to know the RSS URL, you can just type in the URL of the website itself, and the RSS reader will figure out what the URL is.

Learn how to subscribe to RSS in Google Reader and Feedly.

Some of the technical blogs and journals Christina follows

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Information, Technology & Consulting