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Things #5 and #6 – RSS Readers and RSS Feeds

October 17, 2010

WHAT

Last week we looked at blogs, and since most of you have already set up your own blogs, you might have encountered the term “RSS.” Or perhaps you’ve seen one of these icons during your web travels:

51-rss-button

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication.” It uses a file format called XML and allows you to be notified when content on a website has been updated. You will also find RSS referred to as “web feeds” or just “feeds.”

A good way to understand RSS feeds is to think about them as magazine subscriptions: rather than having to frequently visit the newsstand to check for a new issue of your favorite magazine, you can just subscribe to it and sit back & wait for the new issues to come to you. If your favorite website publishes an RSS feed, you don’t have to keep visiting it to find fresh content; you can just subscribe to the RSS feed and wait for that fresh content to come to you. And, unlike magazine subscriptions, RSS is free!

RSS readers (also known as RSS aggregators, feed aggregators, or feed readers) are applications that read RSS feeds. An RSS reader will take an RSS feed and convert it into something that is readable, with a defined title, formatting, and links that you can click on. The other important feature of an RSS reader is the built-in update function that checks the feeds you’ve subscribed to for new content. If new content is found, your RSS reader delivers it to you the next time you log in.

WHY

Everyone participating in 23 Things SCPL has a blog and we told you to read your fellow participants’ blogs and make comments. Are you thinking, “What, I have to click on all of those to see if anyone has updated?!? Forget it. Waaaay too much time.”

But what if you could visit all those blogs and more websites in just one place and all at the same time? Wouldn’t that be easier? Well, you can! You just tell your RSS reader which blogs you want to keep track of and it does the rest. All you have to do is remember to look at your RSS reader on a regular basis.

HOW

RSS feed readers come in a few flavors:

  • Browser-based: the latest versions of many browsers (like Firefox and Internet Explorer 7) include the ability to subscribe to and read RSS feeds right in the browser.
  • Desktop: these are software applications that require downloading and installation on a computer. An example is FeedReader. These are not recommended if you don’t always use the same computer, can’t install programs on your computer, or are behind security firewalls.
  • Web-based: online RSS readers live on the web and require users to go to a site and set up a username and password. You return to the site and login to read your feeds. The advantage of web-based RSS readers is that you can get access to them from multiple computers (home, work, etc.).

Exercises:
Follow these exercises to set up your own, personalized RSS feed reader. For 23 Things SCPL, I recommend using a web-based RSS feed reader because you will be able to access it from any computer. For this exercise, I will discuss Google Reader, but Netvibes and Pageflakes are two alternate web-based RSS feed readers. Feel free to use whatever RSS reader you are comfortable with.

To begin with Google Reader, sign up for a Google account if you do not already have one; if you signed up for a Blogger blog then you already have a Google account.

After you set up your account, you need to get RSS feeds from your favorite blogs into it. You can take a look at the Google Reader Help page or view this short video from GoogleReaderHelp for more information about this.

Once you create your account:

  1. subscribe to this blog.
  2. subscribe to the blogs of at least 5 other 23 Things SCPL participants.
  3. subscribe to at least 2 library-oriented blogs. Click here for some suggestions.
  4. subscribe to at least 2 other blogs on a topic that interests you. Remember, you can search right in the “Add Subscriptions” section of your Google Reader home page for blogs on any topic. You can also search for blogs by subject using Search 4 RSS or Google Blog Search. Most news agencies (NPR, CNN, FOX News, nola.com) also have RSS feeds that you can see if you go to their websites. The RSS link is usually at the bottom or on the side. (p.s. – Lauren reads a lot of things in her Google Reader, so if you’re looking for blogs on a specific topic (especially recipes and food), ask her and she might have some suggestions for you!)

Make sure that you check your RSS feed reader regularly for new updates!

You may find that some of the blogs you subscribe to get updated way too much and you realize that you don’t want to read all of it. No problem—just delete that feed.

If you subscribe to a lot of blogs, you may find it helpful to make folders and put similar blogs on the same topic in one folder. Bobbi Newman recently wrote an informative blog post about ways to organize and manage your RSS feeds in Google Reader.

SHARE

Do you think using an RSS feed reader will be helpful to you? Why? What other blogs did you subscribe to? Why? This week, also comment on a blog post made by one of the other participants. Get into the habit of reading the blogs of the other participants and commenting on some of their posts. Name this blog post Things #5 and #6.

STRETCH

Subscribe to the blogs of all of the 23 Things SCPL participants!

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From → Week 2 - RSS

3 Comments
  1. Psst. There are also device based rss readers, like apps for iPhones and Android phones as well as Windows phones (I’m willing to bet). Yet another flavor to explore.

    • Very true! There’s so much to think about and so many options to explore so you can find what works for you. -lauren

  2. I love RSS feeds and dread opening Google reader for fear I’ll not be able to find the escape portal. There is just too much way interesting stuff to imprison me. “Ah, just 30 minutes then I’ll do those other important things…HUH! NO WAY! 4 hours and so much more to read! (Sigh) Why do they make days only 24 hours long?”
    I subscribed to the 23 Things SCPL blog, 7 coworkers blogs (plan to add more), 2 library oriented sites, ALA TechSource and Swiss Army Librarian, 2 Anthropology logs…and yes, I did it, SCPL Teen Blog! Big smile Amy!

    RSS feeders are great for learning tips to help with your job as well as being those black holes that trap you with all sorts out awesome information.

    “I know what this brain is capable of. I know that nothing is beyond my scope of learning. If it seems impossible, you’ve just gotta spend a little more time and put a little more effort into learning it.”

    I love this quote from one of our bloggers! That is the outlook that I think everyone should have. You go girl!

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